Milking China’s growing liquid imports

Published 17 December 15

Imports of liquid milk into China are growing and the EU and UK are successfully tapping into this market. China is expected to import 350k tonnes of liquid milk in 2015, up nearly a tenth from last year and equalling its WMP imports, according to the USDA.

Two thirds of China’s liquid imports came from the EU in January-September, with volumes from the UK up 16% year-on-year to around 6,600 tonnes. Although the UK’s volume was relatively small, its value increased by over 50% to £6.9m due to higher prices, despite the dairy market downturn.

Prices appear to be supported by strong demand for imported liquid milk in China. Chinese retail prices for imported brands of ultra-heat treated milk (UHT) are nearly 50% higher than the average UK UHT price. Consumer confidence in the safety of imports is reportedly helping drive growing UHT sales, which demonstrates the value of using branding to target consumer needs within the right markets.

The number of potential consumers is also increasing as UHT is becoming more widely available in China’s smaller cities. Online sales platforms are performing strongly, providing easy access and home delivery to more shoppers at prices that are competitive against powdered milk alternatives.

China’s imported UHT consumption is expected to continue to grow off the back of these trends and UK exporters already appear to have their foot in the door. From here the challenge is to stay in favour with Chinese consumers, which means being price competitive and continuing to build a reputation for quality and safety.

China liquid imports