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Source: Westland Dairy Company

Main points: New whipping cream harnesses grass-fed properties of milk from NZ’s best dairy region into whipping cream suitable for the demands of Chinese bakers;
China-NZ collaboration takes a “global mindset-local development’’ approach to dairy innovation;
Innovation, research and development contributes to new products making up 16 per cent of dairy giant Yili’s total sales in 2020.

A cross-cultural research and development project has succeeded in harnessing the natural grass-fed goodness of milk from New Zealand’s remote West Coast into a product suitable for discerning Chinese bakers.

The product, Yili Pro UHT Whipping Cream, will be available to Chinese consumers this October.

Resident Director for Yili in New Zealand, Shiqing Jian, said the two-year collaboration between Westland Dairy Company Limited and parent company Yili had managed to overcome the inherent variability of grass-fed milk to produce cream with a consistency suitable for Chinese bakers.

Mr Jian said Yili’s growth as an international brand relied strongly on innovation and longstanding research and development investment. New product sales accounted for 16 per cent of Yili’s total revenue in 2020 with Yili now ranked the fifth largest dairy producer globally.

The dairy giant was also recently awarded most valuable dairy brand in the world for the fourth year running as well as the second most valuable food brand in Brand Finance’s annual global brand rankings.

“Yili’s international growth has been based on a philosophy of ‘global mindset-local operations’,’’ Mr Jian said. “It’s extremely rewarding to see an international vision translated into new business capabilities in New Zealand and Asia through this kind of global collaboration.’’

Westland CEO Richard Wyeth said overcoming the different milk and production methods of New Zealand and China was the first hurdle teams from China and Westland had to overcome in proving the the long-standing New Zealand dairy operation could produce a whipping cream suitable for the Chinese market.

“Chinese whipping cream is produced from milk from dairy cows commonly housed in feedlots,’’ Mr Wyeth said. “The consistency of this feed creates milk with more consistent properties compared to our nutrient-dense, grass-fed product.

“The different ways of using cream by the chefs in China compared to NZ chefs led to very different requirements of our cream. Our production methods in New Zealand also needed to be rethought to produce whipping cream suitable for a number of applications such as milk foam, cake decorating and mousse.’’

Before the Pandemic, teams from New Zealand and China visited each other’s production facilities and farms to understand the different milk and production methods.  Post-Pandemic, communications continued virtually, with the translation facility of Chinese App WeChat helping collaboration as well as ifilmed baking demonstrations.

“Despite all the hurdles, the teams worked really well together,’’ Mr Wyeth said. “The proof, ultimately, will be in the cooking and eating but given Yili’s long-standing focus on and understanding of the consumer, we are very confident Chinese bakers are going to love Yili Pro.’’