Centrale del Latte d’Italia (CLI) has entered into a strategic partnership with Alibaba Group to sell its Tuscan branded long-life and full-cream Mukki milk in China. 

Supply will be directed through Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall, giving the Italian dairy group access to some 460m customers a year, according to a statement from the Turin-based company. The agreement gives CLI the opportunity to expand exports in China after first entering the market in 2014 through traditional distribution channels.

Imports of UHT milk in China have increased almost six-fold in the last four years and grew more than 36% between 2015 and 2016, said chairman Luigi Luzzati, quoting data from CLAL. 

“These increases are due to an increasing demand from Chinese consumers for safe, quality food products,” said Luzzati. “The partnership with Alibaba is a major opportunity for our growth.”

Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, managing director for Southern Europe at Alibaba, said milk is one of the top-selling produces on its platforms.

“Thanks to this agreement, it will be possible to sell Mukki milk, closely linked with the Tuscany area, to the hundreds of thousands of Chinese consumers seeking to bring the best of Italian production into their homes,” he said. 

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Mukki milk will be available in China in one litre packs and in smaller 200-millimetre packs designed for out-of-home use.

CLI’s other products span fresh milk to cheese, yogurts, fresh meats and sauces under brand names such as TappoRosso, Tigullio and Vicenza. The Borsa Italiana-listed company, which was formed via a merger in 2016, has five production sites and employs around 450 people.