Chinese demand for imported ultra-high temperature milk – milk heat-treated and packaged to provide a 9-12-month shelf life without refrigeration – is an opportunity for U.S. milk producers, the U.S. Dairy Export Council reports in a new study.
Consumption jumped from nearly 18 million lbs. in 2010 to a forecast 331 million lbs. this year, USDEC says, with demand scenarios suggesting that China's appetite for imported UHT milk could grow fourfold to more than 1.3 billion lbs. by 2020.
"The rapid growth of China's UHT milk market is creating opportunities for the United States to further extend its reputation as a global supplier," says Ross Christieson, USDEC senior vice president, market research and analysis. "The U.S. industry produces large volumes of UHT milk annually, yet we have played only a minor role in serving booming Chinese consumption to date.
"Our research suggests that can and should change, particularly given that Chinese buyers have expressed growing interest in U.S. supply to meet spiraling demand," Christieson says.
In just the first six months of 2013, the Chinese UHT import market's value has topped $85 million. That's compared to 2012, when it was worth was worth $76 million. China is the largest packaged fluid milk importer in the world.
"While the growth is impressive, if you examine it in the context of the expansion of the Chinese dairy sector in general, it is a natural progression," says Christieson.
The nation's growing economy led to higher incomes, accelerated urbanization and cultivated the drive to consume more and better food, he notes, and UHT milk has been one of many beneficiaries.