Growing demand for strong wool use in domestic innovation is projected to grow annual domestic production of New Zealand wool products to 40,000 tonnes of clean wool by 2028.
Six months into an $11.4 million joint industry and government programme to lift strong wool out of the doldrums, industry organisation Wool Impact is forecasting a doubling in the domestic use of strong wool in the next two years.
The projected growth stems from domestic innovation increasing demand in the usage of domestic wool across several market categories.
The information compiled by the industry body is based on data collected from domestic manufacturers during its first six months in operation, chief executive Andy Caughey said.
“We foresee a doubling in the domestic use of strong wool in the next two years, potentially moving to an annual domestic production of NZ wool products using around 40,000t of clean wool by 2028.”
Caughey said most NZ wool is exported but returns to growers have reduced because of less international demand, compounded by the impact of covid.
However, he said Wool Impact is seeing the tide turn as local brands take matters into their own hands by manufacturing wool-based products domestically.
“The perception of wool is changing as brands see it as a natural, sustainable material that offers innovation potential.
“Proximity to the source means local brands are acutely aware that without sustainable farmgate prices the supply of quality wools will continue to decline resulting in a negative impact on the diversity of Aotearoa’s land use and the robustness of our rural communities.”
Wool Impact has been canvassing local brands and businesses as well as global markets to understand where new opportunities exist for increasing use of strong wool.
New Zealand strong wool is typically used in carpets and rugs, with NZ’s carpet brands experiencing increased domestic demand – which they are well placed to meet with local manufacturing, Caughey said.
Wool Impact is also seeing growth coming through new and emerging market categories including insulation, acoustic tiles, furniture, flooring innovations and in the future from deconstructed fibres such as particles, powders and pigments.
“We’re seeing brands like Big Save, Honest Wolf, Wise Wool and FLOC using wool in innovative ways.
“If the predictions of brands actively advocating for wool in their product ranges are realised then we will see a significant impact on wool demand and price with the added benefit of reducing our reliance on some of our volatile export markets,” Caughey said.
Representing wool as a responsible and sustainable fibre for consumers is crucial to increasing the demand for strong wool.
Spreading the word about the high standards of environmental care and animal welfare among NZ farmers was made possible via the extension of the Farm Assurance Programme to include wool late last year.
Wool Impact has funded and supported the establishment of this assurance programme as a lever that will build brand trust and value in NZ wool globally.
“We’re very focused on supporting brands especially as they expand into global markets,” Caughey said.
“It is brands, and sustained partnerships between them, their value chains and growers, that will improve wool prices.”
Wool Impact is a collaboration between the government and sheep sector partners under the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund to grow revenues for wool.
The three-year programme has a $6.9m investment from sector partners and government investment of $4.5m.