The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Baby formula exporter feeds Chinese demand

Biopure Health plans expansion in China despite slowdown in economy

Simon Page says Biopure Health's formula is sold only through its own website and network of stores in China. Photo / Supplied
Simon Page says Biopure Health's formula is sold only through its own website and network of stores in China. Photo / Supplied

Despite investing heavily in China, Auckland entrepreneur Simon Page is unconcerned about slowing growth in the world's second biggest economy.

Biopure Health, an infant formula export business he runs with partner Jane Li, has begun opening a network of Chinese retail stores where its New Zealand-made Infapure products are sold.

The company has just secured a site in what it says will be the largest shopping mall in southwest China, the soon-to-open Jinniu Wanda Plaza.

It's estimated the shopping centre, in the city of Chengdu, will be visited by 100,000 shoppers a day.

While a slowdown in the Asian superpower's breakneck economic growth has markets worried, Page remains bullish about the country's prospects.

"You've got these numbers coming out from the top level but they don't really filter down to the many layers of Chinese society," he said. "It's still full-steam-ahead in Chengdu."

Page, who has just returned home from more than two months in China, said there were still plenty of Chinese parents - and more importantly grandparents - willing to shell out about 270 yuan ($51) for a tin of Infapure at one of Biopure's New Zealand Milk Bar stores.

Biopure was founded in the wake of the 2008 melamine scandal, in which six Chinese babies died, and hundreds more became sick, after consuming milk and formula tainted with the industrial chemical.

After the mass poisoning many parents became unwilling to feed their children locally-made formula and demand has risen for imported products, which command a hefty premium.

Biopure sent its first 17,000-tin consignment of formula to China in June after two years of product development.

Page said the company would place its second formula order from its contract manufacturer, Auckland's New Image, next month.

"[Sales] have been pretty strong."

Page said the company had opened its first stores in Chengdu and nearby Panzhihua last month and would open a further four sites in Chengdu, population 14 million, next month.

The company sells its formula in China solely through its own store network and website, which it says provides maximum supply chain control.

Page said the New Zealand Milk Bar in Chengdu's Jinniu Wanda Plaza would become the firm's flagship store when the shopping centre opens in December. In addition to baby formula it will sell milkshakes, icecream and Chinese tea drinks made with New Zealand milk.

- NZ Herald

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