The world’s 20 largest dairy processors combined registered $194 billion in sales in 2015, down 13 percent from the previous year as the industry grapples with the effects of currency volatility and a shrinking market.
Dutch financial services company Rabobank’s updated ranking of the largest dairy processors didn’t contain any surprises in terms of the players involved, but there were some big changes in the order.
Switzerland’s Nestlé remained atop the ranking with $25 billion in annual dairy product sales. Lactalis, Danone, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra rounded out the top five, with the last two switching positions. China’s Yili moved up two spots to eight while Kraft Heinz climbed three spots to 13. German company Muller had biggest move, rising from 20 last year to 15 in 2016.
Overall, 2015 proved to be a difficult year for most, with the strong US dollar and currency volatility, together with low commodity prices, reducing turnovers for most companies. Mergers and acquisitions continued apace, as companies continued to seek additional value from domestic markets and new opportunities elsewhere.
“The big story in this year’s top 20 list of dairy companies—based on turnover—is the shrinkage of the overall size of the pie,” says Kevin Bellamy, Rabobank global dairy strategist. “Low dairy commodity prices and currency movements have had a dramatic downward effect on company sales values.”
With global sales slipping 13 percent, analysts say it is indicative of how much the euro weakened against the US dollar in 2015 that the same collective turnover of the top 20 improved 4 percent year over year in euro terms.
As growth in China slowed, the world’s largest dairy companies started to look for new horizons to develop with Africa now firmly on the dairy map. In total, there were 14 deals in Africa, with four more year to date in 2016. This compares with only three deals recorded in Africa in the whole of 2014.