Martin Posner reports from the Food and Hotel China trade show.

Food and Hotel China

The 16th Food and Hotel China (FHC) trade show — the International Exhibition for Food, Drink, Hospitality, Foodservice, Bakery and Retail Industries — took place in Shanghai on 14–16 November.

Exporting dairy products to China

The UK Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has just returned from China, where he spearheaded the biggest trade delegation ever sent to improve sales of a range of products that includes Western-style milk, cheese and yoghurt.

The Minister also met dairy companies, trade associations, industry experts and retailers in Shanghai to begin developing trade in the world’s biggest grocery market. He also promoted teas, desserts, beer, meat and confectionery at the huge Shanghai “Food and Hotel China” exhibition, where 30,000 Chinese specialist importers visited UK exporters’ stands.

The UK currently imports £1.2 billion more dairy products than it exports, and so there is a huge potential for growth. For example, a cheese exporter from Gloucestershire stated that, until quite recently, there was not even a word for “cheese” in Mandarin.

Owen Patterson’s diary highlighted four days of intensive promotion of the UK’s finest foods, including the largest food trade fair in China where 70 other nations were competing for a share of the rapidly expanding market for quality foods. He said: “China’s dairy consumption is increasing because of changing lifestyles and diet.” Mr Patterson visited a Tesco store in the centre of Shanghai, which currently stocks predominantly Chinese goods with only a small section for imported products. This approach is based partly on the attitudes of Chinese consumers, who are historically suspicious of pre-packaged meat and vegetables. Hence Tesco has created a typical “wet” market in the store where shoppers can scoop live fish out of tanks or choose from a container of live frogs. The store manager said that he had to import chicken’s feet, which are a delicacy in China, from Brazil because he could not get enough of them. What is currently a wasted by-product of the poultry industry in the UK can therefore be sold in China, thus adding value. He told the Environment Secretary about a poultry producer in Northern Ireland who produces nine million chicken’s feet a week and has to pay to dispose of them.

The Minister had meetings with Chinese officials to discuss the problem of counterfeiting, which can cost UK firms millions in lost revenue, and he also talked about food safety regulations with the local Centre for Disease Control. The Chinese government places a very high priority on food safety after a number of food scares. The UK is in a great position to help because our safety and traceability are world-renowned, but British firms in China told Mr Patterson again and again how confusing it can be to find out which regulations they need to comply with.

When the Minister visited Hong Kong he attended a reception promoting British beef to the Asian market. The UK produces just under a million tonnes of beef each year and exports around 150,000 tonnes. Beef exports to Hong Kong are increasing, and this will be a springboard for breaking into the Chinese market.

Comments from exhibitors at FHC

Terry Curran from Highland Smoked Salmon said that it was one of the best food trade shows he had exhibited at, and that this was a far better show than the Annual Brussels “European Sea & Food Exhibition”, which takes place in April each year. He was now processing a large number of enquiries from buyers he met at the Shanghai show, saying: “This is the only way to get into the market.” Highland Smoked Salmon already exports to the Middle East.

Hurns Brewery, which produces a wide range of Welsh beers under the name of “Tomos Watkins”, was a first-time exhibitor. Connie Parry was delighted that she had 50 strong leads which she was now quoting for firm orders. Hurns is already selling to Australia, Hong Kong, the USA, France and Spain.

Liam Tullberg of Pukka Herbs was also a first-time exhibitor at the show for the company’s range of fine speciality blended herbal teas. He said that there was lots of interest from distributors. Part of his expenses for the stand were covered by UKTI.

Last reviewed 6 December 2012