We are the largest exporter into China of Spanish cheese
95% of Spanish cheese exported to China in 2020, including all the varieties and designations of origin, comes from our plants in Castro de Ribeiras de Lea (Lugo). More than 20 product references, including the first and only 100% Galician mascarpone, have won the hearts of consumers and professionals in the hospitality and pastry industry in the Asian country.
For years we have been proudly carrying the excellence of Galician dairy products around the world, and today our Galician cream cheeses and mascarpone are present in more than 40 countries on the 5 continents. One of our key markets in the past few years has undoubtedly been China, where, with perseverance and a clear and determined commitment to brand development, we have become the largest exporter of Spanish cheese to China. In the last 5 years, 90% of all Spanish cheese consumed in China was produced, sold and shipped by us.
Daniel Sineiro, Business Development Director who led Quescrem’s entrance into China, explains: “Although China was not traditionally a dairy-consuming country, several years ago we identified some trends there that made it an ideal place for our products. The growing taste for pastries, especially European pastries, the increase in dairy consumption driven by changes in lifestyle and eating patterns of the population, and the increase in per capita household income, have helped market development for brands like ours.”
Argyrios Mitsakos, Sales Director currently responsible for sales in this market, says: “Spanish cheese sales in China grew by 9% last year, although Quescrem amply exceeded this growth, increasing its sales there by 14%, strengthening our position in this Asian country even more if possible”.
The result confirms the trend of recent years. Since 2016, the cheese manufacturer from Lugo has exported more than 1,600 MT of cheese to China – 330 MT last year – which represents 90% of all Spanish cheese sold in the country in this period. Of all the products sold, Quescrem’s mascarpone is particularly popular, with sales representing 50% of all the Spanish cheese distributed in China.
Sources from the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Shanghai (OFECOME) emphasise the importance of this market for the Spanish agri-food sector. “China is the fifth destination country for Spanish exports in the dairy sector, behind other regions such as France, Portugal, Italy and the United States. In addition, it is important to point out that last year, strongly marked by the impact of the pandemic, it was one of the countries that most increased its imports, registering a year-on-year growth of 6.5%, which only highlights its potential for growth even in adverse situations”.
As OFECOME explains, Spanish companies that want to develop their business in China and grow in a sustainable way must take into account three key aspects: “Firstly, approach the market by planning an access and expansion strategy. In other words, have a clear roadmap to follow in the short, medium and long term. Secondly, to have a significant investment capacity, since results start to be seen in the medium term. Finally, to have a strong brand, because in a highly competitive and constantly changing market, the value of the brand is one of the differential elements, especially for foreign companies”.
Quescrem’s presence in China includes both retail and wholesale markets. “Our products enjoy a great diversification of sales channels: food industry, HORECA, physical supermarkets and online sales. We also have formats adapted to the needs of each channel, from 10kg boxes for bakeries and restaurants to 150g packs for the retail consumer,” explains Argyrios Mitsakos.
Quescrem’s international sales represented half of the total turnover in 2020, with an increase of 2.5% compared to the previous year. Due to the importance of the Chinese market and its commitment to continue growing in the country, the company founded Shanghai Innolact Business, its Chinese subsidiary with an office in Shanghai, at the beginning of 2020.
OFECOME points out the proximity to customers and partners, empathy and close monitoring as differential factors in the success of companies in the agri-food sector in China. “Developing successful business relationships in China is a task that requires investment, perseverance, dedication and time. In the past, it was possible, if not ideal, to conduct business monitoring by making regular trips to the country, but these have been restricted due to the pandemic. It is therefore even more important today to have a physical presence in China in order to increase the chances of success.
* According to official data from the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX).