On the dairy market in Poland and worldwide, global nutritional trends, and the greatest export-related challenges – an interview with Małgorzata Cebelińska, Sales Director at Mlekpol Dairy Cooperative.
What international successes have you recently recorded?
Mlekpol is one of the largest dairy product exporters in Poland, concerned with constant development of exports of the produced goods as a part of its operations. We are present in most European as well as Asian, African, North American, and South American countries. Our greatest success is the recognition of the MLEKPOL brand and very good reputation among demanding customers in many countries importing dairy products worldwide. This year’s success is the increase of sales of UHT milk outside Poland, including exports to China, surpassing the exports of powdered milk that had previously been predominant on that market. In spite of logistic difficulties, we are proud of the sales of our butter (with its unique taste advantages) and whipping cream to Asian countries. In Europe and beyond, Mlekpol mozzarella has already been a well-known product and it competes with other goods made by producers of well-founded position. We are appreciated on markets where we benefit from organized distribution of products, largely under our own brands, such as Łaciate, or Happy Barn or Milcasa, created for the purposes and with regard to the specific nature of different foreign markets.
What challenges on individual markets are currently faced by dairy product exporters?
Food is among the most dynamically developing sectors of interstate trade exchange. Mlekpol is a leader of exports in the food industry and also often a pioneer of trade cooperation with individual countries. The clash of expectations and cultural differences often results in a longer time needed to become familiar with those markets and partners, so the potential of the market is not fully utilized. Completely different problems are related to the European Union countries where protectionism and protection of domestic producers are not uncommon, despite free movement of goods. Yet the farther you go from Europe, the more complicated registration procedures and internal regulations you encounter. In order to fully utilize the available potential, Polish food exporters require a coherent, jointly developed and consistently implemented strategy of economic cooperation between the Polish state and individual countries. Mlekpol tries to be present at the largest events and trade fairs of the global food industry, but it also needs systemic support and involvement as a part of trade exchange between states.
Transportation of dairy products to distant countries is not easy. How does Mlekpol handle this challenge?
Transportation of dairy products is difficult and very important in the entire process of delivery to the end customer. In this regard, we only cooperate with proven shipowners and carriers who guarantee top-level provision of their services. Moreover, we utilize the knowledge and involvement of our material and packaging suppliers in the implementation of technical and technological solutions; for instance, in case of UHT milk, such solutions have allowed us to prolong its durability date up to 1 year. Thanks to this solution, our Łaciate milk has reached the most demanding markets in this regard without any risk of product quality deterioration during prolonged storage. Unfortunately, exports of fresh products, with short durability, is impossible today, due to the time and costs involved, which makes our export offer limited to products with at least several months’ durability. Fortunately, the list of such products is not short either, and contains such essential goods as cheese, processed cheese, butter, flavoured milk, UHT creams and other.
What trends are currently present on dairy markets in individual countries? Are they similar? How do Mlekpol products fit in with such trends?
Nutritional trends are global. Consumers wish to eat natural, tasty and healthy products. With new technologies and quick access to information, the interest in selected dairy product categories results exclusively from the specific nature and eating habits in individual countries.
From the viewpoint of the food pyramid, dairy plays a crucial role in the diet of a healthy person. We notice that customers interested in Mlekpol products pay special attention to the origin and naturalness of the product. Our greatest value is milk, serving as a basis for the production of every dairy product. It comes from the cleanest regions of Poland, acquired from trusted and proven suppliers, and the Cooperative employees comply with the rigorous control procedures at each stage of processing. Another significant trend from the viewpoint of functionality is the type and shape of dairy product packaging. We respond to the interest in “on the go” packaging enabling you to supplement your diet with healthy and nutritious dairy products “here and now”. Another trend is related to the consumers’ growing interest in ecology and sustainable acquisition of products. The farms of Mlekpol suppliers are dominated by natural, pasture-based grazing of cows, and some of our suppliers have joined the ecologic milk production programme we propagate among our Cooperators. Our actions, as well as observation of the market and consumer needs, are supported by the Institute of Dairy Industry Innovation, established by Mlekpol; its activity enables development and quick implementation of the best nutritional solutions of our products.