Cooperativas Lácteas Unidas (Clun) sets its expectations of increasing the sales of milk and dairy products in international markets and commits to value-added differentiated quality products with the Galicia Calidade seal.
The vast Galician dairy cooperative, which was created in November last year from the integration of Feiraco, Os Irmandiños and Melisanto, expects that exports could amount to 10 % of the total sales this year and increase at a two digit rate in the coming years.
As assured by Pablo Gómez, head of Clun’s dairy products division, who assumed this responsibility after the success achieved in the bailout of Clesa, also owned by the Galician dairy cooperatives.
Clun sets its expectations to China and in differentiated dairy products.
The cooperative expects to have a 200 million euro turnover, and currently includes some 3,500 partners that produce about 20% of Galician milk. The dairy products division accounts for half of the turnover, with 70 million corresponding to long life products (primarily UHT milk) and 30 million to yoghurts and refrigerated products.
Export is key to Clun’s future
In this sense, Clun’s strategy for its dairy products division is to continue increasing exports outside the European Union in the coming years. Currently Clun has three reference brands: Feiraco, the leading milk brand in Galicia; Unicla, its premium milk, and Clesa, with its wide range of yoghurts and dairy desserts. The sales of these two Unicla and Clesa brands, have had double digit growth in recent years, divided equally between Galicia and the rest of the Spanish market.
However, the main expectations of growth for Clun are outside Spain. “The consumption of milk in Europe is decreasing and data indicates that it will continue to decline, but if we look at the international level, the prospect is that consumption is projected to grow at rates of between 1 and 2% per year,” says Pablo Gómez. “We want to commit to that international market with differentiated dairy products, to reach this growing market is key to our development,” recognises the person responsible for Clun’s dairy division.
China is one of the countries where efforts are concentrated, within Clun’s commitment to international markets. The leap into the Chinese market began to be worked on in 2015 with the opening of an office in Shanghai through the Galician Food Cluster, meaning that a year ago negotiations paid off with an importer in Beijing.
“China is a country with a milk deficit and that very much appreciates a European origin product due to its quality guarantees, and that is why we have great expectations for that market,” explains Pablo Gómez.
In fact, this year Clun plans to expand the range of products sent to China by incorporating the Unicla brand. We are working on innovative packaging for this that allows the life of the products to be extended and to be able to bridge the gap between Galicia and China.
“In the case of Unicla this is a premium UHT milk, with awards for its taste and quality, as well as the high level of animal welfare on the farms that produce it, with them being the only ones certified with ISO 22000; and all this requires an effort to explain this to the consumer of other countries, who I am sure will value this differentiated quality and will allow us to continue increasing sales at a two digit annual rate,” explains Pablo Gómez.
Differentiated products and animal welfare
Another strategic line that Clun is working on is sustainability, in the welfare of its cows and in reducing of its carbon footprint, to be leaders in the sector with regards to respecting and caring for the environment and animal welfare.
Permanent innovation make quality the cornerstone of its commercial brands. Due to this, its products are endorsed by the highest recognition of quality standards: Galicia Calidade, 100% Galician, the ISO Certifications 9001, ISO 22,000 for its farms, and more recently, the AENOR certificate in Animal Welfare, which makes clear its commitment to the care of animals as a fundamental part of the strategy to improve the quality of its milk products.
“We are the only company that has certified farms with seal for animal welfare and additionally in the last few years we have been researching into the development of more ergonomic packaging to reduce its carbon footprint,” he confirms.
The added value of being a cooperative
These two strategic lines -commitment to export and for differentiated products- are complemented with maximising the cooperative nature of Clun.
“For us it is a strength that we are a cooperative and that the partner farmers can reap the benefits and have a return on this commitment to give greater added value to the milk,” he says.
But he also stresses that the cooperative nature of Clun is a strength from a technical point of view. They set the Unicla milk as an example, where “thanks to work with farmers we can directly address innovation and through a differentiated feeding achieve a product with high added value, recognised at international level”. “Feeding- he highlights- that simulates the milk of the green pastures of Galicia, but all year long”.
The importance of the Galicia Calidade seal
All Clun products are covered by Galicia Calidade, with Feiraco being one of the pioneers in joining this quality assurance seal in the 1990’s.
The keys of this successful relationship of more than twenty years are detailed by Pablo Gómez: “Galicia Calidade is a very easy to identify seal, and that the consumer clearly values as an added value, quality, and differentiated product. But above all, it is consistent with the positioning of Clun as a cooperative, because what we do with our brands is to commit to quality from start to finish: from the field to the table, up to the final consumer”.
As challenges for the future, the head of Clun’s dairy products division stresses that “in addition to maintaining the quality standards, I think that Galicia Calidade has to accompany us in promotional actions with greater dynamism in the international market”.