CHINA – French dairy major, Bel Group, is accelerating its growth in China with the acquisition of a 70% stake in cheese maker Shandong Junjun Cheese Company, for an undisclosed amount.

The Babybel maker said the Shandong-based cheese company primarily operates as a co-manufacturer and sells cheese under its own brands that have generated “over 100% annual growth since 2018”.

Bel already owns a market share in China cheese market in which it sells brands that include Kiri, The Laughing Cow, and Mini BabyBel.

The company also markets Pom’Potes yogurt and ambient fruit pouches in the country.

Bel CEO Cécile Béliot said: “Our will to accelerate in new territories is at the heart of our growth strategy.”

“We have chosen Shandong Junjun Cheese, a company with huge industrial capabilities and innovation potential. This will enable us to increase our scale on the Chinese market and compete for leadership.”

Shandong Junjun founder Zhao Lu was hopeful that Bel will enable the further development of Shandong Junjun Cheese by strengthening R&D and production capabilities.

He added that Shandong Junjun company will help accelerate the deployment of Bel branded products in China through its state-of-the-art R&D and production facilities, supported by a strong team of experts and entrepreneurs.

The Chinese cheese market has seen astonishing growth over the years after being able to evolve in 2017 when the per capita consumption of cheese was still less than 0.1 kg to double to 0.23 kg in 2020.

This was thanks to a general increase in wages as well as food globalization that encouraged people to try and purchase new things.

The cheese market, which has been put under the foreign food sector, seems to be one of the most lucrative industries and is poised for growth driven by consumers’ willingness to use cheese snacks in their daily breakfast.

Also, the advocation for the people from China to begin to consume cheese and milk products at an early or younger age will fuel the growth of the sector.

According to Newswires, the China Cheese Market which was valued RMB 48.77 billion (US$ 7.22B) in 2021 is expected to reach RMB 130.1 billion (US$ 19.27B), expanding at a CAGR of 9% during the forecast period 2022-2032.

Indeed, China has been a crucial market for the French multinational cheese company considering that it included “confirmation of a positive growth trajectory in China” as a factor in its 2.3% rise in organic sales in 2021.

Bel said sales in its “new territories”, which include China, sub-Saharan Africa, and its MOM Group subsidiary, stood at EUR666million (US$ 678.38M) in 2021.

However, on a reported basis, Bel’s sales fell 2.2% to EUR3.38bn (US$3.44bn) last year.

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