Ireland currently supplies 6.5% of infant formula in China and has huge opportunities to grow this market share with the abolition of milk quotas, but developing our working relationships with Chinese companies is necessary for this, according to Enterprise Ireland. 

David Butler, FDI manager, Food Division, Enterprise Ireland, said the expansion in dairy processing capacity and output next year, presents an opportunity to add a lot of value to dairy. “Some 84% of Irish dairy output is exported, so it’s all about adding value and selling that on international markets. This means areas such as nutrition, consumer foods, infant formula and ingredients.”

Currently, four Irish suppliers of infant formula are accredited to supply China – of just 49 worldwide – Abbott, Wyeth, Danone and Kerry. “Thats a pretty good statement of the quality of the basic ingredients here. We are currently selling 6.5% of market share of infant market finished share in china. It’s a growing market and because of that maintaing market share is still growth. But I think our share will increase.”

Major Chinese players have been coming to Ireland over the last number of years, he says, looking for a safe and secure food supply. “Their key issue is food security – they want security of supply.”

While he would not comment on the possibility of any Irish processors teaming up with a Chinese investor in the immediate future, he said Enterprise Ireland has had a number of Chinese companies here, while all the main processors have had interaction with them. “We would see the best opportunity as strategic partnerships between Irish processors and Chinese food and dairy companies.”