Overseas food operators find new appetite for China

As the coronavirus outbreak ebbs in China, overseas food companies and operators are resuming investment in the nation, eyeing annual double-digit growth in the food and beverage market in the coming years.
One such company is Turkey-based TAB Food Investments (TFI). It plans to expand fast food chain restaurant Burger King, which TFI operates as an exclusive franchisee, and introduce a new brand, the chicken restaurant Popeyes, in mid-May.
TFI has ambitious plans for both brands. Popeyes is looking to open 1,500 stores in the Chinese mainland in the next 10 years, while around 1,000 new Burger King stores will be launched in China, CEO and vice chairman of TFI Korhan Kurdoğlu told the Global Times on Wednesday.
TFI is adjusting its plans in China to reflect the impact of the coronavirus, but in general, the goal is to grow market share, he said.
Other overseas food companies are also moving to invest more in China as the dining sector rebounds. On Tuesday, Canada-based coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons said on its social media account that it received an investment from Tencent, the Chinese social networking and gaming giant, without disclosing the amount.
Tim Hortons also laid out an ambitious plan, saying that it will expand its outlets from the current 50 to 1,500 on Chinese market.
Some Russian food companies are also tapping the market as the Chinese government eases restrictions on meat imports. Miratorg, the largest producer of pork and beef in Russia, delivered 200 tons of Russian beef to China, the first time that a Russian company has exported beef to China in about seven years. All these companies believe that the potential for China’s food and beverage market is huge.
Kurdoğlu expects 15 percent annual growth in China’s food and beverage market in the next few years, which offers good opportunities for food industry players.
Zhu Danpeng, a food industry analyst, said that “there will be no problems” with the growth of China’s food market, given the country’s large and still rising population, but there will be some changes to Chinese people’s dining habits after the coronavirus outbreak, as they might care more about food safety instead of focusing on taste.
“China will undertake the responsibility of a great power, and I believe the government will increase policy support for overseas investment,” Zhu said.
Kurdoğlu said that the company has always been “comfortable” developing business in China, and has brought China’s business achievements like digital payments back to Turkey.

The first Popeyes, a chicken restaurant, opened on May 15 in Shanghai, attracts many enthusiastic consumers. Photo by Wang Gang / People’s Daily Online

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