The infant formula theme has been a favourite with ASX investors for several years and the table below shows why.

While other small cap boomlets such as lithium, pilbara gold, blockchain and cannabis have taken investors on a rollercoaster ride, the China-focused dairy crew have remained fairly consistent.

Over the past year, every one of the 13 dairy stocks in our table has made ground — including sector bellwether Bellamy’s, which recovered completely from its December 2016 share price coallapse — and is still attracting support even amid fears over China acreditation of its products.

“The long-term drivers of Chinese consumers preferring premium imported formula remain in place,” Citibank analysts said earlier this minth, reiterating a buy recommendation for the stock.

>> Scroll down for a list of ASX infant formala-related stocks

Despite recent falls, Bellamy’s is up 84 per cent over the past year.

Though it’s trailing the likes of Bubs and A2 (both are up about 160 per cent), Clover (up 259 per cent and theme leader Jatenergy (up 645 per cent).

China’s love affair with Aussie baby formula

It’s been ten years since China saw an infant formula safety scandal heighten concerns about product safety and increase the attractiveness of Australian producers.

China now takes about two-thirds of Australia’s infant formula exports — a figure that has jumped significantly over the past five years, according to 2017 figures from IBISWorld.

More broadly, about a third of our milk is exported overseas. Australia produces around 2 per cent of the world’s dairy, but supplies 6 per cent of the global trade, according to Dairy Australia.

Exporting into China isn’t completely straightforward, with regulatory frameworks and licences proving a challenge, as Bellamy’s found last year when the Chinese government temporarily suspended an import licence for its Camperdown facility.

Despite regultory concerns all 13 of these stocks with exposure to infant formula have had a strong year.

On average these stocks are up 170 per cent (excluding wannabe dairy stock Longreach Oil which has been suspended for more than a year).

The sector got another boost last week with the successful listing of Keytone Dairy (ASX:KTD).

Keytone –a New Zealand dairy producer that makes whole and skim milk powder — enjoyed a 90 per cent spike in its first week on the ASX.

Its shares are trading at a 65 per cent premium to its 20c issue price.

Other related plays include HRL Holdings, an asbestos tester that entered the market in October buying Kiwi test lab Analytica, which has a licence to test infant milk formula exports bound for China.

Here are the best performing baby formula-related stocks over the past year:

Clover Corp (ASX:CLV) 

Clover’s core product is encapsulated tuna oil, which is in demand for the production of infant formulas. The company has been on the bourse for a decade but it really took off in the past 12 months as it, like so many others, started getting that China exposure.

Shares are sitting around $1.68, which is a 258 per cent improvement on this time last year.

The company increased its net profit for the first half of 2018 to $3.2 million, a significant 209 per cent increase on the profit level for the first half of 2017. Australia and New Zealand are the key growth regions for the business, demand for omega oil sales here have risen to supply the global infant formula market.

Jatenergy (ASX:JAT) 

This oil explorer-turned broad China export play also reached ten-bagger status last year and is up 203 per cent since December, to 79c this week.

The company is currently pouring resources into developing its in-house infant formula brands as well as online sales into China and presence in bricks-and-mortar stores across the region.

A2 Milk (ASX:A2M) 

The $7 billion New Zealand dairy play is up 166 per cent over the past 12 months. It told investors in the second week of July unaudited group revenue was going to be $922 million for the year, an increase of 68 per cent on the same time last year.

However, another story about the company this week shows some of the challenges in trading in China: the business copped a $20,000 fine from Chinese authorities, it was reported this week, for inadvertently breaching local ad regulations by using an image of a child aged 10 or under in its marketing.

Here’s a table of the China focused dairy stocks listed on the ASX, with their 12 month share price performance:

ASX code Company One-year price change Price Jul 26 (intraday) Market Cap
JAT JATENERGY 6.45454545455 0.082 47.1M
CLV CLOVER CORP 2.59139784946 1.67 270.9M
A2M A2 MILK 1.67934782609 9.86 7.3B
BUB BUBS AUSTRALIA 1.64727272727 0.728 322.3M
HRL HRL 1.53164556962 0.2 98.7M
BXN BIOXYNE 1.5 0.045 30.7M
SM1 SYNLAIT MILK 1.43316831683 9.83 1.8B
WHA WATTLE HEALTH 1.30357142857 1.29 219.8M
BAL BELLAMY'S 0.840310077519 11.87 1.3B
KTD KEYTONE DAIRY (listed Jul 18) 0.7 0.34 50.3M
BKL BLACKMORES 0.673739755249 149.08 2.5B
AHF AUSTRALIA DAIRY FARMS 0.185185185185 0.16 38.1M
LGO LONGREACH OIL (suspended) 0 0.008 --
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