The country’s middle classes are consuming more western foods than ever – although Tesco still stocks chicken feet
There is no breakfast cereal aisle in Chinese supermarkets; shoppers who want Bran Flakes must visit expensive imported goods shops in big cities. Otherwise, they start the day with something like salty congee (rice porridge) served with a cup of soymilk or a deep-fried dough stick. But the sale of Weetabix to the Shanghai-based Bright Foods highlights the shifting tastes of the Chinese middle classes, who are consuming more western foods than ever – especially beef, pork and dairy foods.
In 2007, Premier Wen Jiabao said he dreamed of the day when every child in the country could drink a pint of milk a day. In 2010, the Chinese retail dairy market totalled £23bn, and it is expected to grow by 80% by 2016. China can’t produce enough milk to keep up with demand, and imports of dairy products have more than doubled in the past five years, even though milk is not traditionally part of Chinese diets.
Though chocolate barely existed in China 20 years ago, in 2011 the total market was worth £4.7bn, and is rising by 20% each year.
Shopping habits are shifting, too. Tesco has 124 stores in China and is expanding; Carrefour and Wal-Mart are following suit. Yet all these companies have had to adjust to the Chinese market. The Tescos have no cheese counters or fresh hummus; the meat counters sell chicken feet to be chewed whole, complete with claws.