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Dairy Opportunity in China – but Food Safety Is Key Concern

By Kate Bell, Recall Consultant

In June of last year, the chairman of Dairy UK outlined some of the challenges facing the industry and also some of the key opportunities. He spoke about a number of priorities outlined, with a key aspect being the promotion of the nutrition and health benefits of dairy foods.

Regardless of food type, nutrition and health is paramount in today’s society with more and more consumers determined to make sure their food and drink is contributes to a healthy lifestyle. That is true of consumers in the UK, but also overseas – and the UK exports plenty of dairy to foreign markets.

In fact, the UK exports a colossal amount of dairy. Between January and October 2018, the figure was 155,173 tonnes of cheese and 30,125 tonnes of butter – an increase of 13.9 per cent on the equivalent period the year prior.

As with many sectors, China has become a key market for UK dairy producers. In August, the UK Government signed a £240m deal with the Chinese to export UK dairy products made with milk from third countries. Demand for dairy categories is growing by more than 20 per cent year-on-year in China, so the deal marked a major milestone. But if the UK is to continue to profit from Chinese demand for British dairy, it will need to be aware of their specific concerns.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s Horizon market intelligence report provides many interesting insights into consumer behaviour around dairy. According to the report, one of the major concerns for consumers is food safety – with 40 per cent of Chinese consumers rating it as a top three priority when purchasing dairy.

That means that consumers there are more likely to pay attention to the food provenance and having peace of mind that the dairy they eat or drink is from a known source. This also has significant repercussions in terms of recalls. The impact of a recall can be devastating on a brand. And in this specific scenario – should a UK dairy producer be compelled to recall a product it has exported to China – the consequences for their chances of profiting from an appetite for British milk or cheese are significant.

At Stericycle Expert Solutions, we have seen those consequences first hand. So our advice would be for UK dairy producers to be proactive and ensure they have a plan in case should the worse happen – and to avoid too many tears over spilled milk (or cheese).

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