New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra has said it is investing in a new mozzarella plant to meet “growing customer demand” for cheese products.

A new NZD240m (US$172.5m) plant in Clandeboye, a town on New Zealand’s South Island, will double the cooperative’s capacity to produce its individually quick frozen (IFQ) mozzarella, the company revealed today (13 December).

The IFQ technology reduces mozzarella processing time from three months to six hours, without the use of chemicals in the production process.

Robert Spurway, chief operating officer for global operations at Fonterra, said demand for the mozzarella in China and the wider Asia region continues to grow. 

“This new plant, like the two before it, uses patented technology to produce a high quality, natural mozzarella without using chemicals in the production process,” said Spurway. “It is the only process of its kind in the world that can significantly reduce production time while still remaining 100% natural – something our customers and their consumers place great value in.”

Spurway said once the expansion is complete Fonterra’s mozzarella sales will have increased by “more than 60% since 2008” when the group’s first IQF plant was built. 

Prioritising these types of value-added investments is central to the cooperative’s strategy, Spurway added. 

“Driving strong returns will always be at the heart of our business and turning our farmers’ milk into higher value products is key to this. At the same time, we are required to accept and process all milk which has meant we have needed to focus on capacity first rather than always investing in the highest value products,” he said. “While the need to keep pace with milk volumes has certainly had an impact on how we invest, we have not sat back from our commitment to keep pushing milk up the value chain.”

Fonterra said it will also process the whey and lactose created in the cheese-making process into dairy ingredients.