A new initiative targeting new products and markets for NZ strong wool - with export applications as diverse as cosmetics and printing - has recently been launched.
Danish footwear firm Glerups has signed a two-year deal with The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and New Zealand's largest farming company, Landcorp to exclusively supply strong wool for its indoor shoe range.
The indoor shoes, renowned for comfort, warmth and durability, are felted in 100% pure natural wool with soft leather soles. They are sold throughout Denmark and in more than 20 countries, including New Zealand (www.glerups.co.nz).
Jesper Glerup Kristensen, Glerups' director, says surging popularity of the shoes worldwide has led the company to seek a new supplier of quality strong wool. At the same time, Glerups wants to retain the product's strong family heritage and focus on sustainability.
"It quickly became obvious that Kiwi strong wool was the number one choice. New Zealand wool is of the highest standard and consistency of quality that we've seen. Better still, Landcorp growers share the same values we do – a commitment to quality and integrity," says Kristensen.
"People who buy our shoes are after more than something to keep your feet warm and comfortable. They're also buying into a more relaxed and values-based lifestyle. It's incredibly important to our customers along with the exceptional craftsmanship of the indoor shoes."
Under the deal, the strong wool, predominantly farmed on Landcorp properties as Pāmu wool, will be blended with mid-micron wool to make up 90-95% of wool used in the indoor shoes. The remaining wool is from Scandinavian Gotland sheep, which gives Glerups a unique DNA.
More than 90 tonnes of wool will be scoured (washed) in Timaru and exported to Europe by Chargeurs each year so Glerups can meet the expected 20% year-on-year growth in demand.
Steven Carden, Landcorp chief executive, says the Glerups partnership shows that strong wool has valuable uses beyond carpet and upholstery.
"When New Zealanders think of strong wool they think of the wool that's used to make the carpets in their homes. But internationally it's being increasingly used in innovative spaces," says Carden.
"So it makes sense that it's our strong wool, which is among the world's best, is being used in these high-quality products."