Fonterra has officially opened its new cheese expansion at Eltham, Australia, with the plant now able to produce enough cheese to fill more than three billion burgers each year.

The first cheese marks the completion of the 10-month build to install two new lines that will double the site’s sliced cheese production. The new individually wrapped sliced cheese line was completed last year.

Fonterra Managing Director Global Operations Robert Spurway said the new line will help the Co-operative to be more responsive to customers’ requirements.

“Each of our customers has slightly different requirements and uses for the cheese we make for them, and this additional capacity will allow us to meet more than 350 different product specifications – that’s 350 very exacting recipes.

“For example one of the things McDonald’s tests us on is how quickly they can peel the cheese off the block. Our ability to consistently provide above their brand standard of quality is what makes us a preferred supplier.”

He said the expansion supports the Co-operative’s growth in foodservice and is helping drive Fonterra’s V3 strategy.

“We are using more of our farmers’ milk in higher value products, and the production of three and a half tonnes of cheese every hour shows how fast our new plant enables us to do this.

“It’s great to see the world wide reach this site has – if you pick up a burger in China, the Middle East or Africa you could be experiencing a little taste of Eltham,” said Mr Spurway.

Fonterra Director Global Foodservice Grant Watson says this expansion, along with recent ones at Waitoa UHT, Te Rapa Cream Cheese and Clandeboye Mozzarella, are part of the Co-operative’s strategy to keep up with growing global demand.

“As tastes become more westernised, particularly in Asia, we are seeing a big increase for ingredients to make products such as burgers, pizza and pasta. Globally, foodservice is growing at six per cent annually and expansions such as this one at Eltham help us to capitalise on that growth,” said Watson.