CIIE provides positive food for thought as F&B vendors thrive
Food and beverage vendors and retailers have made a beeline for the 5th China International Import Expo with new and novel offerings to gain advantage in a competitive landscape.
Industry insiders estimate that consumer demand for healthy, delicious food and fresh products is still picking up, with bakery items regarded as one of the long-lasting and resilient trend in the consumption sector.
Various kind of innovation are being displayed by CIIE old-timers and newcomers despite a rising number of local players catering to snack flavors.
Meiji (China) Investment Co is looking for a combined 4.5 billion yuan (US$622 million) investment for new production capacity in the next two years, including 650 million yuan investment scheduled in 2024 at Shanghai's new ice cream factory.
A first-time exhibitor at the CIIE, the Japanese company said China is the priority for its medium-term business plan to strengthen Meiji's overseas market.
By 2023, its milk and yogurt production capacity in China will expand more than two or three times compared with 2020 and confectionery production capacity would double thanks to the completion of new manufacturing sites.
Meiji's SAVAS whey protein nutritional supplement product line made its debut among other dairy products and snacks at the expo.
Existing product lines like milk, yogurt, confectionery, ice cream, nutritional products, and food for commercial use will also be expanded accordingly.
President of Meiji (China) Investment Co Ltd Tomatsu Matsui views the CIIE as an important window to show greater determination to expand the China business and for industry players to know about its major presence in different sectors.
Last year, the Probio functional yogurt was launched and has contributed to rising brand awareness thanks to consumers' preference for digestive health.
A new merchandising development center will be added for the existing ice cream range in Shanghai.
"Competition from local players is filling the market with more vitality and I believe each could do their job regardless of the business size to contribute to the overall economic progress," he added.
A tailor-made version of Nutella & Go! was unveiled for the first time at Ferrero's booth, which marks the Italian company's third product in the biscuit segment.
It has developed the Nutella brand using a format that Chinese consumers are more familiar with rather than the classical spread.
It has collected feedback from previous CIIE visitors and reduced the portion of spread and increased the number of bread stick for the snack, and the mini packs are available at select physical stores.
"Our very first foray into the biscuits area, the Kinder Happy Hippo, was first unveiled at the CIIE in 2019. It successfully attracted attention from visitors, and potential distributors, who passed through the booth," recalled Mauro De Felip, general manager of Ferrero China.
This year its second biscuit product is hitting the expo and it hopes to repeat the same success.
Its two other pillar brands Ferrero and Kinder also launched new products, reflecting the company's continuous and vigorous investment in the Chinese market.
Ferrero also sees plenty of opportunities after it relocated its managerial headquarters to Shanghai earlier this year, such as further expanding the size of its exports and also to better facilitate its digitalization project.
The CIIE remains a platform for creating win-win cooperation.
Mondelez's latest product is a case in point.
Returning to the expo for the fifth straight time, the American snacking giant unveiled the Oreo Multilayer Cheesecake and Oreo Airy Cake which marks its expansion from the biscuit category to baked goods and pastries.
It has partnered with Fonterra to use the New Zealand firm's dairy raw materials and worked on the first-of-its-kind bakery.
"Oreo Airy Cake" which comes in the classic Oreo cocoa flavor and multiple tastes is packaged in small individual packs to suit latest trends.
In September, the company completed a 32-million-yuan (US$ 5 million) investment for a new production line at its Beijing plant for "Oreo Airy Cake."
"Maintaining an opening-up stance is extremely important for businesses to seek opportunities and we're confident of continuing to invest in our brands and capacity in the future," said president of Mondelez China Joost Vlaanderen.
Local innovations also serve the overseas markets and the CIIE provides much room and field for new ventures in the future, he added.
On a related note, Fonterra also unveiled a string of dairy, bakery ingredients and catering solutions compatible with local dietary customs.
Fonterra China CEO Teh-Han Chow sees the growing trend of dairy consumption continuing in the long run.
The company has added five times its exhibition space compared to the first CIIE, and Chow said that "The expo also offers us the opportunity to exchange new ideas such as on sustainable development with industry players and customers."
Chinese consumers are quick to adopt new consumption habits with some particular types of cheese selling much quicker than expected. To respond to that trend, he noted the company will speed up collaboration with local players.
Metro's booth features more than 170 types of imported food with over half of them being introduced for the first time in China.
The German retailer hopes home-brand products, such as frozen seafood, nuts and coconut water from overseas countries of origin, can cater to shoppers' evolving demand.
Metro China president Tino Zeiske said they have returned for the fifth time because of the excellent chance the expo offers for brands and consumers alike.
"The CIIE is definitely a starting point for new ideas and solutions to make a fresh appearance and then to be launched at physical stores," he added.