Beston Pure Foods began producing its Edwards Crossing range of natural cheeses in Murray Bridge, South Australia, in September 2015. It sent its first shipment of cheddar and gouda to Thailand and Singapore in December, where it is reprocessed and flavoured under the Kyubu brand.
Flavours include Chocolate & Almond, Strawberry, Orange Yoghurt, Nacho and Milky Cheddar.
The Japanese-style cheese snack cubes hit the shelves through a retail supermarket chain in Thailand in July and in Singapore last month.
Beston general manager Daniel Raschella said the flavoured cheeses were designed to be a first introduction to cheese for people before encouraging them to try the more traditional cheese products.
He said Kyubu was developed specifically for the growing Asian market, particularly across Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“It’s a bridge for a period to allow people to get a feel for some of the cheeses we can make but also we want to use it as a platform to give people the experience of eating the natural cheeses we make as well,” Raschella said.
“We’re also very keen at the moment to move it into China and we’ve got a person on the ground in Vietnam who’s getting a lot of interest. We’re also talking to distributors in Cambodia and Malaysia.”
Australia sent 17,000 tonnes of cheese to China worth US$81m in 2014, and is the second biggest exporter of cheese to the country, behind New Zealand.
Japan is Australia’s most important overseas cheese market, accounting for almost 55% of product exports in 2014-15, followed by China, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore.
“The Japanese are much more mature in their palate for cheese,” Raschella said. “Kyubu is more aimed at the Asean countries, and potentially China.”
“What’s also happening is a lot of the Asean countries and China have a lot of expats who have lived in Australia, the US or Europe for many years, have had children abroad and are now coming back with children who have been brought up with western foods and are still looking for these sorts of products.”
Asia eats less than 10% of the world’s cheese but its appetite is growing fast. Cheese consumption there rose from about 550,000 tonnes in 2000 to just over 1m tonnes in 2012. Demand is expected to reach 1.65m tonnes by 2020.
Raschella said the Asian cheese market was very commodity driven at the moment, meaning that a lot of cheese was going into processed products, such as slices or cubes.
“What we’re trying to do is slowly move people away from full-processed cheeses and back to natural to get more flavour,” he said.
“The market is so big—we’re not out to take the whole world, we’re out to find the pockets and the people who are interested in quality products.”