China is now the second biggest market for Irish dairy, and demand for baby formula is helping buck a slowdown in its economy, according to research.
Sales of the high-end Irish dairy powders used in infant formula recorded growth rates of almost 40% last year.
The figures from the Republic's food promotion agency Bord Bia show that total Irish food and drink exports increased by 3% to top €10.8bn (£8bn) for the first time last year.
The surge in new Irish whiskey distilleries contributed to a 10% rise in drink exports, while beef sales were up 6% and seafood 4%.
China is Ireland's fifth largest market overall after 16% growth in sales last year, and it is the second most important market for dairy and pork.
Fears about a China slowdown have spooked world markets in recent weeks, but despite volatile markets, dairy exports rose 4% to €3.24bn (£2.4bn), helped by a 25% surge in exports of nutrition powders, mainly baby formulas.
Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia, said the Irish dairy sector had been targeting the "upper end" of the Chinese consumer market.