Mar 24th 2021 /

Westland unveils Project Goldrush: a $40million investment to access global consumer butter market

Westland Milk Products is embarking on an ambitious $40 million plan to double capacity of its consumer butter manufacturing facility. 

The plan to increase production of premium grass-fed consumer butter brand Westgold has been five years in the making and is backed by new owner, global dairy giant Yili. 

Westland resident director Shiqing Jian said Westland was transitioning from a supplier of mostly bulk commodities to play a greater role in the production of consumer goods in an expanding global butter and spread market. 

“The investment highlights the important role Westland plays in Yili’s ongoing plans to supply international industrial and consumer markets,’’ Mr Jian said. 

Annual global butter and spread sales are predicted to grow from a current estimated $US44 trillion to $US59 trillion by 2025 with the US, Russia and China regarded as the world’s largest importers of butter. 

“New Zealand is one of the world’s major butter producers and industry and consumers widely recognise the value of dairy products of New Zealand origin,’’ Mr Jian said. 

“Chinese consumers are also continuously looking to improve and diversify the application of butter products in baking, cooking and desserts,’’ he said. “In future, demand for butter production and processing of Yili and Yili subsidiary brands will be considerable, and the upgraded Westland plant will play an important role.’’ 

Westland’s General Manager of Sales and Marketing Hamish Yates said Westland would leverage the West Coast’s reputation as one of the most unique dairy catchments in the world to connect more directly with domestic and global consumers concerned about the provenance of food. 

“Westgold and Westland-produced butter is already sold in more than 20 countries around the world, including the US, Japan and China, but a large part of what we supply currently is bulk commodity butter,’’ Mr Yates said. 

“Given the rainfall and geographical conditions that make the West Coast catchment so unique for grass-fed farming systems, and the way our farming families have farmed the area for generations, we knew we were sitting on something world-leading and incredibly valuable,’’ Mr Yates said. 

Mr Yates said the plan to increase global market penetration of Westgold butter began in 2017 but configuration of the old butter plant had kept retail butter production capacity capped. 

“This investment now gives us the flexibility to pursue markets that will offer Westland the most value,’’ Mr Yates said. 

Westland Chief Operating Officer Richard Hickson said the butter plant upgrade would increase Westland’s consumer butter production to a total of 42,000 tonnes a year. 

“We will be replacing the existing single churn that was commissioned in 1978 with two German-built churns. These will offer greater quality control and production efficiencies,’’ Mr Hickson said. 

“New packaging lines will also allow us to package different formats and, at the back end, we’re upgrading palletising to give us greater efficiency, speed and stacking combinations to suit the varying requirements of international markets. 

“Remote stacking and racking capability will also be built into a cool store upgrade to allow for quick recovery of palletised goods for transport.’’ 

Site works, construction and installation is expected to begin shortly before Westland’s annual winter shutdown in May this year and run for three months. 



Hamish Yates is available for comment. For further information, please contact: 

[email protected] 
Local: +64 (03) 288 0213 
Global: +61 467 792 013 

About Westgold Butter: 

Westland’s Butter is made solely of churned cream (and salt, in salted varieties). No other additives are used. It does not include the use of anhydrous milk fats or recombined ingredients. The simplicity of mixing only fresh cream and salt gives Westgold butter a distinctive texture, while Westgold’s distinctive gold colour is a result of the grass-fed diet of predominantly West Coast dairy cows. 

A centuries old churning method, called Fritz Churn, is used to process cream into butter by evaporating moisture content. This is a slower processing method that results in a higher-quality product. The investment in two new churning machines from Germany for Westland’s plant at Hokitika will continue this tradition. 

Westgold Butter has been awarded gold medals for its salted and unsalted butter three times in the annual New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards, including the 2021 awards announced last week. 

Benefits of grass-fed butter 

Grass feeding dairy cattle increases the content of some beneficial nutrients in milk, such as Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vaccenic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid while reducing the levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and palmitic acid. Dairy cattle are presumed to be grass-fed if their diet is almost 100 per cent sourced from pasture. The latest (as of November 2020) accreditation of Westland’s status as a grass-fed processor found that Westland’s total milk solids pool comes from cows with a 97.9% (on average) grass-fed diet. 

Key dates: 

1893: Production of butter began on the West Coast when the first commercial butter plant was built in a company that was later to become part of Westland Milk Products. 

2004: More than 100 years after butter production began on the West Coast, the Westgold brand was launched. 

2015: The Westgold brand was first launched into New Zealand supermarkets. 

2021: One year after being acquired by Yili, Westland invests $40m to double consumer butter production and ramp up access to the global fast-moving consumer goods market for premium grass-fed dairy products. 

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