A bat­tle to change per­cep­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - BY XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai

xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

United States-head­quar­tered com­pany Sealed Air is of­ten re­ferred to as the in­ven­tors of the Bub­ble Wrap, the fa­mous pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial that ev­ery­one finds ir­re­sistible to pop. Here in China, the cur­rent chal­lenge for the com­pany’s Food Care di­vi­sion lies in a sim­i­lar ac­tiv­ity — pop­ping the thought bub­bles of mis­per­cep­tion by lo­cal con­sumers.

While many Chi­nese con­sumers have be­come in­creas­ingly skep­ti­cal about the qual­ity of food prod­ucts, many still per­ceive that un­pack­aged meat in wet mar­kets are the fresher al­ter­na­tive com­pared to those in hy­gienic air-tight bags. Karl Deily, pres­i­dent of Sealed Air’s food care di­vi­sion, said that re­mold­ing the way con­sumers in China think about pack­aged meat will be key to im­prov­ing the com­pany’s growth in this high po­ten­tial mar­ket. Sealed Air looks to be one of the first com­pa­nies to at­tempt to do so, and while many for­eign en­ter­prises in China are be­gin­ning to ques­tion the ad­van­tages of be­ing “an early bird” or “a first mover”, Deily is com­mit­ted to the cause and op­ti­mistic of the sit­u­a­tion.

“From my per­spec­tive, it’s get­ting eas­ier to do busi­ness in China now com­pared to 25 years ago. To­day, peo­ple here are get­ting more re­cep­tive to new ideas and the world is be­com­ing a smaller place ev­ery day,” said Deily.

Be­sides the fact that Sealed Air’s in­no­va­tive pack­ag­ing so­lu­tions stand to ben­e­fit from this, the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to adopt this strat­egy also stems from re­search find­ings from sev­eral projects in China. The first is the 2013 ‘China Pork’ project ini­ti­ated by Sealed Air with the aim of rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the na­tion’s pork sup­ply. The sec­ond is a part­ner­ship with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the China Chain Store & Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion (CCFA) to drive a food se­cu­rity ini­tia­tive around poul­try. The fo­cus of this project is on global best prac­tices for san­i­ta­tion, pack­ag­ing, and stor­age and re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion of fresh poul­try prod­ucts. At the in­vi­ta­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Poul­try Coun­cil, Sealed Air re­cently pre­sented find­ings from this project at the In­ter­na­tional Poul­try Coun­cil Con­fer­ence in Xi’an, Shaanxi prov­ince.

Over­all, th­ese projects showed tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­pa­nies such as Sealed Air to help cus­tomers re­duce wastage, en­hance food safety, mod­ern­ize the food chain and im­prove the dis­tri­bu­tion process.

“When an econ­omy or cus­tomers are fo­cus­ing on food safety, that’s right in our area of ex­per­tise. Food safety, shelf life and min­i­miz­ing food waste are fun­da­men­tal to our busi­ness model,” said Deily.

Sealed Air’s food care di­vi­sion may have con­trib­uted up­wards of 51 per­cent to the com­pany’s over­all global rev­enue last year, but it is es­ti­mated that the com­pany’s an­nual growth rate for China this year would stag­nate as a sin­gle digit fig­ure. This is largely due to the slow­down of China’s macro econ­omy, a plunge in fine din­ing ex­pen­di­ture be­cause of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s strict ban on ex­trav­a­gant spend­ing, and the fluc­tu­a­tion of ex­ports.

How­ever, Deily is still upbeat about the out­look, point­ing out that from a global per­spec­tive, a 6 or 7 per­cent growth rate is still ac­cept­able con­sid­er­ing how many other coun­tries are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing neg­a­tive growth.

“You can still drive every­where in China and see lots of cranes. New build­ings are still go­ing up every­where, new re­tail chains that are China-owned still pro­vide many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Sealed Air be­lieves there are sev­eral ar­eas in the world that are strate­gi­cally im­por­tant for our growth, and China is cer­tainly one of the places,” said Deily.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Karl Deily, pres­i­dent of Sealed Air's food care di­vi­sion, is op­ti­mistic about the chal­lenge to change the mind­sets of lo­cals who don't be­lieve in buy­ing pack­aged meat.

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