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Fonterra to partner with Alibaba’s new retail concept

Fonterra has launched a new fresh milk product in China in partnership with Hema Fresh, Alibaba’s innovative new retail concept which combines traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping with a digital experience.

The new Daily Fresh milk range is now available in Hema’s 14 stores in Shanghai and Suzhou in 750ml bottles, sourced directly from Fonterra’s farm hub in Hebei province. The product boasts unique product labels to match each day of the week in order to emphasise freshness, with stock being replenished overnight ready for each new day. Initial volumes are currently around three metric tonnes daily, with plans to scale-up over time and expand with the retailer as it rapidly grows its footprint of stores across China. President of Fonterra Greater China Christina Zhu said this new product delivers to growing domestic demand for higher-quality fresh products, as part of the ‘premiumisation’ of China’s consumer categories.

Photo: Fonterra
Photo: Fonterra

“Shoppers here in China are becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of their tastes and preferences, which are being driven by rising household incomes,” said Ms Zhu. “More than ever before, consumers are consciously seeking products that are fresh, nutritious and safe, and our new product for Hema caters to this.”

New retail trend

According to figures from McKinsey, it is expected that more than 75% of China’s urban consumers will earn RMB 60,000 to 229,000 each year (NZD $ 13,000 to $ 49,000 or 40,050 Euro) by 2022. This is up from just 4% in the year 2000, prompting a marked shift in consumer behaviour and purchasing power. Linked to this trend is the rise of Hema, which emerged on the scene in early 2016. It is a major sign-post of China’s ‘new retail’ trend, which Alibaba founder Jack Ma coined as being the intersection of online and offline shopping, logistics and data. At Hema, consumers can either shop in-store using their mobile phones to browse and purchase, or order online for a 30-minute delivery within a 3 kilometre radius. Hema then utilises the wealth of data it gathers to provide a tailored, personalised shopping experience for each customer.

Quality milk pools

In addition to the brand new fresh milk range, Anchor UHT milk products and the Anchor Dairy Foods range of butter, cream and cheese items are sold through Hema. The retailer is also a foodservice customer, using Fonterra’s Anchor Food Professionals products in its in-store bakery. Hema Fresh CEO and Founder Hou Yi said he is excited by the strategic co-operation between the two companies. “This co-operation between two powerful companies is set to redefine the concept of fresh milk in the new retail era,” said Mr Hou. “As a global leader in the dairy industry, Fonterra is well-known for quality milk pools, world-class breeding techniques and advanced experience in food safety and quality, which matches well with what we advocate.”

Local milk supply

Ms Zhu says the new product highlights how Fonterra’s business in China is leveraging the strength of its local milk pool, spread across three farming hubs. “No other multinational dairy company in China has a local milk pool to draw from, so we are in an advantageous position,” said Ms Zhu. “This milestone with Hema is a sign of things to come and indicates that our push to shift more of our local milk into higher-yielding consumer and foodservice products is well-and-truly underway.

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