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Fonterra slides to fourth in world dairy rankings as Lactalis closes in on Danone

By Mark Astley , 19-Jul-2012
Last updated the 19-Jul-2012 at 14:42 GMT

Fonterra has slid to fourth in the world dairy rankings, after being pipped to third place by French dairy group Lactalis, Rabobank has reported.

The New Zealand-based dairy exporter, which placed third in last year’s Rabobank Global Dairy Top 20, recorded turnover of $15.7bn (€11.3bn) in 2011 – more than $3bn short of the $18.8bn (€13.5bn) achieved by Lactalis.

The Global Dairy Top 20 is developed by Netherlands-based Rabobank, to highlight ‘the who’s who of dairy’.

Lactalis, which has seen sales increase significantly through its acquisition of Italian dairy group Parmalat, looks to be creeping up on second place Danone, which recorded turnover of $19.5bn (€14bn) for the year.

Swiss food and beverage colossus, Nestlé maintained its position at the top of the table, after recording dairy sales of $25.9bn (€18.6bn) in 2011.

Mergers & acquisitions

“The most notable shift at the top end of the table is the continued rise of Lactalis,” said the Rabobank report.

The June 2011 acquisition of Italian dairy group Parmalat gave Lactalis access to several new markets around the world, the report added.

“With on-going sales growth and the acquisition of Parmalat and Skånemejerier, Lactalis has moved from fourth into third position, and is now within striking distance of Danone.”

Many of the top 20 completed acquisitions or entered joint ventures – often in emerging dairy markets - during 2011 in an effort to strengthen their global positions.

According to the Rabobank report, 16 of the top 20 invested in regions such as Asia and Latin America, with 15 pumping money into the rapidly expanding Chinese dairy market.

The report added that Western firms continue to rule the dairy roost, but praised Chinese firms Yili and Mengniu for the great strides made in recent years. 

“Having entered the top 20 for the first time in 2010, Yili moved up four places into 15th and Mengniu moved up two places in 16th, riding the wave of domestic marker sales growth,” the report said.

“Perhaps the most striking is that despite the rise of the Chinese, the list of the world’s 20 largest dairy companies remains dominated by those in OECD countries. The headquarters for 18 of the 20 are in the EU, North America, Japan or New Zealand.”

Top 20 newcomers

Elsewhere, Netherlands-based dairy giant FrieslandCampina ($13.4bn, €9.7bn) held onto fifth place. Dean Foods ($11.7bn, €8.4bn) dropped one position to seventh, with Dairy Farmers of America ($13bn, €9.3bn) replacing it in sixth.

Danish dairy cooperative, Arla Foods ($10.3bn, €7.4bn) and Kraft Foods ($7.7bn, €5.5bn) held onto eighth and ninth place.

Japanese dairy firm Meiji completed the dairy top 10 for 2011 with sales of $7.4bn (€5.3bn) for the year.

Unilever (11), Saputo (12), DMK (13), Sodiaal (14), Yili (15), Mengniu (16), Bongrain (17) and Schreiber Foods (19) also featured in the top 20.

Top 20 newcomers, German dairy firm Müller (18) and US-based Land O’Lakes (20) made up the numbers with sales of $4.6bn (€3.3bn) and $4.3bn (€3.1bn) respectively.

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