Irish dairy firms hope to milk some new opportunities in China
As tastes change in China, and more dairy is eaten, Irish firms find their reputation helps them enter the market
Kerry said the partnership provides strong export-growth opportunities for added-value dairy ingredients from Kerry’s dairy processing facilities in Charleville in Cork and Listowel in Kerry.
Since 2008 Glanbia has had a premix manufacturing facility in Suzhou where it makes a range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutraceuticals for infant formula.
“Our business in China also reflects the potential for growth in a market that values the kind of exacting standards of food safety and quality that we can deliver. Today we employ 76 people in China and have a premix facility in Suzhou. China is the hub of our developments in the Asia Pacific region – we have sales offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Malaysia, Seoul and Japan, ” says Geraldine Kearney, Glanbia’s director of corporate communications.
Glanbia has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an affiliate of the Shanghai government-owned Bright Foods, which recently bought the Weetabix brand. The MoU provides a basis for Glanbia and Bright Foods to explore joint market opportunities and distribution channels across Glanbia’s global portfolio of products.
Social and economic trends, such as the rapid growth of higher income consumers and the growing role of dairy in the diet, are positive for food and, in particular, dairy and nutrition companies supplying branded food products and ingredients into the Asia Pacific region.
“Dairy is viewed as a nutrition-based offering and the Glanbia reputation for quality and food safety places us in a strong position to support the growth of key local players. Many of our customers have set up operations and manufacturing bases in China and are scaling up rapidly so it makes sense for us to be located closer to them,” says Kearney.
It’s not just dairy: four Irish seafood companies – McBride Fishing, Carr Shellfish, Shellfish De La Mer and Sofrimar – have formed a joint venture called Jade Ireland Seafood, with an office in Shanghai.
With the Ocean Jade brand, they have a range of live and processed seafood products, including live and processed crab, lobster, mussels, prawns, scallops and whitefish, which are sold through the upmarket retailer CityShop.
During a recent Irish Exporters Association mission to Hangzhou, China’s richest man, Zong Qinghou, tasted chocolates by Ann Rudden, owner of Áine Handmade Chocolates, and appeared keen to get them into the network of malls operated by his Wahaha Group. Suddenly scale became an issue.
Earlier this year, agri-engineering firm Keenan signed a deal with a Chinese partner Shanghai Yanhua Bio-Tech to bring its feeder wagons to Chinese farms and the group is focusing on expanding its business in China.