2013: Theo Spierings “NASA of food safety and quality”

By Brierley Penn

“I think that we are world class in manufacturing and in food safety, but we have to lift our game,”said Theo Spierings, CEO of Fonterra, at today’s China Business Summit, held in Auckland. “We have to become the NASA of food safety and quality.”

Spierings brought a message of collaboration and unity in rebuilding New Zealand’s reputation in China in the wake of the botulism scare. He drew an analogy to the near capsize of Emirates Team New Zealand in suggesting that it would be fruitless to dwell on a near miss or mistake in the wake of a crisis.”It got to 44.8 degrees, if it had been 45.1 it would have fallen.” Despite the scare, he emphasized the importance that Fonterra placed on maintaining supply of other product lines, and ensuring that normal supply chains were not shut down. “We could not allow China, after this issue, to not have sufficient milk and protein.”

Spierings, along with other speakers, reflected on the fair and balanced coverage of the incident in the Chinese media, and noted this was vital to maintaining trust in the Chinese market. He spoke of Fonterra’s four step plan following the scare; recall, review, recover and rebuild.

In a food safety issue, a rapid recall was vital to Fonterra’s strategy. Waiting to retest prior to a recall of the product would have taken an unjustifiable period of time. If just one child had been harmed due to a delay in recall, the damage to New Zealand and Fonterra’s reputation could have been irreversible.

Above all, Fonterra’s commitment to the Chinese market was emphasized. 1 litre of every 5 of Fonterra’s milk goes to China. In a market of such scale, commitment, unity and confidence will be essential to ensuring future success.

China Business Summit Links

2013 Video: Summit Presentation

2012 Video: Summit Presentation

Biography: Theo Spierings

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