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Tempting treats on show in Shanghai

OVERSEAS food and beverage companies are looking to the Chinese market to help offset declining demand in Western countries.

Despite the financial crisis, SIAL China 2009, one of Asia's biggest food and beverage exhibitions, attracted 1,057 exhibitors from 50 countries and regions. The three-day event opened at the Shanghai New International Expo Center yesterday.

French wine maker LGI was there to promote wine made in the Languedoc region of southern France.

Jerome Sabate, its Asia manager, said exports to China doubled to 400,000 bottles last year in contrast to a decline in business in Britain and the United States.

"There is no other country having that much growth like China," he said.

Sales of imported food and beverages have been increasing over the past few years and the trend doesn't seem to be affected by the economic downturn thanks to an increasing number of affluent people and a decline in tariffs.

High-end products such as wine and cheese are particularly popular as people used to think the more expensive the better.

But the economic situation has also created demand for less expensive products, providing opportunities for new players in the market.

The Taipei World Trade Center organized around 40 food manufacturers to attend SIAL China for the first time, bringing snacks and processed foods.

Peter Huang, executive vice president of TWTC, said Taiwan products had price advantages compared to those from the West and were more suited to the tastes of Chinese mainland consumers.

"Our focus is to appeal to more consumers with our healthy concept and innovative products," Huang said.

Chinese mainland is Taiwan's third-biggest market after Japan and Hong Kong.

More than 29,000 visitors from all over the world are expected to attend the event.


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