‘Tremendous support’ for newly established Strong Wool Action Group

The newly formed Strong Wool Action Group is getting "tremendous" support, executive officer Andy Caughey says.

The group was established to carry out the recommendations of the Wool Industry Project Action Group report, released in July.

A recent update from the group said various industry entities had contributed funds and others were in discussions to do so.

Contributions committed to date were more than $400,000 and the Ministry for Primary Industries had agreed to match industry contributions.

Additional contributions were still being sought to meet the group’s target of $700,000 from industry which would would mean a total budget of $2.5million to $3million to fund SWAG’s work.

Three specialist groups had been set up within SWAG to focus on specific workflows. One had engaged with a couple of international consumer research and product development companies to better understand consumer-focused market opportunities and how to reach those consumers.

MPI had also completed a domestically focused environmental scan to give the group a better understanding on who was undertaking innovative work with strong wool in New Zealand.

Mr Caughey has been involved in the wool sector in New Zealand and internationally since 1988. In 2011, he founded Armadillo Merino, a global company specialising in advanced next-to-skin clothing for tactical operators and professionals operating in high-risk environments.

He attributed the support to several reasons; there was a "really high calibre" board, with a huge amount of talent.

Those people were not going to put forward their names and time if they did not feel they could make a demonstrable difference. With them came their networks of contacts, he said.

The group’s strategy was also very clear; it was demand-driven and consumer-led. "We’ve got to move away from our traditional supply-driven strategy of pushing product into the market. We’ve done it for decades," he said.

Woollen shoe maker Allbirds was a brand that transformed a whole category by creating a brand relevant to consumers.

SWAG wanted to "build a bridge" between consumers and the marketplace and strong wool growers through the power of brands.

The impact of Covid-19 this year had meant consumers were looking at how they were living their lives and what their values were.

By being pushed to live in their homes, they were starting to look more critically at the things in their lives and what they were consuming was becoming more important.

Wool was a "wonderful fibre" but people had forgotten how it worked. This was an opportunity to "step up" and present it in a contemporary way.

Science was also on the sector’s side now and, rather than just saying things anecdotally, there were proven benefits of having wool in home furnishings, he said.



I keep asking myself why have the green politicians not embraced and promoted the benefits of wool a natural product? Just doesn't make sense that they remain silent. Could it be that this would be too radical for them?