UHT milk “coming of age” in India
(A periscopic commentary on the evolution of UHT milk in India) Kuldeep Sharma, Principal Mentor, Suruchi Consultants My tryst with UHT Dairy liberalization in India is around 18 months younger than our organization. The journey which began in 1990 has seen the growth of the Indian dairy industry from the liquid milk market perspective. Milk powder and other commodities were never the center stage activity for our organization at Suruchi Consultants. We have been tracking the liquid milk business very closely and UHT attracted our attention somewhere in 1996 when we got active at Nepal with our operations. We liked the concept and after coming back had lengthy discussions with various stakeholders. Interestingly, we observed that one of the major players in Nepal was using UHT milk process as an implicit positioning for their milk to have better shelf life without even displaying this advantage on the packing. The UHT madness and, that too, in paperbound packaging was becoming the topic for corner room discussions at established dairy plants by the turn of the century. I got the first close mega view of this technology at a trade fair at Cologne , Germany in 2000. I was impressed with the technology, speed, benefits , etc which this could give to the customer. By customer I mean even the intermediaries, large stores, logistics providers and other elements of the supply chain. By that time I was living with a conviction that “packaging is something that adds some value to a given product by adding a little of cost and it also protects the product and the customer from any kind of quality deterioration. The great words from one of the leading international players in UHT and aseptic packaging transformed my way of thinking ; the golden words were that a package should save more than what it costs. For the first time I understood the benefit of this technology at a macro . Though
global warming and environmental issues did not make in roads in our society at that time but today those benefits only add on to the other savings which it provides in the whole of supply chain. It is only UHT milk technology which has the capability to take on any quantity of raw milk at the time of the flush season thus motivating farmers to grow more and more. In 2006, I did a market research for London and nearby markets and observed that pasteurized milk (being pasteurized around 72.6 degrees Centigrade) was offering a 9 day shelf life but refrigeration was a must. In 2007, I became an Institutional development expert with the Government of Netherlands and began to understand the importance of environmental friendly measures at each stage of the supply chain from farm to fork. I found that the cold chain was acting as the main culprit in all those hot gas emissions, thus leading to global warming. Still, it was getting very difficult for me to understand how we could make this technology work for mini dairies and for small farmers. I remained in a state of confusion over the utility of UHT technology for mini dairies( from 1klpd to 20klpd) in India and other developing countries till I visited China in early 2011. The changing paradigm I found that China probably has the largest number of UHT establishments ( close to 2600) as reported by one of the key players in that market. They have UHT systems starting from 1000 lph(batch type) to any large size, made to order, capacity. A large number of small dairy owners are even packing this milk from mini UHT plant in polypacks and selling it in the name of pasteurized milk and by default getting the benefits of extended shelf life. China somehow lives with a fragmented eco system, similar to of that of India. I visited various UHT manufacturer plants and found out that my dream of bringing this so called state - of –the - art technology to the door steps of small dairy plant owners in India is no more a dream. Now we are focusing on these technologies and...
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