Irish companies fail to make global dairy top flight

NO Irish company has made it into the global dairy top-20 ranking compiled by Rabobank Group.

This year’s ranking reflects the advance of non-western countries in the dairy industry, with Yili joining another Chinese company, Mengniu, in the top 20 for 2009 sales.

China’s dairy consumption of 20 litres per person per year compares with 300 litres of dairy products consumed per person per year in the Netherlands, but the Chinese market is expected to grow along the same lines as Japan or South Korea, from zero levels five years ago to about 50 litres.

Morinaga and Meiji of Japan have jumped a few places in the rankings due to the relative stability of local retail prices and currencies.

A successful completion of a new Brazilian conglomerate consisting of Itambé, Centro Leche, Confepar, Mineiras Cemil and Mines Milk is expected to bring a new Latin American giant into the top 20, along with Grupo Lala of Mexico, following its acquisition of National Dairy Holdings.

While companies operating in developing markets have ample opportunity to increase sales simply by keeping up with domestic market growth, companies mainly operating in the mature markets of Europe and the US may find it hard to achieve further growth, according to Rabobank. The growth challenge for them, and New Zealand, is to add new characteristics the consumer is willing to pay for, often related to health and convenience, to standard dairy products.

Tine of Norway, for which Dairygold Co-op manufactures Jarlsberg cheese, has appeared at 20th position.

Germany is another notable absentee from the top 20, due to fragmentation and the slow pace of consolidation between Nordmilch and Humana Milchunion. Bel, at No. 19, is the fourth French firm in the top flight, but may lose its position once compatriots Entremont and Sodiaal complete a merger.

Nestlé of Switzerland remains the No. 1 dairy company, with €18.55 billion of dairy sales in 2009, followed by Danone of France with €10.6bn; Lactalis of France with €9.09bn; FrieslandCampina of the Netherlands with €8.01bn; Fonterra of New Zealand with €7.28bn; Dean Foods of the USA with €7bn; Arla Foods of Denmark and Sweden with €6.19; Dairy Farmers of America with €5.82bn; Kraft Foods of the USA with €4.88bn; and Unilever of the Netherlands and Britain completes the top 10.


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