The dominance of the European dairy giants is being challenged by Japanese and Chinese players, reveals the latest global dairy top 20 ranking.

While Nestlé, Danone, Lactalis and Friesland­Campina have retained the top four spots in the annual Rabobank International ranking, German companies Müller and Nordmilch have dropped out of the table.

However, Japan's Meiji Dairies has climbed from 14th place last year to 11th and its Morinago Milk Industry has climbed one place to 15th.

Meanwhile, China's Mengniu is now at 16th place, up from 19th last year, and Yili has entered the league at 17th.

The growth of the Asian countries was unlikely to subside, said Mark Voorbergen, analyst at Rabobank International.

"I think it's a likelihood that within two or three years they will be part of the top ten," he said.