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Consumers turn toward imported food

By Wang Hongyi  (China Daily)

13:25, August 22, 2012

Imported foods on display in a supermarket in Qingdao, Shandong province. A survey has found that more Chinese consumers have turned to imported food and brands because of rising concern over domestic food safety in recent years. (Photo / China Daily)

Successive safety scandles tarnish reputation of domestic products

More Chinese consumers have turned to imported food and brands due to rising concerns over food safety in recent years, according a survey by international research company Ipsos.

According to the survey, based on interviews with 2,100 respondents, 61 percent of Chinese consumers said their confidence in domestic foods has declined in the past year, and 28 percent said they will buy more imported foods or brands to replace domestic products.

Dairy products are the most purchased imported foods, at 77 percent, followed by grains and oil, at 57 percent, and children's food, at 56 percent.

The report said consumers' preferred imported foods or brands because of stricter safety controls during packaging and processing, the absence of unhealthy additives and rigorous product testing.

In 2011, the total output of China's food industry amounted to 7.8 trillion yuan ($1.2 trillion), up from 47.3 billion yuan in 1978, according to the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology.

"The challenges have also increased amid the food industry's robust growth. 'Lean meat powder', melamine-tainted milk, gutter oil and chemical dyed steamed buns ... all of these have drawn much attention from Chinese consumers," said Jennifer Tsai, managing director of innovation and forecasting of Ipsos Marketing in China.

Successive food safety crises have become a significant factor in influencing consumer habits and behavior, with 76 percent of respondents saying that this would make them seek an alternative product.

Meanwhile, the report said consumers tend to choose major, international and imported brands.

Gloria Gao, a 29-year-old office worker, said she stopped buying domestic milk brands two years ago.

"Due to safety concerns, I would prefer to buy imported milk, although it's much more expensive than domestic milk," said Gao, who recently purchased a box of German milk online.

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