In the wake of the 15th Global Dairy Congress, FoodBev Media caught up with Yun Zhanyou, assistant president of Yili Group. Here, he tells us more about his role and responsibilities, the main trends driving the dairy sector, and outlines the main elements that comprise a successful, innovative and sustainable dairy company.
To begin, could you introduce yourself, and outline your core roles and responsibilities as assistant president of Yili Group?
It’s a great honour to give an interview to FoodBev during the 15th Global Dairy Congress. I’m Yun Zhanyou, assistant president of Yili Group, where I’m responsible for support and management of technical innovation, including managing technical innovation compliance and intellectual property rights, building the ecosystem for technical innovation at home and abroad, and introducing and communicating Yili’s innovation outcomes.
Meanwhile, I also serve as vice president of the Probiotics Branch of the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology and as the distinguished expert for the IDF China National Committee.
Yili, one of the top five global dairy companies and Asia’s No.1 dairy company, pursues international development as a critical strategy. Yili now owns 15 R&D and innovation centres and 74 production bases globally. Our products are on the market in more than 60 countries and regions.
What are the main trends currently driving innovation in the dairy sector?
Our increasingly health-conscious consumers are calling for nutritional, customised and functional dairy products. As a consumer-centric, innovation-driven company, Yili is exploring the value of dairy products and seeking to launch health products to meet the full lifecycle, all-scenario needs of all types of consumers.
Climate change has brought about a significant impact on mankind and the world’s ecosystems. As a result, consumers look forward to products that both meet their nutritional and health needs and impose no harm upon the environment. Embracing the tide of sustainable development across the globe, Yili has rolled out net-zero carbon products and factories and issued our Roadmap to a Net-Zero Carbon Future. We aim to advocate greener, healthier and more sustainable lifestyles in order to realise the dream of “World Integrally Sharing Health”.
I will deliver a Congress keynote speech with the theme of “Create Value through Innovation,” which is aligned with the topic of sustainability. I wish to share with our fellow companies Yili’s latest practices and experience.
How are technological advancements propelling the dairy industry?
The dairy industry features a long industrial chain. In keeping with our philosophy of “no innovation, no future,” we have built an innovation system covering the entire industrial chain, in a bid to establish a community for innovation that integrally incorporates all of our upstream, midstream and downstream partners.
At the upstream, Yili has developed a series of natural, functional raw milk that is rich in selenium, DHA or other elements through nutrition modulation technology and innovative feeding methods, which could also realise the results of regulation of the ratio of fat and protein in raw milk and methane emission control. At the midstream, Yili applies milk fat catalysed by enzymes to flavour in order to reduce fat in our products.
We have played a pioneering role in the dairy industry by launching an intelligent platform on sweet-tasting design, creating tailored, all-scenario solutions for sugar reduction in dairy products. Yili also employs digitalised, intelligent technologies to build green, smart factories with higher production and operational efficiency.
At the downstream, Yili uses big data tools to capture and study market demands, so as to innovate and upgrade products on a constant basis. With these efforts, we are able to provide our consumers with more nutritional, healthy products and better experiences.
Continually accelerating advancements in science and technology are bringing about industrial transformation in terms of digitalisation, intelligence and integrated production. As such, dairy companies should be bold in breaking through traditional thinking and applying new technologies to propel the industry’s growth.
How can manufacturers produce high-quality, sustainable dairy products while remaining cost-effective and accessible?
The production of high-quality, sustainable products essentially indicates the optimisation of natural and human resources. It also means creating more value through renewable and circular ways.
When pursuing sustainability, dairy companies are often challenged by the transition towards low-carbon operations. But I’d like to deem the challenge as an opportunity for growth. Green, low-carbon, sustainable operation and development can not only ease burdens imposed by climate change but also drive down costs and create economic value for the farming and dairy partners, thereby fostering their long-term competitiveness.
This year, Yili’s Satine A2β-Casein Organic Pure Milk became the first net-zero carbon milk in China. With the emissions reduced through applying the integration of planting and breeding on our pastures for raw milk supply, using clean energy for manufacturing, employing recyclable packages, and purchasing carbon credits, we make up for the emissions from milk production, thus realising “net-zero” emissions. Sustainability also became a key differentiating factor and made the product a great success in the market.
Health and nutrition are pivotal in today’s world. What advice do you have for dairy manufacturers looking to boost the health/wellness credentials of their products?
First of all, dairy manufacturers must improve their R&D capabilities and enhance their strength through innovation. We’ve been committed to the “consumer-centric” and “no innovation, no future” philosophies. Guided by these philosophies, we have developed innovative products tailored to consumers’ demands and received positive feedback, resulting in a large market share and widespread recognition. For example, through a decade of rigorous experiments, we discovered and applied a series of probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis BL-99, which can promote digestion, regulate intestinal flora and enhance immunity.
In addition, manufacturers should pursue industrial chain-wide, cross-disciplinary collaborations in order to make breakthroughs in fundamental research and translate innovative outcomes. For example, Yili has teamed up with world-leading institutions including Wageningen University in the Netherlands, University of Cambridge in the UK and Lincoln University in New Zealand through our innovation centres across the globe. We also pursue stronger cooperation throughout the industrial chain. Through joint efforts, we are able to jointly build a global intelligence network that creates value for consumers.
What are the key traits of a successful dairy company?
As proposed by chairman and president Pan Gang, Yili is committed to achieving our New Vision for Value Creation, with the goal of leading the industry in creating consumer value, social value, employee value and corporate value, thereby ensuring the continued high-quality development of a healthy, sustainable company.
As a provider of nutritional, healthy products, dairy companies must be dedicated to developing diversified, high-quality products and services, offering consumers tailored solutions for healthy food.
Companies seeking self-worth must create value for society. They should fulfil their social responsibilities to contribute to the development of a thriving society.
Companies should practice a people-centred management philosophy. Platforms should be provided for employees to unleash their talents, and the fruits of corporate development should benefit all personnel.
Value should be created for shareholders and investors, so that a company can survive. This requires enhanced capabilities in management, operations and innovation to ensure that a company is sound and sustainable.
Thank you for sharing your insights with us Yun. Is there anything else you would like to discuss that you think our audience would like to know about?
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you one of our latest developments. In June, four projects of Yili’s Future Intelligence and Healthy Valley will be put into operation in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, including a liquid milk production base, a milk powder production base, the Chilechuan Ecological Smart Farm and the Yili Intelligent Manufacturing Experience Center.
The Future Intelligence and Healthy Valley comprises a roughly 38-square-kilometre core area. It is a large complex integrating industry, urban life and tourism, with the dairy industry as its core. The Valley will not only establish green, smart production bases, but also witness the development of dairy-related enterprise clusters and the integration of primary, secondary and tertiary industries.
We warmly invite dairy companies from all over the world to visit the Valley and participate in exchanges with us. We look forward to cooperating with our fellow industry colleagues in the future.
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