Dairy Crest was 19th in last year's annual Rabobank Dairy Top 20 but dropped out of this year's ranking to be replaced by Mengniu, the first Chinese company to make the list, which is dominated by large multinationals.
Analysts said the change was a reflection of strong growth by Mengniu, and increases in domestic consumption in China would help see it propelled towards the top 10 in coming years despite the melamine scandal hitting sales.
Dairy Crest, which last month announced turnover for the year to 31 March had risen 5% to £1.65bn (€1.9bn), said it was not concerned by no longer being ranked in the top 20. "We are more focused on quality, rather than quantity and putting less milk into ingredients," said external affairs director Arthur Reeves. "UK companies are very focused on the UK market."
All the other companies in the top 20 remained the same as dairy market turmoil limited consolidation activity, though some of their rankings changed. New Zealand giant Fonterra overtook US rivals Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America to take fifth place, for instance, after it increased turnover by €600m to €8.2bn. Nestlé retained the number one position in the ranking, ahead of Danone, Lactalis and recently formed Dutch co-op FrieslandCampina. Arla, Unilever and Müller held on to eighth, 10th and 20th positions respectively.
More consolidation was likely as companies struggled to survive, according to Rabobank analyst Mark Voorbergen, who expected to see fewer but bigger players in the future as the recession forced companies such as Dairy Farmers of Britain out of business.
The upper end of the chart was also likely to feature a German company for the first time next year, said Rabobank. Nordmilch and Human Milchunion are planning to merge, which will take the new entity to about number 10 in the ranking.