American food companies are blazing new trails in China — with flavors, according to this CBS News Report by Celia Hatton. I enjoyed this story because she showed us examples of foodstuffs that Chinese consumers can find which look familiar, but really are not.
Citing blueberry-flavored potato chips, strawberry and milk-flavored Cheetos and aloe juice from Minute Maid, Hatton says that it seems like every major U.S. food label, “is trying to bite into China’s $186 billion fast food and processed food industries by creating new products made just for Chinese taste buds.” Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, said China is going to be the second-largest or largest consumer market in the world in the next five years. He said, “If American companies don’t figure out how to get it right in China, they’ll be missing out on what should be their major generator for growth.”
Other strange American-Chinese products? Tropicana cantaloupe juice, orange-flavored Chips Ahoy cookies, Chinese herbal medicine Wrigley’s gum.
But, she [Hatton] said, it’s Frito-Lay potato chips that really push the boundaries.
Taste tests, Hatton reported, revealed Chinese people didn’t like popular American flavors like sour cream and onion. So, to reach their audience, researchers developed new flavors inspired by traditional Chinese food, such as savory Sichuan spicy, sweet and sour tomato and sugary options like cucumber, lychee and mango.
Of course, we’ve discussed how popular American fast food chains like McDonald’s have different menus for different parts of the globe, so it shouldn’t surprise you that McDonald’s has a purple taro pie in China. But could you imagine getting your Starbucks coffee with jelly cubes in the bottom? How about getting spicy squid on a stick at KFC. Does that make it “Kentucky Fried Cuttlefish” instead of “Chicken?”
Hatton even cites toothpaste companies which cater to the Chinese market with flavors such pointing out lotus flower Crest and salty Colgate.
I will admit that I like my toothpaste minty and I hate the taste of taro, but beyond that, nothing in this report sounds TOO scary for me to try. In fact, I’m really tempted by all those flavors of chips. Are you tempted by these “Chinese” flavors? Do you think that any of them would work here in the States?
All I know is that most of these snack foods don’t remotely resemble the Chinese snacks I knew while I was growing up!