95% of Spanish cheese exported to China in 2020, including all varieties and denominations of origin, came 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 hotel 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 and mascarpone cheeses are present in more than 40 countries on 5 continents. One of our key markets in recent years has undoubtedly been China, where with perseverance and a clear and decisive commitment to brand development, we have become the largest exporter of Spanish cheese to China. Thus, in the last 5 years 90% of all Spanish cheese consumed in China was produced, marketed and shipped by us.
Daniel SineiroBusiness Development Director, who spearheaded Quescrem’s entry into China, explains: “Although China was not traditionally a dairy-consuming country, we identified several years ago some trends there that made it an ideal destination for our products. The growing taste for pastries, especially European pastries, the increase in dairy consumption driven by changes in the population’s lifestyle and eating patterns, and the increase in per capita household income, have favored market development for brands like ours.”
Argyrios MitsakosThe Commercial Director, currently responsible for sales in this market, comments: “Sales of Spanish cheese in China grew by 9% last year, although Quescrem surpassed this growth by 14%, further strengthening our position in this Asian country”.
The result consolidates the trend of recent years. Thus, since 2016, the cheese maker from Lugo has exported to China more than 1,600 MT of cheese – 330 MT in the last fiscal year – which represents 90% of all Spanish cheese sold in the country in this period. Of all the references marketed, Quescrem’s mascarpone is particularly well received, with sales accounting for 50% of all Spanish cheese distributed in China.
Sources from the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Shanghai (OFECOME) highlight the importance of this market for the Spanish agri-food sector. “China is the fifth destination country for Spanish dairy exports, behind other regions such as France, Portugal, Italy and the United States. In addition, it should be noted that in the past 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 growth potential 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. That is to say, to have a clear roadmap to follow in the short, medium and long term. Secondly, to have a significant investment capacity, since the results begin 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 pillars, especially for foreign companies”.
Quescrem’s presence in China includes both retail and wholesale markets. “Our products enjoy a wide 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 end consumer,” explains Argyrios Mitsakos.
Quescrem’s international sales accounted for half of total turnover in 2020, up 2.5% over the previous year. Due to the importance of the Chinese market and its commitment to further growth in the country, the company founded Shanghai Innolact Business, its Chinese subsidiary with an office in Shanghai, in early 2020.
OFECOME points out the proximity to customers and partners, empathy and close follow-up as differential factors in the success of companies in the agri-food sector in China. “Developing fruitful business relationships in China is a task that requires investment, consistency, dedication and time. In the past, it was possible, if not ideal, to conduct business monitoring by making recurring trips to the country, but these movements have been restricted due to the pandemic. It is therefore even more important now to have a physical presence in China to increase the chances of success.
* According to official data from the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX).