Safety vital for food brands in China

16 October 2012

BEIJING: Food safety issues remain a concern for a majority of consumers in China, an area where foreign brands hold a distinct advantage when it comes to shopper perceptions, new figures show.

According to Ipsos, the research firm, some 64% of Chinese customers are worried about this matter, a total peaking at 68% for 31–40 year olds.

Ratings on this metric came in at 66% for 41–50 year olds, and hit 64% among the 18–30 year olds questioned during the analysis.

Similarly, affluent shoppers displayed greater interest in this subject, as 67% of people earning at least RMB12,000 a month agreed it was important, falling to 63% for lower-income groups.

Despite this, 70% of those polled would consider changing their buying habits if a brand they bought experienced such a crisis, and 62% expected to definitely switch to a rival product.

Over 60% of respondents would also choose foreign brands more often, reflecting the higher level of trust these lines enjoy when measured against their domestic competitors.

The scandals leaving a mark on the popular mindset included the discovery of clenbuterol in meat on 94%, when melamine was found in baby milk on 92%, as well as the sale of "tainted" steam buns on 80%.

Jennifer Tsai, managing director of innovation and forecasting, Ipsos Marketing in Greater China, told the China Daily: "Food safety incidents that have occurred in China attracted a lot of attention but the general public still has a very limited knowledge base on the issue."

In identifying the points of anxiety, a 91% share of the panel expressed an interest in being able to find out about the production and processing of food, as did 88% for the procurement of raw materials.

Distribution and storage logged 73% here. Another 47% were concerned with the sales process, and the presentation of goods registered 41%. The provision of product information and packaging quality were key topics in the latter two categories.

"Food companies have a broad range of measures that can be taken to inform customers, such as clearer logos, product composition and information regarding possible allergies," said Tsai.

"If possible, such companies could allow visits to be made by members of the public to their plants and post videos online for the public to watch. At present, the transparency issue for domestic companies is still poor."

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff