Synlait Milk didn't get to be a sharemarket sweetheart by doing U-turns, but its chairman Graeme Milne remembers exactly where he did one on the Hamilton-Auckland highway 10 years ago.

It was 2009 and Synlait was in a corner.

The new dairy ingredients exporter had made a loss in its first year and had too much debt. It was under pressure from its banks and the global financial crisis (GFC) had paralysed debt markets.

But a golden opportunity in China was going begging. A food-safety scandal the previous year, when infant formula was poisoned with melamine, had fired huge demand