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Cheese Sector in China: Room for Growth

  •   23 Nov 2018
  •    Lennie Tao
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    • From 2016 to 2017 China's cheese market grew by 11.1%, reaching a total import volume of 108,000 tons in 2017.

    China's Global Food & Hospitality Trade Show 2018 was held from November 13th to 15th, 2018 in Shanghai. It was attended by 3,000 companies from 60 countries and regions. During the tradeshow experts from different countries expounded their ideas about the Chinese dairy market with a focus on China's cheese sector.

    China's cheese sector is still in its infancy but is growing rapidly and characterized by a heavy reliance on imports and a steady increase in overall volume and value.  From 2016 to 2017, the global growth rate of the cheese market was 1.21% while it was 11.1% in China. China imported 75,600 tons of cheese in 2015, 97,200 tons in 2016, and 108,000 tons in 2017. In 2018, the import volume from January to August has already surpassed the total amount in 2017. It is anticipated that the total volume imported in 2018 will increase by 20% (YoY).

    Imported cheese accounts for 78% of the market share in China due to the high cost of milk (RMB 3.4 to 4 yuan/kg) which sets a prohibitive barrier on cheese production for domestic players, which tend to target the lower hanging fruit of the milk, yogurt and powdered milk sectors. New Zealand and Australia are China's two big trade partners accounting for 52% and 18% of all imports, with the rest of the market divided amongst several European countries. The most popular types are mozzarella, sliced cheese and cream cheese.

    • Sales channels for cheese products 2017
    Market shareChannelMain categories
    31%RetailChildren cheese (49%)
    65%Catering (through hotels, restaurants, ordering take-out food online)Mozzarella (60%)
    Sliced cheese (15%)
    Less than 4%E-commerceCream cheese (13%)
    Mozzarella (50%)
    Children cheese (40%)

    Cheese is still considered a novelty amongst Chinese consumers and time is needed to allow greater traction and product diversification. Cheese consumption in China is less than 100g per capita per year, far below average consumption in European countries, which is more than 10kg per capita per year. According to forecasts increased demand from the catering and bakery sectors is expected to see China's cheese market value to grow to 11 billion yuan by 2020.

    Market Share of Cheese in Shanghai 2018

    • Relevant regulations

    GB 5420-2010 Nation Food Safety Standard—Cheese
    GB 19301 Nation Food Safety Standard—Raw Milk (raw material requirements of cheese)
    GB 2760 and GB 14880 (requirements of additives and nutrition fortification substances)

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    ChemLinked Editor

    Lennie has broad experience in the food sector, especially in dairy products and health food.

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