All for cheese in China

  • 19/09/2016

by Emma Brannam for Newshub Connect

Kiwi cheese tops half of the pizzas sold in China everyday.
Kiwi cheese tops half of the pizzas sold in China everyday.

Say cheese in China and you might get a grin, especially if you're a Kiwi.

Sales of the food are up more than 20 percent a year, with much of it shipping from New Zealand.

"It's not something we had as children, so we're naturally drawn to it," said Brian Gu, who owns a restaurant in KeriKeri.

"In China, cheese is regarded as healthy, full of calcium. We want to give our children the best food possible and New Zealand products are regarded as really pure.

"We're only just beginning to learn all the different ways cheese can be included in the diet."

Kiwi cheese tops half of the pizzas sold in China every day.

"Pizza has really become the big thing right now. You had hamburgers in the '90s, the 2000s was all about coffee, this decade is all about pizza," said Jade Gray.

The Wanaka-born Kiwi owns Beijing's Gung Ho! Pizza and another chain with Aucklander John O'Loghlen.

"The kids love it. Global appeal with Kiwi thin-stretch mozzarella. That's what makes it so appealing."

The mozzarella for Gung Ho! Pizzas travels from the Clandeboye mozzarella plant near Timaru, which processes 40 percent of Fonterra's South Island milk.

Gung Ho Pizza in Beijiing favours Kiwi mozarella
Gung Ho Pizza in Beijiing favours Kiwi mozarella

Cutting edge technology enables frozen, shredded mozzarella to be made straight from milk in a day, rather than the usual two months. In a year, enough cheese is generated to top 300 million pizzas.

China is the co-operative's single largest market and where it remains confident many of the greatest opportunities lie.

"We think it's going to continue growing as the fundamentals of China's urbanisation continues," said Robert Spurway, Fonterra's chief operating officer, global operations.

"More people are moving to the cities, they've got growing wealth, they're eating out more often, eating Western diets."

It's not just New Zealand's mozzarella making waves. Sliced cheese is another of our fastest growing dairy segments, driven by demand for hamburgers.

Burger King, McDonalds and KFC all use Fonterra's Collingwood Street plant in Eltham.

There, enough slices are generated to fill 3 billion burgers a year, or enough cheese to wrap around the earth three times.

Anyone biting into a burger from China to the Middle East could get a little taste of Eltham.

"Sliced cheese is so popular in China that when I go home with my wife Judy, we take some as a gift for relatives," said Mr Gu.

Finally, let's not forget Kiwi cream cheese, the vital ingredient for half of China's cheesecakes.

All for cheese in China

For celebrations, they're hardly humble affairs. Some can cost an eye-watering $400,000 because they're dripping with decorations of diamonds and pearls.

Now that's a value-added cake.

"The nice thing about our consumer and foodservice business is that it is very much demand driven," said Mr Spurway.

"It's growth is testament to the fact that our strategy is right on target.  Over the past two years, nearly an additional billion litres of milk have been put into our value added products, taking it to over five billion litres and that's largely through products like the mozzarella and cream cheese."

This article was written by Newshub Connect for Fonterra.