The Danish Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual business awards ceremony in Shanghai with a host of Denmark’s businesspeople attending.
Christian Overgaard, chairman of the Chamber, told FoodNavigator-Asia that Denmark is well represented in China’s food and beverage sector but that companies are yet to exploit the strong human talent pool that is emerging in the country.
He said: “There are many Chinese people who can add real value to global companies… I believe that securing Chinese management and employees is the way forward for companies.”
A “communication bridge needs to be built between headquarters in the West and China bases” to realise this opportunity, Overgaard explained.
He added that companies need to be certain that the person selected understands its corporate thinking for it to succeed.
Overall, Danish companies need to be “braver” working in China, both in terms of employment and production, he said.
The chairman noted that there are few, if any, Danish companies with full production chains in-country.
“The technological and more complex production and development areas of business tend to be kept out of China to protect a company’s intellectual property… there is a scare about being able to safeguard your IP in China,” he said.
There is some production in China, but most companies don’t want to risk full production in-country, Overgaard explained.
China: the elastic band
He said that working in China offers a tremendous learning experience for Danish companies.
“I liken working in China to working with an elastic band. Very often it can stretch very fast but sometimes it needs to contract quickly… it’s not always smooth working in China. There is a great speed of change and elasticity and this is not always a good thing. It can be extremely challenging but at the same time exciting.”
China’s food and beverage market is well suited to Western companies, Overgaard commented.
“I see three micro-trends that make the market hospitable to Danish companies. You have the growing population, the migration from rural to urban and affluence…. they are underpinning the market and driving growth,” he remarked.
Overgaard pointed out that migration has led to consumers being more open-minded and critical, demanding higher quality products and searching for variety.
Combined with a mushrooming, increasingly affluent population, China’s food and beverage sector is extremely hospitable for Danish companies, he added.
The future needs to be, integrating Chinese management and employees into successful Danish businesses and this needs to start with braver businesses choices and a focus on training and education, Overgaard said.