South Australian company PH8 is now in talks with a Victorian powdered milk producer to export its high-alkaline water to China as a companion product.
Demand for premium powdered milk from Australia, which is perceived as being particularly safe by Chinese consumers, has skyrocketed since 2008 when six babies died and 300,000 became ill after drinking Chinese formula contaminated with the chemical melamine.
PH8 managing director Kym Dickeson said the growth of the Chinese middle-class played a key role in the uptake of “natural, fresh products”.
He said having good-quality milk powder was not enough, it was also important to mix it with premium water.
“High-pH quality water is a perfect fit of helping the benefits get into the anatomy of a child. It would work really well if it was promoted that way with a quality milk powder,” he said.
“The Chinese are looking for anything that is Western and quality. They search far and wide for fresh products, fresh milks, because it is sometimes hard to get there.
“They are looking to evaluate the water, evaluating what they can add that to. This is how far they go to get fresh milk, because they can’t always get it.”
The proposed deal would result in PH8 exporting its water in 10-litre casks along with a small cache of powdered milk to supermarkets in China.
The water is filtered naturally through black limestone on Yorke Peninsula, about 110km west of Adelaide.
The water is collected in a large aquifer and picks up trace minerals along the way. The entire process takes about 12-14 months and results in water with low acidity.
It produces high amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as silica and selenium.
Dickeson said alkaline water has become an in-demand product and was quickly absorbed by the human body.
“Alkaline water, when it has a pH level of above seven, means the clusters of hydrogen are not as bunched together and closed up,” he said.
“What other bottled water companies do is use reverse osmosis. What they do is take out all the germs in the water but by doing that they take a lot of good stuff out as well as the bad.
“Because the water is high in pH, whatever is in the water gets into your blood stream very quickly. The selenium in it is good for fighting disease.”
He said there were numerous health conditions that had benefited from alkaline water including allergies, gout, heartburn, chronic fatigue syndrome and kidney stones.
According to the International Dairy Federation, China imported about 380Kt of whole milk powder in 2013, and that figure is predicted to rise to almost 500Kt by 2022.
Founded by Nick Selfe in 2006, PH8’s bottled water is distributed around Australia as well as China and Singapore.
Dickeson said PH8 was also in conversations with local breweries in China to export its water to create high-quality craft beer.