August I attended the monthly Kiwi Drinks in Shanghai. This event is organised by a group of volunteers and it’s a social get-together for Kiwis and friends of New Zealand.

There is a charity raffle with prizes donated by NZ companies, and in August I won a prize for the first time. I thought at the time it included some UHT milk from Fonterra (including a bottle of wine and whipping cream from Tatua).

To my family’s surprise and mine, it was UHT drinking yoghurt, made and packed in NZ by Fonterra.

My family is now hooked on this product and I hope it is popular in China, as it will be a major challenge to wean my kids off it.

UHT (ultra-high temperature) is a food processing technology that almost sterilises liquid food by heating it above 135C (the temperature required to kill many bacterial endospores) for two to five seconds. The result means that liquid milk (or yoghurt) can be safely stored at room temperature.

UHT dairy products are big business in China and in 2014 they accounted for 60% of dairy sales. Those numbers will have adjusted now, but judging by the amount of UHT milk products available in all supermarkets around China, the sales will still be very significant.

To understand why a room temperature dairy product dominates the market is to understand Chinese culture.

Most Chinese people, especially the older generation and traditional thinkers (i.e: people outside the bigger cities) do not like to drink anything cold. This includes beer and dairy products. I have a running joke with many of my foreign friends that have been in China for many years, that drinking hot water will solve everything!!

A UHT dairy product that does not need refrigeration fits this thinking very well. In modern China this thinking is changing and you see a lot more chilled dairy products, including local and imported fresh milk.

Another advantage for UHT milk is that it is easy to ship and store, which was a big plus traditionally in China with underdeveloped cool chain distribution. In many parts of China this is not an issue anymore, but people would still consume UHT dairy products.

It is often packaged in a nice box (with an easy-carry handle.) This is great for gifts, which also fits well into Chinese culture of giving a healthy gift. Dairy products are seen very much as a healthy product, especially for children and older people.

So in the future if you are passing through Shanghai while Kiwi Drinks are in progress, let me know! I will more than likely be at the back propping up the bar and trying to win another raffle. It has only taken me 11 years to win my first raffle prize, so good things take time.