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The Beginning of China’s Dairy Dynasty?

selection of cheese

Traditional Chinese dishes rarely feature dairy products. But in recent years, thanks to the popularity of fast food and American chain restaurants in China, items like butter and cheese are becoming more common.

Global cooperatives are hoping to spread the dairy love there even further through chefs. According to a recent Bloomberg article, New Zealand’s Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., and the Netherlands’ Royal FrieslandCampina are helping these cooks embrace milk-based products in test kitchens.

Through experimentation, these professionals are getting accustomed to using ingredients such as whipped cream and mozzarella in both new and traditional Chinese dishes. The hope is that they’ll incorporate these types of food more often, expose more consumers to these flavors, and ultimately increase demand. Fonterra started coaching Chinese chefs in 2015, while Royal FrieslandCampina opened its Shanghai training kitchen in January.

“When we first entered here, people didn’t know how to make cakes with the cream and butter we had, and we had to help them with that,” said Christina Zhu, Fonterra’s managing director in China, to Bloomberg. “Now is the window to build your brand with this segment of customers. I think it’ll be a lot harder to compete in five years, when the market is more established.”

China’s foodservice industry ranks third in the world—behind the US and Japan—and is reportedly worth $150 billion. To the dairy industry’s benefit, eating habits in China are changing. Batthew Pang of FrieslandCampina tells Bloomberg that more mainland Chinese appreciate Western-style cuisine now and they’re consuming milk-based products at a younger age. According to its November 2016 performance review, Fonterra sold 72 million gallons of milk to China’s consumers and foodservice provider, a 36 percent jump from the previous year.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rachel E. McLean

Rachel is an editorial intern at culture for Spring 2017. She is Junior at Boston University studying Journalism and Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations. Known as "the cheese queen" among friends, she's had a passion for fromage from a young age.