VIPLUS DAIRY in Toora has become the first Australian producer of locally made infant formula products to gain regulatory approval to sell infant formula in China. From January onwards under a tough new regulatory regime from 2018 the company will supply three infant formulas it makes, two of which use cow milk and one which uses goat milk.
The privately-owned company, said the approval was a significant boost for local jobs.
ViPlus employs 40 fulltime workers at its Toora plant but expects to increase its workforce over the next 18 months as it increases international sales.
“It was just great to get it through. And it just shows the professionalism of the team in ViPlus,” said CEO Peter Cunningham.
“The CFDA (China Food and Drug Administration) registration shows the quality of milk powder produced by ViPlus. The fact that we are the first Australian infant formula manufacturer to get the tick of approval by the Chinese government shows Gippsland can lead the country in baby formula exports,” he said.
“We can now move into a new phase for the company.”
The tougher new regulatory system is expected to slash the number of infant formulas in the China market, because some companies are not expected to seek approval.
Australian producers benefit from Australia’s reputation as a producer of safe, high-quality foods, particularly given the food safety scandal that hit China nine years ago, when six babies died and thousands more became ill after having Chinese-made infant formula.
“At the moment they’ve got over 2000 formulas in the market and it’s just far too many to manage and to control so they’ve gone through the process and said that each factory, whether it be local or offshore, can only have a maximum of three. It will drop down to a couple of hundred,” Mr Cunningham said.
The company sources the nutritional formulas and base milk powders from processors Burra Foods and Fonterra, which get their milk from Gippsland dairy farmers. ViPlus then processes, cans and packages the formulas at Toora.
ViPlus has been selling infant formula in China, its primary market, for the past five years, where it is sold in pharmacies and supermarkets. Most of the company’s infant formula is sold overseas.
The company’s international sales and marketing manager, Chris McKiernan, said ViPlus was focussed on continuing to develop its brand in China. “But as important, if not even more important now, is my focus on opening up new markets across southeast Asia, and that includes the Middle East,” he said.
“We’ll be having product moving into the UAE (United Arab Emirates) I would say within six to eight weeks and we have been doing business with Cambodia already for the bulk of 2017. We will also expand operations throughout the Indonesian market, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore,” he said.