Cheese, yogurt and protein lead Chinese consumer interest

Published 4 April 18

Cheese, yogurt and added protein dairy products have been identified by Mintel as the next big trends for Chinese consumers, which could bring about more export opportunities.

Yogurt has been on an upward trend recently, with Greek and drinkable varieties proving particularly popular. Cheese is also growing, albeit from a small base, with approaches such as emphasising the protein and calcium content as a reason to give cheese to children. Finally, the current consumer trend of focusing on protein is starting to feed through to this market, with China’s white milk and yogurt categories focusing on increasing protein to sell premium products.

Chinese imports of cheese and yogurts increased substantially in both volume and value terms between 2016 and 2017. Cheese imports for 2017 were up 11% in volume terms and 26% in value, and yogurt imports were up 86% in volume and 80% in value – albeit from a smaller base. 

4 Apr China vol imp

4 Apr China val imp

As we have looked at before, cheese and yogurt are fairly small categories in terms of overall Chinese imports. However, these categories are not the only ones to consider – the USDA estimates that 30% of whole milk powder in China is used to make fluid milk products, including yogurt. 463k tonnes of WMP was imported into china in 2017, up 11% on 2016. Imported liquid milk could also be being made into yogurt.

China is looking to its dairy trade partners as its demand increases. New Zealand and Australia remain key suppliers, and the US Dairy Export council have just signed a new deal with Jiangnan University with the aim of ultimately increasing US exports to China. Additionally, dairy has escaped the sweeping tariff increases China has recently imposed on US food products, so this new deal will not be hindered from that side.

Meanwhile, the UK is quite a small player in this market, but as China’s appetite for imported dairy grows new opportunities could arise.