Shoppers want to get a taste of overseas lifestyle

Updated: 2013-01-17 14:12

(China Daily)

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Food safety | Zhao Ping

Imported food is gaining enormous popularity in China, and greater amounts of it are coming into the country - but why is there this growing appetite for foreign products?

Consumers are buying imported food because they believe the quality and safety is better than domestic food.

Take imported milk powder as an example.

Many new mothers use nothing but imported milk powder, and in fact, many think that the more expensive it is, the better it will be for their babies.

Shoppers want to get a taste of overseas lifestyle

Zhao Ping

Local consumers have had a lack of trust in domestic milk powder since the Sanlu milk formula scandal in 2008 in which six infants died and thousands of others were made sick from products contaminated with the chemical melamine.

Many of those who can afford to have turned to buying imported milk powder because they consider it healthier.

But many consumers buy imported food because they are curious. They are buying products not for the health effects, but for the psychological ones.

The international food culture is growing especially in the biggest cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Many people in China had previously built this strong curiosity in foreign life through TV, movies, and the Internet.

But few have yet had opportunities to go abroad themselves.

By enjoying foreign wine, cookies or chocolate, they can feel as if they are living in another country.

They consume more imported food to make the dream of living abroad feel a little more like reality.

Some people do have the experience of living in other countries. They are familiar with foreign culture and the flavors of foreign food.

They like to have a cup of coffee in the morning or cook spaghetti for dinner. They buy pasta sauces, salad dressings, cereals and milk, pickles and honey-flavored teas, or a host of other imported products, which continue to take up increasing amounts of space on retail shelves.

They enjoy imported food to reminisce about their lives abroad.

Consumers are choosing which imported foods to buy according to their reputations rather than advertising.

Good food can affect physical and mental health directly.

As the quality of some food in China continues to be called into question, we will go on seeing imported food arriving in greater amounts and being consumed by an increasing number of people.

The author is deputy director of department of consumption economics of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. 

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