The Irish Dairy Board has set its sights on further expansion in the emerging markets of Russia and China after seeing sales rise last year.

The dairy co-op, Ireland's biggest exporter, saw turnover inch up 2% to EUR2.1bn (US$3.3bn) in 2007.

The IDB said the rise in revenue came despite fluctuating dairy prices throughout the year, the removal of EU export refunds and the strong euro.

The group told just-food that it wanted to build on last year's launch of flagship brand Kerrygold butter in China.

"We hope to capitalise on the opportunities that will come out of the Beijing Olympics in this region over the coming year," a spokesperson for the company commented today (15 April).

Kerrygold was also launched in Russia last year, with distribution of the foil-packaged butter centred in Moscow. The company said that "plans are in place" to expand butter distribution to other major Russian cities and introduce Kerrygold's cheese line-up during 2008.

The Kerrygold brand grew by 1.8% in 2007 across all international markets, the IDB said.

Looking to Europe, the IDB said it recorded a solid year in Germany, where the brand saw market share rise by 0.5% and retain its leadership position.

The eastern European markets of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria performed well with an annual sales growth of 20%. 

Despite the optimism of overseas growth, the IDB warned that continued volatility in the dairy market was now a "fact of life".

"In order to build a strong dairy industry for the future we will need to be more innovative and responsive to the realities of the marketplace in this new era," said chief executive Noel Coakley.

"Product development will be very important with a specific focus on added value and consumer convenience."