BEIJING: Major global companies are increasingly heading to China in a bid to boost sales among the nation's burgeoning middle class, with growth remaining sluggish in Europe and North America.
Market research company Millward Brown identified the top 20 foreign brands in China for a BBC report, and the UK broadcaster has analysed why they have been success stories.
Millward Brown found that 13 of the top 20 brands are from the US, two each from Germany and France, one from Italy, one was the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever, while the South Korean electronics firm Samsung was the only Asian brand to make the list.
KFC, the US food group, topped the list, followed by Procter & Gamble's Pampers babywear brand and Colgate Palmolive's Colgate toothpaste, while Apple was the leading technology brand at No6.
Unilever's Omo laundry product and French retailer Carrefour were the only non-US entrants in the top ten, at eight and 10 respectively.
Millward Brown's study found that opportunities for foreign companies are rising rapidly in China, as consumers move away from purchasing by price and trust in Chinese brands rapidly falls away.
For McDonalds, the US drinks giant, the key to Chinese success is to “work with changing social attitudes and continuous aspirational trade-ups,” while Unilever carried out extensive consumer research before entering the market with Omo.
The opportunities for successful companies are immense, with KFC planning to add another 700 outlets to its estate of 4,400 restaurants in 850 cities this year, while McDonald's is opening 10 new restaurants a week and Coca-Cola is to invest $4bn to expand, the BBC reported.
Outside the food and drink market Apple is to double its outlets in China, while Volkswagen, the German carmaker has seven new production plants in preparation to cater for its biggest market, with China representing a third of all its sales.
Understanding micro-markets is also important, and L'Oreal and Samsung told the BBC that they tailor their approach to different regions of China.
All the companies said that the key to their success is to recruit local talent and engage in joint ventures with local parties to better understand the consumer.
Data sourced from BBC News; additional content by Warc staff