Cheese becomes new growth driver in dairy sector
By Chen Xiaoshu
A growing number of Chinese people are eating cheese, which is not part of their traditional diet. While the industry has promising potential, challenges remain.
Xiaojing is a popular food blogger. Her personal recipes of snacks made with cheese have won her a big social media following. 
"Look at these recipes. Many mothers now like to use cheese for cooking for their children," said Xiaojing.
According to the purchasing manager of a supermarket in Beijing, in the first four months of this year, sales of dairy products increased by 40 percent year on year.
"Parents prefer to buy cheese snacks for their children. Among all the dairy products, it maintains the fastest sales growth," said Dong Wei, dairy product purchasing manager of Hema Fresh Store.
The annual per capita consumption for cheese in China is only 0.1 kilogram, far below some of its Asian neighbors, and Western countries, where cheese has been a staple.
People buy yogurt at a supermarket. /VCG Photo‍

People buy yogurt at a supermarket. /VCG Photo‍

But domestic industry experts think Chinese interest in dairy consumption is just getting started. "It's mainly because in China, the number of people who buy cheese products is still relatively small. Besides, the Chinese are not very familiar with cheese," said Zhang Zhishan, deputy secretary general of Dairy Association of China.
Meanwhile, experts say milk quality concerns and insufficient processing capacities are two major constraints for developing China's dairy industry.
And that's echoed by dairy companies. "When we decided to produce dairy products, we found China doesn't make production equipment but only relies on imports. We have spent several hundred million yuan on our production lines. We do hope the country's machinery manufacturers could put more emphasis on R&D in cheese production equipment," said Chai Xiu, CEO of Milkground Food Tech.
To promote the international competitiveness of Chinese cheese products, experts say technical support is also important. 
"For example, while making cheese, more efforts are needed, in areas like rennet production and micro-organism research. We couldn't rely on imports. We need our own brands," said Zhang.