Millions tune in watch start of fresh NZ milk sales to China through Alibaba
Milk New Zealand's trade agreement with global online retailer Alibaba has been launched with millions of Chinese consumers tuning in to watch the event.
The Chinese-owned company's Collins Road Farm is just south of Hamilton and its 29 New Zealand farms will supply Alibaba with fresh milk to be sold on its online platform.
Organisers of the launch rented a satellite facility for the day to enable it to be live streamed directly to China. In attendance were 10 of China's biggest social media influencers including Yuni and Joyce, who are known as the Chufei Churan twins in China.
The pair are considered the Chinese Kardashians with social media follower numbers larger than New Zealand's entire population. They and other influencers videoed the event and the farm directly to their followers in China.
The milk is branded as Theland Farm Fresh Milk and has a shelf life of 16 days.
Sold under a two price structure system, regular Alibaba members pay $8 per litre, but there would be a special price to "VVIP" members of $8 per two litres. VVIP members consist of about 570,000 middle to upper-class Chinese families.
The milk was being sold and marketed differently to other liquid milk products such as UHT and would be in one litre bottles rather than the UHT six-packs of 250ml cartons, Milk New Zealand agribusiness chief executive Justine Kidd said.
Kidd said there was big market potential for fresh milk in China.
"We're expecting significant growth."
Kidd said Chinese consumers were attracted to fresh milk's health benefits and that it was seen as being less processed than other forms of milk.
"What we are trying to do is connect them with the farm. Food safety and understanding where the food is coming from is very important to the Chinese consumer and this allows them to be confident they can see where the food is coming from."
China's middle class consumers were increasingly using the internet to shop for their groceries. New Zealand supermarkets where consumers picked food off shelves was not as common in China, she said.
"The way we supermarket shop, it's difficult to do that in China and more and more they are moving to television and online with door-to-door delivery and even some of the online supermarkets now are set up so you go in, you scan what you want and it's delivered to you afterwards."
Food Safety minister David Bennett called the agreement "historic" and said it was impressive that the two companies had come together to sign it.
"It is a partnership that going forward will be formidable for the companies."
"It is astounding to a New Zealander to find out there is about 529 million active mobile users across Alibaba's platforms in August of this year alone. That's about 117 times our population."
International customers were becoming more discerning about what they bought. They wanted to know the story behind the product, its food safety record and its environmental credentials, Bennett said.
"That is becoming more important for the consumers Alibaba will be looking after."
Selling the milk through E-commerce presented an opportunity for New Zealand farmers to have retail sales outside the country and provided a value added component for the dairy industry, Bennett said.
Milk New Zealand managing director Terry Lee said this was the first time New Zealand fresh milk had been launched across social media using live webcast to consumers in another country.
"It's an exciting prospect not only because it promotes the collaboration we have with Alibaba, but also provides Chinese consumers with insight to where and how the milk is produced."