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Foreign food firms keen to bite into huge market
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Foreign food companies are making a beeline to China hoping to tap the huge potential in the imported food industry as they cash in on people's rising disposable income and easing of import tariffs.


A record 800 companies from 35 countries and regions yesterday promoted their food specialties and beverages at FHC China 2007 in Shanghai for the first time.


One of the largest international food, wine and hospitality equipment and supply exhibitions, it opened yesterday and will end tomorrow at Shanghai New International Expo Center in Pudong New Area.


A wide variety of imported products will be displayed, from fresh and preserved foods, beverages, wine and spirits, bakery ingredients to confectionery, suggesting foreign companies are really eager to tap the emerging market.


Seven Austrian companies are showcasing food specialties like Julius Meinl Coffee, Darbo jams and Pfaffl wines at their pavilions.


"China's entry to the World Trade Organization has lowered tariffs and brought economic liberalization that yielded gains for US food exports," said Wayne Batwin, an official from the Agricultural Trade Office at the US Consulate Shanghai.


"Continued economic growth boosted the demand for high-quality foods and improvements in retail, distribution and transport system also increased competitiveness of imported food and beverages in the local market," Batwin added.


Metro Cash & Carry China is one foreign food and beverage company which is benefiting from Chinese people's interest in imported food.


Revenue of imported food now makes up 10 percent of Metro China's total food sales and the retailer plans to set up an imported food area in all its 34 stores nationwide to meet consumers' demand, Philippe Bacac, general manager of Metro Cash & Carry China East China Business unit, said.


Besides wine, snack foods such as ice creams and frozen foods are also becoming popular.


"The competition in the snack foods sector is quite demanding amid people's growing disposable income and willingness to try new things," said Zhong Wei, marketing manager of Gourmedis (China) Shanghai Office. He also added that sales were also boosted as consumers trusted imported food meets international safety standard.


Gourmedis, which added Alberto Pizza, Cellini Coffee and Maina cakes into its existing 1,000 items under 15 brands this year, is expected to double its turnover next year, Zhong said.


(Shanghai Daily November 15, 2007)

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