UK dairy group Somerdale has said it hopes to benefit from rising demand for traditional English cheeses in China as it works to grow its export presence in the country.

Somerdale managing director Stephen Jones told just-food the company has found there is a “lot of interest” in the market for its cheddar, blue stilton and white stilton with fruits such as mango and ginger, or cranberry.

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Jones said English cheeses offer a taste profile distinctive from other products available in China. “There is a lot of cheese in the market but much of it is very mild American cheddar cheese,” he said.

Somerdale is promoting its cheeses at the Food and Hotel China exhibition in Shanghai this week as part of a trade delegation organised by the UK Food and Drink Export Association. The company is targeting high-end retailers and Jones said that the group is already listed with Ole in China, an upmarket retailer specialising in imported foods.

Jones said expanding in China is complicated by a number of regulatory hurdles but added the effort was justified by demand for the product.

“The process is quite complex as we have to get every product tested and approved, but there is a demand to our products, so it will be interesting to see the reaction we get to the show this week,” he commented.

Earlier this week, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson insisted that the UK dairy industry should move to take advantage of the growing export opportunity for dairy products in China.

“From chocolate to cheddar, China’s population is getting a taste for dairy, and Britain’s world-class food industry can supply that demand,” Paterson said.

Paterson is in Shanghai to meet with dairy companies, trade associations, industry experts and retailers in Shangahi in a bid to kick-start food trade between the UK and China.

“I’ll be helping British businesses grab the opportunity with both hands, helping our country compete and thrive in the global race,” he said.