'Ghee is the new coconut oil': NZ's Milkio Foods expanding export markets across US and Middle East – FoodNavigator-Asia.com

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Ghee, a traditional fat consumed in South East Asia, India, Africa and Middle East, is seeing renewed interest in western markets.

Djalilov Sobir, Milkio’s business development manager told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “The rise in popularity of keto and paleo diets in US is driving consumption of ghee. Following the footprint of coconut oil, ghee is following a similar growth path as it goes mainstream in US​.”

Ghee is a source of fat for consumers on such diets.

According to Sobir, the firm is on track for double-digit growth over the next few years, owing to ghee’s growing popularity especially in US.

The firm is projecting revenues to reach NZ$4.5 million (US$3m) this year.

Milkio was established in 2016 and produces organic cow ghee, grass-fed cow ghee, grass-fed sheep ghee, ghee infused with garlic or lime, and high aroma cow ghee.

Currently, exports account for 90% of Milkio’s revenues. Besides New Zealand, Milkio products are distributed to Australia, US, China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Akhil Ojha, Milkio’s supply chain manager explained that there were not many direct-to-consumer ghee companies.

We saw it as an opportunityas most ghee that were exported out of New Zealand were mostly by dairy giants like Fonterra. Nobody was doing it in a small consumer pack, and we thought that it is a right fit for us​.”

The firm is currently focused on increasing its presence in US and Middle East, which is one of the largest ghee consumer globally.

Milkio is also working with the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, which recently help the firm secure a partnership in Egypt.

It is also considering entering new markets such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Malaysia where it has received significant interest.

Ojha added that the firm was targeting countries which have a free trade agreement with New Zealand.

The firm is targeting two consumer segments, what it calls western and ethnic.

Our western consumers are represented by modern, health-conscious consumers who are willing to pay a premium for a quality product. They like experimenting with their diets to maintain a better and healthier lifestyle. These consumers mainly reside in western countries such as US, Canada and Europe​.

Our ethnic consumers predominantly reside in countries with lower per capita GDP and are more price sensitive. However, ethnic consumers are a huge population that has been accustomed to consuming ghee for generations and are already aware of the benefits that ghee provides​.”

In New Zealand, Milkio’s products are sold at Indian grocery stores, supermarket chains New World and Fresh Choice, Milkio’s e-commerce store, as well as food service.

In its export markets, its ghee products are mostly retailing on e-commerce platforms such as Raashan (China), Turtlepaw (Taiwan) and Amazon (Australia).

Ghee innovation

Milkio is also a private label manufacturer of ghee, working with international customers to develop innovative ghee products such as its lime and garlic infused ghee.

The firm is hoping to develop more products to increase the awareness of ghee as a versatile ingredient, and good alternative for cooking oil and butter.

We will mainly keep our focus on ghee production by developing unique recipes and flavours to meet the sophisticated needs of our customers​.

We don’t want to be introducing many products quickly. We want to be the best, so we take due diligence and time to make sure that the right products, gets introduced at the right time​,” Sobir said.

Milkio is also planning to relocate to a bigger production facility and enhance its product line to meet the increasing demand for ghee globally.

It sources raw materials (milk, milk fat) from major dairy companies in New Zealand, before processing it into ghee at its manufacturing site located in Hamilton.