Milk NZ, owned by Chinese company Theland owns dairy farms in both the North and South Islands, with milk processed at the Green Valley plant at Maungatawhiri south of Auckland and by Synlait in the South Island.
The second China International Import Export Expo was held recently in Shanghai, showcasing products from 3900 businesses from 180 countries to more than 400,000 visitors.
It is the country’s biggest state-sanctioned window to market for international exporters.
China imported more than 14 million tonnes of milk last year, 20% of the global total, and is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest dairy market by 2022.
Theland used the expo to launch 4.0 Protein Pure UHT milk. The product uses milk from the company’s four-leaf clover farms.
Milk NZ managing director Terry Lee said the Kiwi product contains more protein than Chinese milk, in part because of the higher portion of grass content in diets compared to cows fed indoors in China.
The product is recognised for its high nutritional footprint and low lactose content making it suitable for a broad Chinese market.
The product claimed the most impactful brand of the year award in the dairy industry’s Asia-Pacific awards with its high level of protein and nutritional focus.
Lee said the product meets a growing demand from increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers seeking products with greater nutritional density at a reasonable cost.
Milk NZ has had a significant jump in its fresh milk and UHT sales to China since the inaugural expo last year.
“This year we signed an order worth $67 million for UHT milk on the first day of the expo and exceeded $225m of orders within two days, exceeding the total trading value of the expo last year,” Lee said.
It is increasingly clear Chinese consumers are focusing on products’ transparency and traceability.
Theland has reduced transition time for fresh milk sales into China to 72 hours from cow to shelf, with Chinese customs clearance being granted in NZ before airfreight dispatch. That has reduced arrival time in China from the original seven days.
Chinese overnment surveys have confirmed consumers’ first food choice when selecting a fresh product is milk.
Theland has focused on its cow-per-acre, free-range farming operations as a point of difference in an increasingly competitive fresh market.
Typically, the company’s fresh milk sells for about $14 a litre in top-end city supermarkets. Sales are typically split 50:50 between online and supermarkets.
The company claims peak sales of 80,000 one-litre bottles a week in China, up from 3000 bottles just over a year ago.
That tonnage of milk is just over the cargo capacity of a fully laden Airbus A330-200 freighter.
Lee said there is potential for Milk NZ to increase sales of fresh product by 50% but the main constraint is air freight capacity.