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China in brief

Heinz bets big on sauces, cola-chicken crisps get green light

By Edited by RJ Whitehead , 12-Dec-2012

A round-up of the big stories coming from China.

Heinz places faith in Chinese sauces business

The head of Heinz in China has come out saying that he is determined to expand the company’s investment in the country, especially in its sauces line.

"We see significant investment in China for long-term development by finishing a new soy sauce factory in Shanghai," said Hein Schumacher.

The new factory comes on the back of an investment of US$64m and, according to Schmacher, it will provide a strong foundation for Heinz to accelerate its sauces and condiments business in China.

The company's Master soy sauce has become one of its top 15 brands since Heinz acquired Foodstar two years ago.

"In China, our sauces, ketchup and condiment businesses delivered strong growth of about 20%, driven by the momentum of diversified brands," Schumacher said.

The other two core businesses of Heinz China—infant nutrition and frozen food—also delivered steady results, he added.

Chinese tea taken off Japan’s shelves

One of Japan’s largest food companies has announced a recall of all its Chinese-grown tea after some was found to be contaminated with illegal levels of pesticide.

Ito En discovered this during random spot-testing and affects nearly 400,000 packages of its Oolong tea, which is imported from China’s southern Fujian province.

It is the second Japanese tea company to have found high pesticide levels in its China-sourced tea in recent months. As a result of this earlier finding, Ito En began voluntary testing of its Chinese teas. The product recall affects nearly 400,000 packages of the oolong.

Comapny officials say they will suspend sales until the cause of the pesticide residue is found, and they are sending representatives to China to investigate. 

While the recalled product did pass sample testing in China, the country has been involved in a number of food safety scandals over the last few years, including industrial chemicals found in dairy products in 2008, killing six babies and making another 300,000 ill, as well pesticide-laced dumplings that made thousands of Japanese people ill in the same year.

Nation gaining an appreciation for port

The Chinese have been developing their taste for port, with sales in the lead-up to Christmas and the Chinese New Year almost doubling compared to the same period last year.

Winemaker Jorge Nunes of Symington Family Estates in Portugal, whose brands, which include Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s—make up around 40% of the premium port market in Hong Kong, said there has definitely been a boost in sales because of the tradition of port at Christmas, and the potential of the wine as a New Year gift.

"Port is starting to be better understood and known by Asian consumers," he told the South China Morning Post. "Pairing with Chinese food like hairy crab or roasted pork belly means ports are gaining a reputation in Hong Kong and mainland China."

Meanwhile, the Vintage Port Academy in Hong Kong has been developing the local appreciation and knowledge of the drink among wine professionals and consumers.

"The academy has been hosting annual seminars and workshops in Hong Kong for three years and we are glad to see the increasing interest in port of the younger generation of wine lovers," said Tersina Shieh.

Fusion goes wild with cola-chicken crisps going on sale

Huffington Post reports that hybrid snack flavours have been running wild in China, with the latest example of the trend coming from PepsiCo with its cola-chicken-flavoured crisps.

As owner of both Pepsi-Cola and Lays, the company has combined the two to produce the new snack. The flavour is a result of the fact that cola is often mixed with soy sauce and spices in a marinade that carimelises when sauteed. 

Internationally, PepsiCo has in the past marketed Frito-Lay Lemonade; however, the cola-chicken flavour is more localised, and Huffington Post speculates it is likely to be the work of Richard Lee, PepsiCo China’s chief marketing officer, who controls the company’s food and beverage brands there.

Public reaction to cola-chicken crisps has so far been mixed, gauging by mini-reviews from several users of Weibo, China’s microblogging site.

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