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Starbucks takes Dragon Boat ride to zongzi

[ 2009-05-26 14:04]     字号 [] [] []  
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When Western companies first came to China, they thought they would get rich if they could sell just one of their supposedly exotic items or dishes to every Chinese. They may not have been wrong, but that business model has changed.

Now, those companies are trying to sell even the most Chinese of products to Chinese to make money.

Popular American coffee chain Starbucks are even selling zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed). The delicacy is served during the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on May 28 this year.

Starbucks has been selling dumplings, simply called "sweets", since mid-April. The trial began in the Yangtze River Delta area, including Shanghai, and Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, where Starbucks has the largest number of its outlets in China.

Caren Li, Starbucks (China) public relations manager, said yesterday that the dumplings have met "expectations" and have been welcomed especially by those looking for innovative products. But the Starbucks variety is expensive: each 45-gram dumpling costs about 12 yuan, when the going price for 150-gram zongzi in supermarkets is 3.5-4 yuan.

Still, the coffee-shop chain expects to sell 20,000 to 30,000 boxes of dumplings at a cost of 98 yuan each, earning revenue of 1.96 to 2.94 million yuan.

This is not the first time Starbucks has tried its hand at selling Chinese products. In September last year, it tried selling Cantonese-style pancakes for 8 to 15 yuan each in Guangdong province.

In January, it began serving coffee grown "South of the Clouds"; that is, in Yunnan province. And during this year's Spring Festival, it served two types of coffee blended with tea, which still is the favorite beverage of Chinese.

Starbucks has tried to roll out products tailored to local tastes ever since it entered the Chinese market, Li said.

But Starbucks is not the only food chain to improvise its products to draw consumers.

The recession has prompted another US fast food restaurant chain, KFC, to sell youtiao—fried twisted dough, a Chinese favorite for breakfast. Earlier, KFC tried selling "Beijing-flavored" chicken rolls and pumpkin congee.

McDonald's is focusing this year on offering "nutritious and delicious" Chinese breakfast, said Liu Xiaolin, Beijing McDonald's corporate communications manager.

These companies have plans to expand their business in China, too. Starbucks opened its first outlet on the Chinese mainland in 1999. In just 10 years, it has raised the number to more than 350 in 26 cities. Last year, it opened 40 outlets despite the economic crisis. KFC and McDonald's, too, have announced ambitious expansion plans in China.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Starbucks takes Dragon Boat ride to zongzi

About the broadcaster:

Starbucks takes Dragon Boat ride to zongzi

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.