With convenience becoming an increasingly popular concept in China, demand is growing for processed meat products in the main cities. The faster pace of life, longer working hours and the influence of Western lifestyles have further fuelled demand for these products.
Some well-known brands available in the shops include Shuang Hui, Zheng Rong and Chun Dun ? all of which claim national distribution. Leading regional brands include Diho and Nancy's.
On the production side, several meat processing plants have been completed recently. They include Longyu Food Development Company of Fuqing which will be producing frozen meat, ham and sausage and Maruba Corporation's seafood and sausage-processing factory in Zhejiang province. The Hong Kong-based New China Hong Kong Group, together with a Danish company and Sichuan provincial government, are planning to invest US$20m to build a meat processing plant. It aims to produce 100,000 tonnes of ham annually.
Limited shelf life
Processed meats can be divided into two broad types, chilled and non-chilled products. In China, the range of processed meats is very narrow compared with the West, especially for chilled processed meat. The awareness of products such as salami, bacon and smoked meats is low, and they are acquired tastes which few in China have yet to appreciate. Ham, sausage and luncheon meat are the most commonly found processed meats in supermarkets and large grocery stores.
Distribution remains a big problem. Because of the nature of the product, chilled processed meats are produced and consumed close to local manufacture. For non-chilled products which have a longer shelf life, the location of manufacture is not so important. National distribution tends to be achieved by selling products such as ham sausage which can be stored safely at relatively high temperatures.
Chilled products are distributed mostly in large supermarket chains with better refrigeration facilities, while non-chilled products can be found both in the traditional wet market and large grocery stores. There is no clear seasonal trend for processed meats but winter tends to be the busiest season because of the Chinese New Year and other festivals. Small packs have proved particularly popular, selling at relatively low prices which allow consumers to try new brands.
Although there are still many state-owned and collectively-owned enterprises, Sino-foreign joint ventures are becoming more prevalent in the retail sector. During the Ninth Five-year Plan (1 Q96-200) retail modernisation is one of the priorities for the Chinese government. In particular, it is committed to develop local chain stores into regional chains. Foreign investment in the wholesale and retail business is expected to increase, while overseas participation should alter the structure of the distribution system.
The government is actively encouraging the development of the meat industry. The Ministry of Internal Trade and the International Meat Secretariat are sponsoring the 11th World Meat Congress to be held in Beijing this September. The event is expected to develop cooperation between the domestic industry and foreign companies.