A cross-cultural research and development project has succeeded in harnessing the grass-fed goodness of milk from the West Coast of the South Island into a product suitable for discerning Chinese bakers.
The two-year collaboration between Westland Dairy Company Limited and parent company Yili has managed to overcome the inherent variability of grass-fed milk to produce cream with a consistency suitable for Chinese bakers.
Westland Milk chief executive Richard Wyeth says the China-New Zealand collaboration takes a global mindset, local development approach to dairy innovation.
Overcoming the different milk and production methods of NZ and China was the first hurdle teams from China and Westland had to overcome in proving the long-standing NZ 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.
“The consistency of this feed creates milk with more consistent properties compared to our nutrient-dense, grass-fed product,” Wyeth said.
“The different ways of using cream by the chefs in China compared to NZ chefs led to very different requirements of our cream.”
Production methods in NZ had 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 NZ 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 filmed baking demonstrations.
“Despite all the hurdles, the teams worked really well together,” he 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.”
NZ resident director for Yili Shiqing Jian says Yili’s growth as an international brand relied strongly on innovation and long-standing research and development investment.
New product sales accounted for 16% 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 consecutive year 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,” Jian said.
“It is extremely rewarding to see an international vision translated into new business capabilities in NZ and Asia through this kind of global collaboration.”
Yili Pro UHT whipping cream will be available to Chinese consumers in October.