REFILE--NZ's Fonterra sees own-brand milk formula in 70 Chinese cities in 3 yrs
(Refiles to remove extraneous word and add "own-brand" to headline)
WELLINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, is accelerating its expansion strategy in China and plans to sell its own branded infant milk formula in 70 cities there within three years, its chief executive officer said on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Officer Theo Spierings said in an interview with Reuters the company was undeterred by a recent botulism scare and would push ahead with plans to enter the lucrative branded infant formula market in the world's second-largest economy.
"We reviewed our plans after the crisis. We reviewed whether we should delay it, and we said 'No', so it's full steam ahead," Spierings said.
He said consumers were still anxious about its products after a food safety scare in August, when Fonterra said it had found a potentially fatal bacteria in one of its products, triggering recalls of infant milk formula and sports drinks in nine countries including China.
New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries later said tests showed the botulism scare had been a false alarm because whey protein concentrate made by Fonterra contained a less harmful bacteria.
"Consumers are still in a angst mode and sometimes they don't really know what happened," Spierings said.
"But we can't solve that alone. We need positive voices also coming from the Chinese government and our customers and that's what we're doing right now." (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Paul Tait)
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