Consumers in Asia, particularly China, are willing to pay premium prices for European milk, which are available in "abundant quantities" and are perceived as "representing excellent quality and product safety."
But not only must the milk be “top quality", the packaging “also needs to satisfy exacting quality standards.”
The aseptic carton pack “hits the mark” on this front, said SIG Combibloc.
“For our European dairy customers, the number of UHT milk products in our carton packs that are headed for the Asian market has increased six fold since 2011,” said Matthias Krusche, global market segment manager at SIG.
“For Asian consumers, product safety plays a significant role in the selection of food. Separately from the product itself, food packaging too, with its protective characteristics, is increasingly moving into the public focus,” said Krusche.
Quality and safety
German dairy giant Deutsches Milchkontor (DMK), a SIG customer, exports a variety of products to China, including UHT milk in one litre aseptic carton packs.
On the back of this demand from Asia and other developing regions, DMK has seen exports grow to account for 38% of its annual turnover.
“A dynamic market calls for ideas, progress and commitment in every area. For that reason, we’re investing a great deal in dairy research, in developing new products and production methods, in technology, quality and safety," said Michael Feller, director of marketing and sales at DMK.
"This enables us to offer bespoke products for the German and for the international market," Feller added.
Milk quota abolition
SIG client Arla Foods, which also ships European UHT milk to China, offered similar insights.
Once the European Union (EU) milk quotas system is abolished next year, Arla farmers will produce an estimated additional 1bn kilos of milk per year.
It expects to sell the majority of this surplus outside the EU, in growth markets such as Russia, China, the Middle East and Africa. For these shipments, it believes aseptic cartons are the best choice.
“The gentle UHT process, and filling the products in aseptic carton packs, ensures that our milk heads out to consumers in the best quality, and can be kept for long periods even without refrigeration," said Tim Orting Jorgensen, executive vice president, Arla Foods Germany and the Netherlands.
"Carton packs protect our products and keep them safe. They’re also unbreakable, sturdy and they stack well – these advantages save on logistics costs. For that reason, they’re also perfect for export sales," he said.