Milk was once considered a luxury item in China, Roecker says. “It’s now seen as a very important part of the diet,” he adds, citing the latest revision to the country’s dietary guidelines from 100 grams of dairy per person per day to 300 grams.
Roecker also sees “unlimited potential” for the sale of whey powder to China. He cites these examples:
- Bottled water is very important in China, since the local water supply is non-potable. (Hotels warn guests not to drink tap water because it may not be sanitary.) Whey powder can be added to bottled water to provide extra protein. Some sports beverages already offer this benefit.
- Twenty million babies are born each year in China, and there is tremendous potential for the use of whey powder in infant formula.
Boost from Olympics
And, cheese is making inroads, as many Chinese take on Westernized eating habits.
Yet, per capita cheese consumption is still low ― 0.02 pounds 2004, compared to 2.9 pounds in Korea, 5.7 pounds in Japan and 31.2 pounds in the U.S. that same year.
Here’s where the recent Olympic Games may provide a boost. Daniel Chan, the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s representative in China, says Japan and Korea experienced huge growth in cheese consumption after hosting their own Olympics in 1964 and 1988, respectively. Japan has experienced a six-fold increase in per capita cheese consumption since the 1970s. The Olympic Games help to create nutritional awareness ― people want to know how their country’s athletes stack up against the athletes of other nations, Chan says.