The results of the survey by the China Association for Quality (CAQ), a standards monitor, can be divided into the key areas of satisfaction, format and distribution.
The first concerned satisfaction, brand image and perceived quality—each of which, the report found, had decreased over the last year. Though this downwards trend in opinions is only marginal, it should still be seen as a clear warning for milk manufacturers and suppliers, the authors wrote.
According to CCM, the Chinese market analyst, milk consumers are price sensitive, though at the same time they attach increasing value to quality and provenance, and respond little to promotional activity. Each time prices are raised, satisfaction levels go down accordingly, CCM found.
The report also sheds light on the increased popularity of fresh milk and UHT milk. UHT in particular has gained a following because its high-temperature sterilisation process assures overwrought consumers that bacteria have been dealt with.
A little over 30% of the market now prefers UHT milk, the CAQ survey found, while the second-highest preference belongs to fresh milk, mainly for its nutritional values relative to flavoured milks.
The third key point concerns a substantial preference for liquid milk over milk power, which analysts put down to an awareness of the nutritional properties in liquid milk.
And the last deals with distribution preferences: supermarkets still represent the most convenient places to buy milk. According to the survey, almost 90% of respondents preferred supermarkets, whereas e-commerce accounted for just 2% of the purchased milk market. Convenience stores and direct delivery were the second and third most popular channels after supermarket sales.
As an advocate of the potential China’s dairy market holds for international milk suppliers, CCM said that changing consumer preferences had been creating new dairy markets that are open for newcomers to supply. These markets would act as a counterweight for the gradually falling demand growth for liquid milk that the industry has seen in recent years, it added.
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Taiwan a step closer to having chemical additives task force
Taiwanese legislators have given their backing for an agency to regulate the use of chemical additives and toxic substances in food processing.
A draft bill was approved by a house committee recently after it reviewed plans to set up the body under the Environmental Protection Administration.
EPA minister Lee Ying-yuan said the new agency—tipped to be named the Bureau of Toxicology and Chemical Substance Management—will begin operations by the end of next year if the bill clears parliament.
“Taiwan has had several food scandals in recent years. Companies used illegal additives in food processing which caused much public anxiety about food safety, as well as harm to public health,” Lee said in the committee meeting.
“The food scandals have severely damaged our reputation for international trade. In many instances, exports were sent back, leading to great financial losses.“
Exports were returned to 22 countries in one food-safety case, he said, adding: “We believe it is time to set up this agency to ensure better management and control of our food safety standards.”
It would serve to free Taiwan from food scandals such as those involving companies using malachite green, a known carcinogen, to preserve fish and shrimp, or street vendors adding industrial-grade magnesium carbonate powder to spices for fried chicken.
The agency will expand its database from 310 to about 3,000 substances used as food additives. The software would also control chemical movements and record their flow from producers and suppliers via the Cloud.
“It is important to trace controlled chemicals from their source and follow their journey from suppliers,” Lee said, adding that the agency’s initial annual budget would be NT$600m (US$18.81m), and it would employ 80 staff.
Regulations governing chemicals and toxic substances currently cover 17 laws and are divided between 11 government agencies, leading to a need to consolidate such mechanisms into one body for inter-department collaboration, Lee added.
DaChan plans two new plants to meet demand
Meat processor DaChan Food will open two new plants in the north of China to keep up with growing demand.
Though DaChan claims to be China’s biggest chicken processor, and KFC China’s biggest supplier, demand has outstripped production capacity as it stands at its four plants.
The new sites will be in and around Bengbu, a city in the northern province of Anhui. One of them will be set up through a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bengbu DaChan Food, at an investment of 200m yuan (US$28.7m).
The other site will be established through Bengbu Taixu & DaChan, in which DaChan owns a stake. DaChan Food will put 80m yuan into the project.
It expects the two plants will double production capacity for its processed foods, which include pork, fish and vegetable lines.
The company said the move would help the business be "in a more competitive position in markets which have higher consumption power and larger market scales, such as the east China, central China, south China and south-west China markets".