It’s well documented that a vast proportion of the Chinese population is lactose intolerant, but that’s not stopping China’s consumers from spending more of their disposable incomes on dairy, particularly as more of them are lifted into the middle class.
The Chinese aren’t expected to embrace dairy at the same volume as Western countries such as America or France—but there is hope among dairy purveyors that, slowly but surely, their products will get some traction.
They’re not just waiting around for the trend to reveal itself. Dairy companies are doing their part to break into the market, and the world’s largest dairy exporter has gotten pretty creative about it.
Instead of focusing on getting into Chinese supermarkets—a notoriously difficult $52 billion business to crack—New Zealand-based Fonterra Co-operative Group is instead forging partnerships with restaurant chefs. By holding cooking workshops that incorporate milk, butter, and cream, the company is trying to make chefs confident enough to use dairy in their recipes, and slowly introduce its products to the larger market. According to Bloomberg, it’s working.
Fonterra’s workshops are currently being held in kitchens in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou—sometimes at hotels, schools, and even in conjunction with major global brands such as Starbucks. And Dutch dairy company Royal FrieslandCampina NV has opened a training kitchen in Shanghai.
It isn’t just Fonterra and its peers that stand to benefit. Studies are finding that lactose intolerance is becoming less of a problem among people who are exposed to dairy products at a younger age.