Unique Forces: Fast Food in China

Jackie Greenizan brings international flair and deep local knowledge to her role as Director Marketing and Innovation for McCains, China. In the fast service restaurant business, this means she has a keen focus on the unique forces and tastes of Chinese consumers.

Food safety is a major issue for Chinese consumers, with consumer-facing companies often bearing the brunt of consumer anger when things go wrong. What role can supplier companies play in ensuring food safety standards are upheld? 

Food safety is one of the most critical issues for food companies doing business in China. Not only do companies face the brunt of consumer anger when things go wrong, but depending on how they are set up in China or doing business in China they could face serious legal issues as well. Supplier companies must be extremely proactive about their food safety standards. There can be no compromise. Full traceable food safety plans must be in place and executed at all levels of the organization. Additionally supplier companies must keep current on the regulatory changes and requirements for doing business in China. Selecting a trustworthy regulatory agency who can help companies navigate the Chinese system is a worthwhile investment.

Chinese consumer tastes move quickly and are distinct from other markets. What do you see as some of the up and coming consumer trends that will impact food companies in the coming year?Chinese consumers are the fastest moving and most adaptive consumers in the market. Consumers are influenced by trends from the west but also have their own unique forces and influences that make their needs unique to China. Health and healthy options (that are both healthy and indugent) are possibly big items in the future. Additionally, convenience and looking for ways to access new flavours and experiences.

What do you see as the key advantages when marketing international products or brands in a developing market?
One of the key advantages is that in some senses you get to start new. If your brand or product is new to China – or the emerging market – be prepared to develop applications and usages that may not be relevant in your home country but may have full application in your target new market.

How do you view innovation in the food industry? Is it about responding to trends or breaking new ground?

It is both – leveraging international trends, responding to new trends and breaking new ground. Some of the big Food Service players are good examples of this. Starbucks, for example, has done a great job of leveraging their international brand status, customizing products for China and creating a new occasion and need. All three elements are key contributors to their success.

Players who are entering this market for the first time need to spend time understanding consumers and their motivations and then trying to see how their product meets these stated needs.

You sit on the Board of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. What role do you see Board members playing for not-for-profit enterprises?

The members of the Board provide council to the Chamber. The key role of the Chamber is to help Canadian business and Educational institutions do business in China. I see my core contribution as being able to provide council regarding trend, and consumers in China and advising the Chamber on how they can tailor their strategies to meet these needs.

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