From Grass to Glass: Fonterra Leads the Dairy Industry

Almost 700 specialised professionals work in FBM to produce and distribute some of the world’s finest dairy.

It has been more than four decades since Fonterra Brands Malaysia (FBM) started its operations in Southeast Asia as the New Zealand based multinational dairy producer, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited. Today the company has several brands that offer great tasting, high-quality dairy nutrition for people at all stages of life. This has made Fonterra one of the best, and most highly recognised, dairy companies in the world. As the media partner to the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) 2017, OIC TODAY had the pleasure to interview Ms Manisya Ismail, FBM’s Co- operative Affairs Manager, to speak about the company’s history and its latest achievements.

The interview commenced by a brief introduction about the history of FBM and its main objectives. “During the first few years after its inception in 1975, FBM’s mandate was to distribute finished products that were imported from New Zealand,” said Ms Manisya. The company has quickly progressed to expand both operations’ market shares, which currently cover 13 countries in the Asian and Middle East regions, she added. The first plant of FBM was established in Shah Alam and it was officially opened in 1992. The powder plant, which is locally known as Susumas, has a total capacity to blend and pack around 30,000 metric tonnes of milk powder products per year.

With a can-do attitude and a collaborative spirit, Fonterra is a world leading dairy exporter – shaping the industry in quality and innovation. They share the goodness of dairy nutrition with the world through our brands, farming and processing operations across four continents.

The main brands produced by FBM’s Susumas plant are Fernleaf, which is mainly consumed locally for every day nutrition; Anmum (Materna, Lacta, Essential), which helps mothers during pregnancy and lactation, and supporting growing children; and Anlene, which targets the adult category. “A few years after Susumas, FBM built its liquid dairy processing site which we call Dairymas,” said Ms Manisya. The plant was opened in 1999 to meet the country’s growing appetite for yoghurt and ultra-high temperature (UHT) dairy products. It has the capacity to process around 16,000 metric tonnes of liquid dairy every year, turning it into CalciYum yoghurts and milk drinks and Anlene yoghurts, Ms Manisya explained.

When we asked Ms Manisya what is very special about Fonterra’s products, her answer included several points of uniqueness which are illustrated along the production process starting from the farms all the way until the consumer outlets. “FBM is owned by Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, a New Zealand multinational dairy co-operative which is owned by around 10,500 farmer shareholders,” she said. In the beginning, those farmers were keen to produce nutritious milk for their families and then they wondered, why not share the goodness? This is when they started doing it for the community, she explained. Today, Fonterra exports 95 per cent of the 18 billion litres of milk that our New Zealand farmers produce.

“Halal is in our DNA! The whole beauty of it and how I see it fits the Fonterra picture, is the Toyyib part. We not only focus on the ingredients of our dairy products, but also we consider the full supply chain starting from the cows in the farms until the products on the shelfs. Our products and healthy, safe and nutritious.”

The fact that all Fonterra’s products are Halal- certified provides assurance of their safety and nutritious value, and this is another point mentioned by Ms Manisya. “Halal is in our DNA… it is not about producing high-quality dairy products! Rather, we make sure the Toyyib part is also satisfied,” said Ms Manisya. In her explanation to this, she said that many products may fulfil the basic requirements of compliance

with the Islamic teachings. However, they are not fully nutritious and therefore the Toyyib part is not fulfilled. “We consider our animals and their welfare in the first place and this is why our cows are called ‘happy cows.’ Halal to us is not merely quality of ingredients. We take care of the full supply chain,” she added

Furthermore, Ms Manisya highlighted the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which are soundly followed in all Fonterra’s plants. “Halal is part of this system, and therefore, whether the countries to which we export require the Halal certification or not, our products and Halal by default and this stems from our core value ‘doing what is right,’” she said. “This means that whatever we do is not just about business; we do not cause any harm to anyone or anything around us including consumers, the animals and the environment at large, and work to add value and bring the best nutrition for all our consumers,” she explained. Another point of excellence mentioned by Ms Manisya is the traceability of its products, where it is easy to find out which farm every bottle or package has come from.

“At FBM, We are committed to enriching lives and making a positive difference to our people, communities, and environment. Every day, Malaysians consume the equivalent of 2.2 million glasses of Fonterra milk and we export our products to over 13 countries.”

One important point about the uniqueness of FBM is that it creates a match between a country that is recognised as best worldwide in terms of animal welfare (New Zealand) and a country which is leading the Halal certification, and whose location is strategic for global distribution (Malaysia). “New Zealand is the only non-Muslim country to create a Halal certification framework for the entire country’s food and beverage industry. They know it is important to make products better,” said Ms Manisya. Today, there are a few bodies in New Zealand which are recognised for Halal certification such as The Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ) and New Zealand Islamic Development Trust (NZIDT), which are both recognised by JAKIM in Malaysia.

Ms Manisya who is a member of the Halal Working Committee in the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers expressed her pride in Malaysia’s status in the Halal industry, which is clearly reflected in FBM’s level of excellence. In view of the anticipated ‘White List’ by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (known locally as JAKIM), Ms Manisya hopes FBM will be included in this list. “The listed companies will have a smoother process for introducing new products. We hope to be on this list, which will be a new testimony from JAKIM for us,” she said. JAKIM is recognised all over the world and its standards are adapted by many countries, she added.

  • Malaysia is the strategic manufacturing and export hub.
  • FBM exports 40% of products to 13 countries in South East Asia and the Middle East.
  • Half of New Zealand exports pass through Malaysia on their way to key markets including China, Africa, Europe and Japan.
  • With the integrated grass to glass supply chain, Fonterra guarantees full control over each step of the production process allowing for delivery of the highest quality products to consumers.

In response to our question about the challenges FBM faces to diversify its products in a way that fits the demand of new consumers in different locations, Ms Manisya mentioned that FBM is aware of the fact that people from different cultures have different tastes, and that the company has a specialised team for product development. “If you want to make products for global consumption, you need to be sensitive about people’s preferences. I can proudly say that our team works effectively for Malaysia and other markets,” she said. She mentioned that FBM’s local team works with the global team for product development in New Zealand to come up with products that fit the markets to which they export.

Fonterra’s products are not only marketed to direct consumers as the company offers a number of its products to other food businesses as well. In this regard, Ms Manisya mentioned that FBM produces under the brand Anchor Food Professionals where it supplies other companies such as bakeries, casual dining channels, hotels and restaurants with products they need. “If you eat at any of the large pizza chains for example, the cheese on your pizza is all from Fonterra,” she said. At FBM the products are made not only to provide good taste — although it is important — but also it considers the well-being of the consumers, especially in view of the rise of non-communicable diseases caused by consuming unhealthy food.

We asked Ms Manisya to elaborate on the last point. “We are moving towards a healthier choice,” she said. People from different age groups in Malaysia and other parts of the world suffer from health problems like diabetes and heart issues. Therefore, when designing the ingredients of the products, they make sure they help controlling cholesterol levels and strengthening the bones. “Our latest Anlene launch, the Anlene Heart-PlusTM is formulated with nutrients that helps to reduce the three highs – cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar – and improve bone health and mobility.

“Our Anmum Essential is the only growing up milk powder in Malaysia that does not have added sugar, yet it is one of the tastiest,” Ms Manisya explained. She also mentioned that FBM is working closely with the Ministry of Health and has recently received the Healthy Choice Logo (HCL) for Anlene Heart-PlusTM and Fernleaf CalciYum cultured milk drink, enhancing safety and quality assurance of its products for consumers. FBM is in the process of getting HCL on all its other products soon.

“In all departments at all levels we have members who monitor for Halal standards, and this fits for everyone, not only for Muslims. At MIHAS, while the primary reason is to promote our new products, we want to share the goodness of what we do with everyone.”

Finally, Ms Manisya emphasised the importance of ethics in doing business as part of the system. At FBM, both the management and employees are committed to deliver the best products and services to consumers. “In all departments at all levels we have members who monitor for Halal standards, and this fits for everyone, not only for Muslims,” she said. About FBM’s participation in MIHAS, she said that, “while the primary reason is to promote our new products, we want to share the goodness of what we do with everyone. I believe the significance of this information is not communicated sometimes. Halal is already there, we just need to present it and articulate it through our practices.”