In China, Cheese Is Strange, But Pizza Is Hot
China may be the hardest place in the world to sell cheese, but Liu Yang has been trying anyway — and Western fast food may be his salvation.
There has not been dairy in the mainstream Chinese diet for centuries — no butter, no milk, no cheese, nothing. Ninety percent of the population is said to be lactose intolerant. So when Mr. Liu opened a tiny two-room cheese shop on the outskirts of Beijing five years ago, “People said, ‘What is this strange stinky thing?’ ” he recalled. “ ‘How am I supposed to cook it? How am I supposed to eat it?’ ”
Mr. Liu’s offerings of brousse, crottin, Camembert and tomme at first mystified Chinese customers, even though prosperity was driving demand for other European luxuries. He now sells about 33 pounds of cheese a day from his little shop, and he hopes to do better as more Chinese become acquainted with the stuff.
That is already happening, albeit through a side door: a growing appetite for American-style fast food. The average Chinese city dweller eats it at least once a week, by one estimate; Pizza Hut is opening stores on the mainland at a rate of about one a day.
Pizza, of course, contains cheese. Theo Spierings, chief executive of Fonterra, a major New Zealand dairy producer, said the popularity of pizza was driving up demand for cheese across Asia. Supermarkets in big cities are starting to put blocks of cheese on display. And China’s imports of cheese rose 70 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to Mintel, a market research company.
披萨中当然含有奶酪。新西兰大型乳品制造商恒天然(Fonterra)公司的首席执行官西奥·施皮尔斯( Theo Spierings)说，披萨的流行刺激了整个亚洲的奶酪需求量。大城市中的超市开始陈列大块奶酪。根据市场调查公司英敏特(Mintel)的数据，从2009年到2014年，中国的奶酪进口增加了70%。
Chinese leaders once considered cheese to be too barbaric for the national diet. That stigma is gone, but for many shoppers, another one remains.
“I’m afraid it will make me fat,” said Zhao Lin, 32, who lives in Beijing. “It’s too unhealthy.”