Mengniu – game changer of the Chinese dairy industry

China’s two dairy giants, Mengniu and Yili, are located in the self-styled Dairy Capital of China: Huhhot. What is their relation and the nature of their competition in the Chinese cultural context?

A blog needs to renew regularly. Although most of my posts introduce companies, after the post on COFCO I have never written another one featuring a single company. I will make up for that, starting with this post about one of China’s top dairy companies. This post is derived from a case study in one of my academic writings: Chinese Corporate Identity. Readers who are triggered to get a deeper understanding, please read that chapter, or better: the entire book.

Inner Mongolia – a bit Chinese and a bit Mongolian

Inner Mongolia is an administrative region of northern China of the same level as a province, but with a larger degree of political autonomy.

The greater part of Inner Mongolia is a plateau with elevations of about 1000 metres. The Yellow River flows north from Ningxia and forms a loop that encloses the Ordos Desert. Grasslands predominate on the plateau, where they sustain large numbers of grazing animals such as cows, sheep, goats, camels, and horses. Milk from all those animals has been part of the traditional diet of the Mongols. Apart from drinking the fresh product, milk is processed into a number of cheese and yoghurt like products. Horse milk is even fermented into an alcoholic beverage.

The population of Inner Mongolia is approximately 25 million, up from only 6.1 million in 1953. The rapid population growth since the 1950s is a result of better nutrition, increased health care services, and a substantial migration into the region of Han Chinese. More than 80% of the current population is Han. Mongols comprise the largest minority group in Inner Mongolia, and their presence is acknowledged by the government’s designation of Inner Mongolia as an autonomous region.

From orphan to entrepreneur

Mr Niu Gensheng (1956), Mengniu’s founder, is one of the most mythical among present day China’s entrepreneurs; more even than that of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. Story has it that he lost his parents at the very early age of 3 months and was raised by a farmer called Niu (which ominously means ‘cow’). His foster parents gave him the name: Niu Gensheng.

Niu was hired by what was then called the Yili Dairy Factory in Huhhot, as a bottle washer, in 1978. From that humble position, he gradually worked his way up from work shop supervisor, subsidiary director, vice-director of the mother factory to Vice-President in charge of production of, what was then rename into, the Yili Group. Niu’s career did not pass by unnoticed. He has been granted a number of regional awards and was included in the 10 Top Young Entrepreneurs of Huhhot.

Ousted from Yili

For reasons that have never been actually expressed, a conflict developed between Niu and the other board members, resulting his removal from the board in November 1998. The Board issued a statement indicating that ‘Comrade Niu Gensheng no longer fitted his position.’ He was ‘advised’ to find a place to study outside his home region for at least two years. Judging by this ‘advice,’ it could have been that his fellow board members did no longer feel comfortable with a self-made man among their ranks. Niu grabbed this opportunity to enrol himself in the MBA course of the prestigious Guanghua Business School of Beijing University. He left Yili the following year.

Founding Mengniu

Already within the same year, 1999, Niu Gensheng and a group of more than 50 of his old subordinates at Yili and a number of private individuals, raised RMB 1.3 billion to establish Mengniu Dairy Co., Ltd. When asked during an interview how Niu could so easily convince a considerable number of his former colleagues at Yili to not only quit their comfortable positions, but also entrust a considerable amount of their savings to him, Niu’s own rationale was that he had the habit of sharing his income with his subordinates. His last salary as a Vice-President of Yili exceeded RMB 1 million, which he found more than he needed to make a good living. He often shared part of it with subordinates that he believed to have contributed to his success. In Niu’s eyes, he was cashing in on the goodwill thus accumulated during the establishment of Mengniu. This was good leadership in a communitarian culture like the Chinese.

Fastest growing private enterprise

At that point of Mengniu’s early age, the company was still in a situation Niu himself recalls as ‘four deficiencies:’ no raw milk source, no factory, no brand (he had registered a brand name, but it was unknown among Chinese consumers), no market. He contacted dairy plants all over China with a surplus capacity and contracted those to produce for Mengniu. Mengniu provided specifications, a brand name and technological assistance. Mengniu first created a market and only then built its own production facilities.

Mengniu turned out to be the fastest growing private enterprise in China’s history. The company generated a turnover of RMB 43 million in the first year of its existence, which was approximately 4% of Yili’s turnover of the same period. The turnover of 2002 was already RMB 2 billion, exactly half of Yili’s turnover of that year.

Foreign investment

A milestone in the history of Mengniu was its acceptance of foreign participation late 2002. Niu Gensheng himself had repeatedly stated in the national press that he was not in a hurry to follow Yili’s example in seeking registration on the stock exchange and expose Mengniu to the whims of speculators. It therefore was even a surprise to insiders when it was reported that Morgan Stanley, CDH Fund and China Capital Partners had signed an agreement with Mengniu to invest USD 26 million in Mengniu. As a result of that deal, the three foreign investors held a total share of 32%. According to a spokesperson of Mengniu, the Chinese side had attracted foreign participation to better compete with the other dairy giants like Sanyuan (Beijing) and Bright (Shanghai), that were heavily supported by their respective local governments. Morgan Stanley had already invested in a number of Chinese enterprises including Ping’an Insurance Company, Nanfu Battery Company and Heng’an International Group. CDH Fund had invested in 12 Chinese enterprises, also including Nanfu Battery and Sina.com, an important Chinese business Internet portal. China Capital Partners, a UK fund for investment in China, had invested USD 55 million in China since its establishment in June 2000. Following opening its door to foreign influence, Mengniu’s next step was to seek listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in June 2004.

Cultural drivers of Mengniu’s success

Niu Gensheng’s strategy has never been to ‘push Yili from the market’, which would be the typical Western MBA textbook approach. Instead he kept praising Yili in his advertisements of Mengniu, position his company as a faithful follower of leader Yili.

He vouched in media interviews that Mengniu would not try to snatch raw milk sources from Yili and that Mengniu would never buy raw milk that did not comply with Yili’s specifications.

In the Chinese cultural context, Niu himself, and the Yili employees he had pulled from Yili, would still maintain friendly contacts with their former Yili colleagues. An aggressive strategy would not fit such relations. In the political field, the Huhhot authorities, while welcoming new entrepreneurial activity, would dislike a Western-style life or death fight between state-owned enterprise Yili and private newcomer Mengniu. Commercial competition must never harm the Confucianist ideal of harmonious society.

In short: Niu Gensheng’s entrepreneurial behaviour suited the Chinese communitarian culture and complied with the Confucianist principles of good governance.

Mengniu and Yili outside Inner Mongolia

During the following years and decades, Mengniu and Yili kept growing and expanding into other regions of China. In most regions, either Mengniu or Yili would be the first to enter, but the other would soon follow suit. While Mengniu kept profiling itself as the follower, in their de facto relationship they alternately acted as follower or leader (for concrete case studies see the above-mentioned book).

Mengniu turns SEO

The Chinese business world was shaken by the news that COFCO (see my post that positions COFCO as the next Nestlé) had acquired a significant share in Mengniu in 2009. The media, that had so far regarded Niu Gensheng as a favourite person to interview, now accused him of going against the tide. While privatization was the trend in Chinese economy, China’s most successful private company was now becoming a de facto state-owned enterprise. Niu was not shaken by the fierce criticism, as usual. He calmly replied that the real trend was that the differences between various types of enterprises in China (state-owned, private, foreign invested, etc.) were decreasing. He simply believed that Mengniu would be best off as a subsidiary of the emerging multinational COFCO. History has proven him right.

Food for thought

Mengniu Dairy’s entrepreneurial history provides a large bowl of food for thought. I will leave most of it for you, my readers, to think over. I will restrict to one challenging thought: considering the problems major dairy multinationals like Fonterra and FrieslandCampina are experiencing in China, how much could they learn from Mengniu, to grow roots in the Chinese cultural context? Nestlé, an early Western investor in China, seems to have done a good job in this respect. The key issue in embedding your Chinese subsidiary in the local society is forging valuable relationships, with business partners, but also with competitors.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975.

 

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Is China the future for chocolate?

Chocolate is one the most appreciated gifts to friends in East Asia

The confectionery industry is a sweet line of business by itself, but it can be even sweeter in China, where market potential and a growing confectionery culture is leading to a new bonanza of sweets and chocolates.

Chocolate sales in China grew 58% from 2009-2013. They are expected to expand to USD 4.3 billion by 2019, rising nearly 60% from USD 2.7 billion in 2014, lifted by outstanding demand from the growing urban population, Bert Alfonso, president of Hershey International, forecast in a recent webcast at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference.

China has become such an important market for chocolate suppliers, that Barry Callebaut had chosen Shanghai as the place to introduce its inhouse-developed ruby chocolate to the world in September 2017.

High-end market

Sales of China’s chocolate and confectionery boomed over the past five years after a handful of Western brands began entering the country in the 1980s. The maturing chocolate culture has prompted Chinese consumers to begin asking for a greater variety of premier products. China’s chocolate consumption is increasing 10% to 15% a year, as living standards rise and there is a growing acceptance of Western lifestyle.

So far, the top 20 chocolate makers have already presented themselves in the market. In a common supermarket in Shanghai, you can easily find over 70 brands of chocolate. Most of them are foreign brands. The big four (biggest four companies in China chocolate market: Dove, Ferrero, Cadbury and Leconte) have taken over 70% of the market. Of these, only Leconte is a local brand (Owned by COFCO, possibly Nestlé’s main international challenger). Among the three foreign brands, Dove alone has taken one-third of the market.

Foreign players go into lengths to ensure the quality of their products on the Chinese market. E.g., Hershey’s indicates on its packaging that it uses 100% imported milk.

HersheyImpMilk

Major potential

China’s current per capita chocolate consumption is very low at about 100 grams a person, compared with more than 10 kilograms in Europe. Even in Japan and South Korea, the figure is close to 2 kg. However, by 2016, 340 million Chinese will be middle class – more than the population of Western Europe – creating a huge market. Greater purchasing power – and the growth of large foreign retail chains – will boost consumption. This leaves plenty of room for business growth in China.

Milk chocolate is still the favourite flavour with Chinese consumers. However, in some developed regions of China, such as in the east, sophisticated customers are more likely to choose dark chocolate as it has an image of being healthier. This flavor’s share of retail value has more than quadrupled in five years to 34% in 2013. Of all the chocolate fillings, nuts are the most popular.

Selling Points of Chocolate

What are the factors to getting Chinese people buying chocolate ? A report shows that the No.1 factor Chinese consumers consider is the taste (30%), following by brand (18%) and price (7%).

  1. Taste

It’s true that in China, taste is the most important factor, but compared to western consumers, Chinese consumers don’t care about the taste nearly as much. A report shows 66% western consumers put taste as the most important factor, while only 30% of Chinese consumers think it’s the top factor.

  1. Brand

When chocolate came to China’s market, it was branded as an exotic food product which is an added extra value. And now the brand has become even more important. First of all, a big part of imported chocolates purchased in China are for gifts or ceremonial use like wedding candy.

For young Chinese men, chocolates, especially luxurious delicately packed chocolates have become a must to show their love to their girlfriends. During the Chinese Valentines’ Day this year, half of the top 10 items sold online were chocolates. That’s why imported chocolates are sold as high class food product.

Apart from their fancy look, imported chocolates also enjoys a fame of high class ingredients. With the growing concern for health and food safety, consumers are becoming more careful about the ingredients of chocolates and imported chocolate are trusted for containing more coco or milk.

  1. Price

When chocolate first appeared in China, the price for a box of imported chocolates was sky-high. Today, chocolate has become a common food product that most people can afford. But some chocolate brands are still famous for their high price such as Ferrero because Ferrero targets on high class chocolate market where price is an important tool to show its value.

A Chinese consumer can easily find reasons to buy a box of imported chocolate for its taste, brand and price. And what chocolate makers need to do is to produce nice chocolate, promote its brand and label with a suitable price.

Local players

Local competitors are still finding it hard to set up a premier brand recognition among Chinese consumers and adopted cheaper compounds to secure price competitiveness.

LeConte holds 6.7% market share and another local company, Golden Monkey (Shanghai), with 1.5% market, was recently acquired by Hershey, which took an 80% stake in this company.

LeConteMCGM-mchoc

Ingredients listed on the packaging of domestic cholocates:

  • LeConte milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, skimmed milk powder, lactose, food additives (soybean lecithin, food flavour), cocoa butter 35% min., cocoa solids 40% min., milk solids 26% min. The cocoa beans are imported from Ecuador.
  • Golden Monkey milk chocolate (cocoa butter alternatives):sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, cocoa powder, milk powder, whey powder, salt, food additives (lecithin, polyglycerol ricinoleic acid ester), food flavour.

On the other hand, the higher prices of global players also scare away Chinese customers, who do not have the purchasing power of their Western counterparts. There is still room for growth in second-tier cities dominated by these lower-end products. This applies particularly to China’s vast rural population. The challenge for domestic players is to develop affordable chocolate products that apply to the various local tastes and habits.

Perhaps foreign tourists can be charmed into buying chocolate replicas of the famous terra cotta soldiers from Xi’an.

chocolateWarriors

‘Purple Candy’ from Russia new favourite

Chinese imports of foods and beverages from Russia have been rising during the past few years and chocolate is one of the favourite categories. One Russian chocolate, Krokant, chocolate filled with toffee crunch, is hard on the way to become the most popular chocolate in China. Chinese refer to it as ‘Purple Candy’ due to its purple wrapper.

Eurasia Consult’s database of the Chinese food industry includes 123 producers of chocolate products.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975.

 

Food companies in China’s top 100/500

The list of the 2014 Top 500 Chinese enterprises in terms of turnover included the following food and beverage companies.

Rank Company Turnover 2013(RMB bln) Business
84 COFCO 189.05157 Food in general, see our blog on COFCO vs Nestle
94 Bright 159.38217 Dairy
165 Wahaha 78.27856 Beverages
168 New Hope 77.89271 Dairy
195 Wuliangye 63.09445 Spirits
253 Yili 47.77887 Dairy
257 Shuanghui 47.20541 Meat
299 China Salt 39.82552 Salt
307 Luzhou Laojiao 38.53574 Spirits
321 Zhengbang 36.04589 Meat, poultry
330 Wens 35.18706 Meat, poultry
337 Moutai 34.62301 Spirits
407 Qingdao 28.29098 Beer
430 Xiwang 27.12007 Corn processing
451 Weiwei 26,18069 Soybean milk
470 Daohuaxiang 24,86100 Spirits, beverages
482 Hope-Full 24,11415 Soybean processing

 

The two companies in the top 100 are both state owned enterprises that have succcessfully adapted to the new economic reality in China. Still, the second two are private enterprises.

Spirits remains the best represented type of business with four companies on this list. If we broaden the scope to alcoholic beverage in general, we can add Qingdao and COFCO (Great Wall Wine) as well, to make 6 out of 17 companies.

However, as Mengniu Dairy is now a subsidiary of COFCO, the current list also de facto comprises 4 dairy companies, 2 of which are in the top 100.

You may want to compare this list, which is based on the 2013 turnover, with the list of the Top Food Companies of 2014, which ranks the enterprises according to their estimated brand value.

Food & Beverage in China’s 2017 top brands

The 2017 China Top 100 brands have been published late May. I have extracted a sublist of the food and beverage companies in that list and simply add it to this blog, so we can compare the results with the situation of 2014. First the list.

Rank Brand Industry
6 Moutai spirits
9 Wuliangye spirits
19 Yili dairy
21 Mengniu dairy
25 Wahaha beverages
64 Chef Kang noodles
67 Shuanghui meat
73 Luzhou Laojiao spirits
74 Tsingtao Beer beer
80 Bright dairy
84 Kouzijiu spirits
85 Junlebao dairy
92 Huiyuan fruit juice
93 Changyu wine
95 Gujing Gongjiu spirits
96 Yingjia spirits
97 Daoxiangcun pastry
98 Quanjude Peking duck

Spirits stand out as the leading industry with 6 out of 18 brands in the national Top 100. Dairy is the runner up with 4. Quanjude is a restaurant chain rather than a manufacturing company, but it also markets vacuum packed ducks ready for consumption. Regular readers of the blog will recognize most of the names. Don’t hesitate to use the Search function to look for more information of each company in other posts.

Almost all companies have rising dramatically, in particular Moutai. Three years ago, only 3 F&B companies were included in China’s top 100, now 18. This corroborates what has been said about the Chinese food industry in numerous recent publications: it is rapidly becoming a pillar of the national economy.

This post concentrates on the top companies, but Eurasia Consult has a database of Chinese food & beverage producers of more than 30,000 companies.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975.

 

Will Nestlé’s challenger be Chinese?

Nestlé is still the world’s leading food company, but for how long? It is very active in China, but China’s own giant is occupying Nestlé’s markets too, one by one, step by step.

The increasing Chinese appetite for high end foreign products is not a new issue. The economic problems in Europe and North America now seem to push China even faster in the position of top region for investment, and in both directions: inward and outward. The two giants, Beijing based COFCO (China Oils & Foodstuffs Corporation) and Bright from Shanghai, continue their race in acquiring foreign companies. Unlike many of their Western counterparts, they have the money to spend and they are the top food makers for more than 1.3 billion domestic consumers. COFCO claims to provide food products to one-fourth of the world’s population, around 1.8 billion customers. COFCO rose to the 121th position in the World Top 500 companies of 2016.

COFCO’s revenue amounted to RMB 216.12 billion ($32 billion) in the first half of 2017, up 7% year-on-year. Its net profit in the same period also reached RMB 5.51 billion, surging 112% from the same period a year earlier.

Moreover, while most Chinese overseas investors are constrained by lack of financing, COFCO has received large infusions of credit from Chinese policy banks. These include a RMB 30 bln line of credit from the Agricultural Development Bank of China for investment in grain-related projects in 2011; RMB 30 bln in financing over 5 years from the China Development Bank; and another commitment in 2016 from the Agricultural Development Bank to finance projects related to food security, food safety, and agricultural modernization.

Simultaneously, we see multinationals like the two Colas, Nestlé, Unilever, etc., increase their stake in their respective Chinese markets. These corporations as well have no choice. If they do not invest now, there will not be enough of the pie left for them. Nestlé is very frank in admitting that it finds it harder than before to keep its market share in China, let alone increasing it. And in our current troubled world, losing market share in growing market like China equals losing market share worldwide.

COFCO has become a genuine powerhouse. Following Donald Trump’s announcement about putting high import duties on imported steel and aluminium, COFCO’s President Patrick Yu alluded in an interview that he, as the world’s largest importer of soybeans, was able to harm the US by stopping to source that product from the US.

Nestlé

Nestlé was one of the earliest multinational investors in China with an infant formula plant in Heilongjiang in the 1980s. The company is now active in the country with most of its product groups, like coffee, biscuits, or breakfast cereals.

After 13 years of talks, Nestlé was formally invited into China in 1987 by the government of Heilongjiang province. Nestlé opened a plant to produce powdered milk and infant formula there in Acheng in 1990, but quickly realized that the local rail and road infrastructure was inadequate and inhibited the collection of milk and delivery of finished products. Rather than make do with the local infrastructure, Nestlé embarked on an ambitious plan to establish its own distribution network, known as milk roads, between 27 villages in the region and factory collection points, called chilling centers. Farmers brought their milk— often on bicycles or carts—to the centers where it was weighed and analyzed.

Unlike the government, Nestlé paid the farmers promptly. Suddenly the farmers had an incentive to produce milk, and many bought a second cow, increasing the cow population in the district by 3000, to 9000, in 18 months. Area managers then organized a delivery system that used dedicated vans to deliver the milk to Nestlé’s factory. Although at first glance this might seem to be a very costly solution; Nestlé calculated that the long-term benefits would be substantial. Nestlé’s strategy is similar to that undertaken by many European and American companies during the first waves of industrialisation in those countries. Companies often had to invest in infrastructure that we now take for granted to get production off the ground. Once the infrastructure was in place in China, Nestlé’s production took off. In 1990, 316 mt of powdered milk and infant formula were produced. By 1994, output exceeded 10,000 mt, and the company decided to triple capacity. Based on this experience, Nestlé decided to build another two powdered milk factories in China and was aiming to generate sales of USD 700 million by 2000. Nestlé already operates three “milk districts” in China, in Shuangcheng (Heilongjiang), Laixi (Shandong) and Hulunbeier (Inner Mongolia).

Nestlé has signed an agreement with a local government in north China’s Inner Mongolia region to build a 2,000 cow dairy farm in the area. The company says the farm will be “a transitional solution between small and individual farmers and a large modern farm”. Nestlé rarely invests in its own dairy production, preferring instead to develop supply chains with local farms or to import powdered milk on the global market. Its moves in China follow those of New Zealand’s Fonterra, the world’s largest milk producer and a major supplier of powdered milk to Nestlé.

Nestlé is also keen on developing products particularly suiting the Chinese market. A find example is ‘milk powder for elderly’, enriched with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). It is marketed with the slogan ‘gas station for the brain.’

Since 2010, Nestlé has formed a bottled water venture with Yunnan Dashan Drinks Co. and bought controlling stakes in candy maker Hsu Fu Chi International and Yinlu Foods Group, producer of congee, saqima and a peanut-milk beverage. Through the alliances, Nestlé has tripled its China headcount to 47,000 employees. With 31 factories across the country, 90% of the products it sells in China are made there.

Nestlé plans to build R&D centers at facilities owned by Hsu Fu Chi and Yinlu, where researchers will focus on ready-to- drink beverages and baked goods. The Swiss company already has a research center with Totole, a Chinese bouillon maker in Shanghai in which Nestlé has an 80% stake. Another facility in Beijing focuses on nutrition and food technology.

COFCO

Still, an intriguing thought for us to dwell upon every now and then is this: how many years are we away from the moment that Nestlé will start feeling competition from COFCO in Europe? For Nestlé, actually, this is not an issue to dwell upon, but to act on, by increasing its investment in COFCO’s home land.

COFCO, formed through a series of mergers of state food and animal husbandry companies in the 1950s, has successfully transformed itself to a top national player in the food industry. E.g., COFCO controls 90% of China’s wheat imports. Nowadays, COFCO claims to provide food products to one-fourth of the world’s population, around 1.8 billion customers.

COFCO plans to build new warehouses and processing facilities in countries including Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Indonesia to enhance its ability to acquire global food resources. COFCO has already purchased and built ports, logistics companies and storehouses in the world’s main grain-producing areas such as Australia, South America and the Black Sea region. Wan Zaotian, COFCO’s vice-president, said China has become the world’s largest market for food trade. Supported by the Belt and Road Initiative, food trade between China and its partners is expected to grow rapidly. It is critical for the group to build efficient global supply and logistics networks.

In 2011, COFCO took control of Australian sugar producer Tully Sugar Ltd, but it lost a bid for Proserpine Cooperative Sugar Milling Association, another Australian company, in November of that year.

In the wine sector, COFCO bought Chateau Viaud in Bordeaux, France, in February 2011 after investing USD 18 mln on a large swathe of Bisquertt, one of the Chile’s most upmarket brands in 2010.

To put the competitive relationship between the world’s top food giant and China’s domestic one, I have compiled a simplified table of the major food groups and Nestlé and COFCO’s participation in each industry.

Image

(-: not applicable; +: a broad range of products)

COFCO’s foreign-related investments since the publication of this blog:

14/1/2014: COFCO is said to be on speaking terms with China’s second largest meat processor Jinluo Group to acquire the latter.

28/2/2014: COFCO to buy 51% of Dutch grain trader Nidera. The Nidera purchase gives Cofco a strong platform to produce grain in Brazil, Argentina and Central Europe. All regulatory approvals to close the transaction whereby an investment consortium led by COFCO, consisting of Hopu Investment, Temasek, IFC, Standard and Chartered Private Equity, has acquired 51% of Nidera have been obtained in October 2014.

4/3/2014: COFCO has acquired Noble’s agribusiness arm. With Noble’s agribusiness COFCO has gained grain elevators in Argentina and sugar mills in Brazil, as well as oilseed crushing plants in China, Ukraine and South Africa.

29/4/2014: COFCO is setting up a huge vegetable oil plant in the port city of Tianjin.

6/6/2014: COFCO Meat attracts a capital injection from a consortium of investors composed of KKR, Baring Private Equity Asia, HOPU, and Boyu.

8/10/2014: COFCO unveiled plans for an initial public offering (IPO), in a move that would allow it to compete with leading U.S. agribusinesses, according to several news reports. The planned IPO would include assets recently acquired Nidera and Noble. COFCO said its goal with the acquisitions was to connect large grain production areas, including those in South America and the Black Sea region to Asia. These investments are meant to will allow COFCO to compete with the traditional big-four trading houses from the west that are collectively known as ABCD: Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge Ltd, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Commodities BV as rising incomes drive up food demand in China.

10/11/2014:  COFCO has signed an agreement with New Zealand Government-owned food safety firm AsureQuality and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to enhance the country’s food safety and quality.

Oct. 2015: COFCO announces plans to construct two warehouses (100,000 MT capacity each) in Russia’s Mikhailovsky priority development territory in southern Primorsky Krai.

22/12/2015: Embattled commodities trader Noble Group has reached an agreement to sell its 49% stake in Noble Agri to COFCO International for $750 million. With this move, COFCO will pose an even bigger challenge to ABCD (see 8/10/2014 above).

October 2016: COFCO signs an agreement with Australia’s Monash University. Under the deal, Monash University’s new Food Innovation Centre – and Australian food businesses – will now have access to the COFCO research arm’s resources, in-depth knowledge of Chinese consumers and regulatory expertise to fast-track supply opportunities for exporters. The university said the new centre would enable businesses to expand and target export markets, including China.

19/10/2016: Cofco Meat Holdings Ltd, a pork producer part-owned by KKR & Co, is seeking to raise as much as $333 million in a Hong Kong initial public offering.

8/11/2016: COFCO launches a power drink called Big Bang in cooperation with Refresco (Netherlands) to compete with Red Bull and similar beverages.

18/2/2017: New Zealand’s AgResearch has signed a collaboration arrangement in Beijing with the Nutrition and Health Research Institute of COFCO and with the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering of China Agriculture University (CAU). They would explore opportunities to work together formally in the name of a “joint international research center for food science to promote international exchange, research and productivity, with a particular focus on further enhancing a China-New Zealand relationship.”

May 2017: Loch Lomond Group, based in Alexandria in Scotland, has entered into a partnership with COFCO for the distribution in China of their whiskies, including Loch Lomond, Glen Scotia and Littlemill.According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the value of exports to China increased 0.5% to 41 million pounds in 2016.

June 2017: DGB Pty Ltd, South Africa’s largest independent wine, spirits and craft beer producer, announces an exclusive distribution agreement with COFCO. COFCO will, in the initial phase, exclusively import DGB brands Boschendal and Tall Horse, with the expectation to later expand the portfolio with other brands from the DGB wine stable.

15/8/2017: COFCO partners with the Illinois-based farm cooperative Growmark Inc. they will jointly own and operate a truck, rail and barge terminal in Cahokia, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, the main pipeline that supplies exporters along the US Gulf Coast with corn and soybeans. The facility can receive about 180,000 bushels (4572.24 mt) of corn per hour, delivered by truck and rail, and can load two river barges simultaneously at a rate of about 60,000 bushels per hour.

Feb. 2018: Cofco International Ltd., the trading arm of China’s largest food company, is building a soft commodities hub in Dubai. About 10 employees will trade sugar, coffee and cotton.

Nestlés activities in China since the publication of this blog:

8/5/2014: Nestlé announces intent to invest in coffee growing in Pu’er (Yunnan).

9/5/2014: fertiliser producer China Green Agriculture has entered a cooperation agreement with Nestlé (China) Co., Ltd. to jointly develop a direct sales program, as a mutual effort to supply the Company’s fertilizer products to coffee bean farmers in China.

16/6/2014: The University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, will develop the curriculum for a $400m Nestlé dairy training center in China.

17/6/2014: Nestlé has officially inaugurated its latest Chinese research and development facility in Dongguan (Guangdong). The R&D facility will support its partnership with Hsu Fu Chi and focus on research in confectionery and ice cream.

15/10/2014: Nestle opens China Dairy Farming Institute; Nestlé has inaugurated a “dairy farming institute” in Shuangcheng ( near Harbin, Heilongjiang) as part of ongoing efforts to foster the development of sustainable dairy production in the market in order to secure the supply of raw milk. The project involves an investment of CHF30 mln and is one of its biggest dairy investments in China. GEA Group will contribute its expertise to this institute. From February 2015 onwards, some 17 different courses about milking will be taught with direct involvement of the GEA Farm Technologies Academy.

20/11/2014: Nestlé Research Centre Beijing organizes a joint symposium with The 25th Great Wall International Congress of Cardiology (GW-ICC). The symposium focuses on nutritional approaches for cardiovascular and metabolic health.

8/5/2015: Nestlé China helps building a school in the earthquake stricken region of Sichuan. The company deftly combined the opening of the school with the “Food Safety Week into Campus” launched by the State Food and Drug Administration.

18/5/2015: Chinese Nutrition Society’s “12th National Nutritional Science Conference” was recently held in Beijing May 2015. Nestlé organized a “Start Healthy Stay Healthy” forum during the conference, inviting leading experts to deliver keynote speeches revolving around the latest developments in maternal and child nutrition research.

4/8/2015: Nestlé has invested RMB 50 mln in improving the cold storage facility of its ice cream plant in Guangzhou. The new installation is more environment friendly and will facilitate Nestlé serving the regional market better.

8/6/2016: Nestlé and Alibaba have launched a digital commerce and marketing campaign. It will feature 154 products from 30 brands, 67 of which will be introduced to Chinese consumers for the first time.

12/9/2016: National Institute of Nutrition and Health and Nestlé Research Center partner as sponsors for a symposium on nutrition and eating behaviours in Chinese children and adolescents. For the first time in China, findings from the Kids Nutrition and Health Study (KNHS) were presented at a national symposium held on September 11, 2016 in Xian.

29/12/2017: Nestlé announces plans to sell its dairy factory in Hulunbuir (Inner Mongolia), as part of the company’s efforts to reduce its local output of raw milk powder.

16/5/2018: Nestlé announces a partnership with technology company Xiaomi to support health through technology and explore digital nutrition.

May 2018: Nestlé has finalised the move of its industrial milk powder production from Hulunbuir in Inner Mongolia to Saishang Dairy in Ningxia.

Other opinion

Interestingly, in a recent article, a Chinese insider is wondering whether Dali Group will become the ‘Chinese Nestlé’. We will hold that thought and see.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975.