How many times have you been asked, “where can I find the best Chinese-made products”? Very rarely or zero. How many times have you been asked, “where can I find the best products, non Chinese-made please”? Plenty of the time. unless your friend is looking for touristy souvenirs, has a fetish on China, you would almost find no products labeling “made in China” as the selling point (except for those “Chinese-made departments stories dedicated to sell products made in China). Supermarkets in Hong Kong now tend to label products that are made out of China as having a non-Chinese manufacturing root would make a product more marketability.
Although this seem sad that people prefer foreign products than Chinese-made ones, the public has legitimate reasons to hate the “made in China” tags.
Losing Trust in Made-in-China Food
Ever since the poisoned milk scandals broke out in China in 2008 where one of the most renowned milk powders brands in China, SanLu Group, was found to use Melamine in manufacturing their products. Public around the world started to lose confidence in food products made in China as many other food products were also found to contain harmful ingredients to human’s health. News about unhygienic food including “sewer cooking oils”, “fake eggs” and “poisoned vegetables” followed the milk powder scandals.
To many Hong Kong citizens, being asked by Mainland colleagues or friends about “where I can find milk powders in Hong Kong” has already being a common practice. Supermarkets, personal care stores and pharmacies are storing tons of milk powder products due to the humongous demand from Mainland tourists after the food scandal.
Apple Daily even reported that an Australian baby food products brand, Bellamy’s Organic, has made a tagline on their new product package that, “This product does not contain any ingredients from China” (see full news in Chinese here).
Lost Trust Spread from Food to Other Products
If Chinese-made food are not safe, you might think that Chinese-made cars with western-managed manufacturing system might not better. But this is not true. CCTV (China People’s Television Network, China’s state television broadcaster) revealed news about asphalt being found in six damping plate samples of cars from various world’s premium carmakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
Food is unsafe, now even cars are unsafe. The notion of “made in China” equals “bad quality” has been further amplified. Therefore, whenever Mainland Chinese go to Hong Kong, buying foreign-made products is a must and products made in Europe, North America and Australia seem to be the most appealing to Chinese.
“Imported from (not China)” is the New Marketing Proposition
In Hong Kong’s local supermarkets, you may see colorful flags from different western countries appear in the tags labeling “imported from (insert a western country)” as an unique selling point. You will never find a label of “imported from China”. To supermarkets, western-imported products (especially food) is a big selling points for them as consumers find more trust and feel more safe to buy products imported from anywhere other than China. Of course, the supermarket marketers wouldn’t be stupid enough to put tags of “imported from Thailand” (maybe apart from rice) or “imported from Vietnam”. Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese find western countries’ products more safe.
Not only people around the world lost confidence in Chinese-made products, the Chinese themselves are feeling the same way. You might not feel surprised by how thousands of Chinese at the Hong Kong borders carrying as many cans of milk powders as they can to bring back to Mainland.
The primary reason for the unsafe food and other products is the reduced costs of using less-quality materials and ingredients. If Chinese brands (and western brands manufacturing in China) don’t stop to care about the quality and the enduring customer satisfaction (including safety), many future products made in China will have to find a way to hide the “made in China” fact, perhaps they have to add more tags like “designed in Germany” or “original from Australia” to swift consumers’ eyeballs from any phrases containing “China”.