Situated in Suzhou, about 120 km away from Shanghai, the new production plant is expected to meet the needs of Chinese millers faster and with more individual products, the company said.
Hendrik Mögenburg, Mühlenchemie’s general manager in Asia, said that China’s bakery sector and other flour-processing businesses are growing rapidly along with the Chinese economy.
According to research firm Datamonitor, the market for bakery and cereals in China increased at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 per cent between 2004 and 2009. The cakes and pastries category led the bakery and cereals market in China, accounting for a share of 75.3 per cent.
“While overall flour consumption per capita remains stagnant, there is growing trend towards more sophisticated flour products at the expense of traditional ones [noodles, steamed bread],” said Mögenburg.
These developments are resulting in a rapidly increasing demand for flour with consistent and predictable properties, and flour additives play an important role in enabling millers to meet the demand, explained Mögenburg.
According to Mögenburg, getting standardized flour in China is a bit of task as the country has hundreds of genetically different wheat varieties.
“Systematic classification and attempts to improve the properties of Chinese wheat in specific breeding programmes did not start until quite recently,” he said.
Mögenburg added that growing economic pressure is leading farmers to look for ways of increasing their yield per hectare.
“Although better fertilization and pest control have been able to improve the quality of the grain, extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain and long periods of drought during maturation have a considerable influence on the properties of the cereals,” he said.
Mögenburg said that millers and flour users in China have been encountering a variety of problems. For example, because of logistic difficulties, wheat is sometimes damaged by sprouting, heat or insect infestation, which results in undesirable properties.
“Gluten content and other quality parameters may vary from harvest to harvest or even from batch to batch,” he said.
“For industrial food manufacturers, not getting suitable flour consistently can mean having to adjust their recipes and processes continually, or else facing the risk of fluctuating end product quality,” he said.
According to Mögenburg, Chinese customers are increasingly demanding greater transparency in the production of food goods, since both consumers and public authorities now place far more emphasis on topics like food safety and quality.
That can only be achieved through joint analytical and development processes on the spot, which will be facilitated with the opening of the new plant, he said.
Under the plant, Mühlenchemie will be able to manage the flexible production of batches in volumes between 10 and 500 kg. In a second stage of expansion the plant will also manufacture vitamins and minerals for the Chinese food industry.