In 2011, the founders of New Zealand filter technology company, Lanaco, spotted an opportunity to disrupt the face mask market by using the filtration characteristics of natural wool to create the world’s most breathable respiratory filter.
Ten years later and amidst a global pandemic, Lanaco remains one of New Zealand’s most advanced and trusted filter technology brands – supplying filters to the likes of 3M and NASA, and most recently, the entire New Zealand Olympic Team on the Tokyo world stage.
“Prior to COVID-19, advanced face mask technology was not front of mind for most businesses around the world”, says Lanaco Founder and Director, Nick Davenport.
This ‘extra time on the clock’ worked in Lanaco’s favour, says Davenport, allowing the business to refine its filter technology and build credibility in overseas markets including Australia, Europe, South Africa and more recently, the United States.
“From the get-go, our focus was to develop sustainable filter technology that is extremely high performance for human respiration. We utilise science, technology and the powerful properties of New Zealand wool to develop face mask filters that can be adapted to meet almost any requirement or standard.”
Most recently, Lanaco has developed a medical face mask that meets the demand for quality personal protective equipment (PPE). This is just one of many ‘pivot products’ the business has advanced over the last 18 months.
“We knew the quality of this product was unmatched, so with that in mind, we approached the New Zealand Olympic Committee with a proposal to supply all athletes competing in Tokyo, including the medical team, with Lanaco face masks.”
Through consultation and professional fit testing, Lanaco ensured that every athlete’s needs were catered for, with Davenport remarking that in the face of a pandemic, “you have to make sure your mask properly seals.”
“The whole experience was a highlight for our team. It’s hard to think of a more satisfying moment than Kiwi sporting legends such as Lisa Carrington and our rowing eight being awarded their Olympic medals, all while wearing our bespoke silver-fern-stamped face masks. We are really proud of that.”
When asked why the business became a FernMark Licensee, Davenport replied “well why not?”
The FernMark values of authenticity and ingenuity were a natural fit for the business and reflect its own values.
“It was actually a very simple decision. When we first entered the filtration market, we knew that we would be competing against plastics. To stand out, we needed high integrity and high brand value, and that’s also represented in the FernMark – high quality products that are associated with a level of professionalism.”
Since its inception, the business has used what Davenport describes as “local knowledge and local science” to develop a composite variety of wool made up of three sheep breeds – now trade marked as the Astino™ programme.
Bred in the South Island of New Zealand, the sheep production programme is just one component of Lanaco’s sustainable, end-to-end business model, which spans from its mask making lines in Ellerslie, Auckland, right back to the production and management of wool on farms around the country.
“New Zealand’s heritage of growing wool for over 150 years is embodied in a high technology product that has the potential to protect the health of every breathing human on the planet”, says Davenport.
The fact it is chosen to protect the lives of astronauts in space takes that even further.
“This is also where the FernMark qualities of trust and reputation come in. It’s impossible for us to travel safely at the moment, so the FernMark is a natural fit that has enabled us to establish links offshore and build confidence in these markets.”
Looking forward, the team at Lanaco hopes to continue expanding the brand’s diversification of products. Since COVID-19, it has already been approached to develop bespoke products for essential industries, including rural fire services and electrical line service workers.
“Once we get past the conversations about Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, international buyers are actually really interested in the value properties of wool. We can proudly say that our filters work in all environments – they don’t catch fire, support bacteria, and even absorb toxins. It’s these innovative quality attributes that improve health, which people can benefit from.
“To us, Lanaco stands for provenance, quality, heritage, people, place, technology, health, wellbeing, sustainability, and environmental responsibility – it sounds like too much to bundle into one offering but at the end of the day, wherever you breathe, we can help.”