Asia Pacific

ASIA PACIFIC

As China's food delivery sector continues to grow, so too do concerns over the environment as waste levels continue to mount. Emily Lewis speaks to FCSI members about the scale of the issue

Disposable chopsticks, spoons and plates: these are the items that have propelled the Green Volunteer League of Chongquing, an environmental NGO, to file a lawsuit against China’s three biggest food delivery operators, Baidu, Meituan and Ele.me.

The lawsuit comes after several attempts by the Chinese government in previous years to introduce environmentally friendly initiatives to the country. Back in 2008, China banned the production and use of plastic bags of less than a 0.25mm thickness.

However, Yue Caixuan of the China Zero Waste Alliance recognises that the majority of the population have not taken well to the initiative, stating, “the policy led to a misinterpretation among the public that the government had come up with another way of collecting money”.

As online shopping and food delivery grows in popularity throughout the country, and on the continent as a whole, the effects of mounting waste from these services is sparking the push for more effective policies from the government towards white pollution.

Food delivery dynamo

The rise of food delivery has correlated with the modernisation of China’s finance and manufacturing industries. As business centres and complexes continue to pop-up across the country, more and more city-based workers are seeking an easy bite-to-eat at lunchtimes.

Robert Mang FCSI of Dishes Company Ltd in Hong Kong believes that development is key to understanding the success of food delivery operators, saying, “the popularity is due to the developing mode of those new city centres.”

“There are insufficient restaurants to feed hundreds or even thousands of white collars during lunch time. Before, staff would bring their own lunch box in reusable containers. Now, because their income has increased a lot, they are going out for lunch or can order it in,” explains Mang.

Associate member FCSI Michael Lau of Singapore-based Pro-Kit & Project Management has witnessed the development of the food delivery industry over the past decade.

“I tried the delivery service 10 years ago, in an old village in Guangzhou,” says Lau. “It was convenient and considered an extra service to their customers. It was also a business strategy to maintain customers.”

“Now, due to e-commerce in recent years integrating with delivery, such a service is not only convenient, but also to provide more varieties of food selection from the ease of your mobile device,” he explains.

The integration of e-commerce and food delivery is most clearly seen in online giant Alibaba’s ownership of Ele.me. This past month, it has emerged that Ele.me is soon to acquire rival delivery service Baidu, strengthening the e-commerce empire.

Packaging problems

Rising deliveries mean rising waste. Estimations suggest that 19.5 million pairs of chopsticks are dispatched everyday with orders made through Meituan alone, with daily orders for the delivery industry as a whole rising to nearly 20mil per day.

“As a whole, it is difficult to make the food delivery industry environmentally friendly,” Lau goes onto explain. Due to the need for disposable packaging to transport food, the food delivery service inherently produces a large amount of white pollution.

Due to the function of a food-delivery operator as a service standing between the food service operator and the customer, operators such as Ele.me and Baidu usually use the packaging and utensils that the restaurants provide.

“It is not easy to convince a restaurant owner to change the way they pack and brand their food,” says Lau.

Mang cites the strategies of other countries experiencing the same rising trends in food delivery, “In South Korea, the food delivery service is also very popular, but they do it like room service. They deliver food items in containers on trays before collecting them back after the customer finishes the meal.”

Making an effort

While the previous efforts of the Chinese government to cut waste may have gone largely unrealised, Mang recognises that responsibility does not rest solely on state officials for cutting down pollution.

“The Chinese government is very concerned about the environment so I think the food delivery industry will also come out with new policies to cooperate,” says Mang.

He continues, “However, it really depends on the consumer’s mind set. Protecting the environment is not only the responsibility of the government or the industry, but it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Ultimately, for both Mang and Lau, it seems that the overriding obstacle to lessening waste levels lies in the attitudes of the wider population.

“Much more effort needs to be put into educating the consumers about being environmentally friendly. Action taken should target the younger generation,” says Lau.

Mang and Lau also agree on the difficult logistics involved in educating such a large nation, with Mang saying, “China is still a developing country. I think this is fair enough as the population is so big. It is not an easy task!”

“There could be a possible long-term solution,” suggests Lau. “Personally, I think the solution to white pollution can be more creative. In Singapore, we have a company that designs and produces disposable packaging products that can be recycled.”

In light of the Green Volunteer League’s lawsuit, Meituan has pledged to allow customers to choose non-plastic packaging, and whether or not they have disposable chopsticks and spoons supplied with their orders. Equally, Ele.me has stated that it would allow its partner restaurants the option of switching to environmentally friendly packaging provided by the company themselves.

Emily Lewis

How a tiny pastry became a symbol of both big business and tradition in the run up to China’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Emily Lewis reports

The mooncake: a small round pastry, traditionally filled with red-mung bean paste and duck egg, inlaid with intricate designs and coated in a glossy yolk sheen. These little cakes are the star of one of China’s biggest celebrations, the Mid-Autumn Festival, which commences on 4 October and is second only to Chinese New Year.

“Today, the festival is an occasion for outdoor reunions among family, friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity,” explains Clara Ming Pi FCSI.

Despite the traditional role the pastries play, New York food blogger Kian Lam Kho has recognised the gradual commercialisation of mooncakes. Increasingly, hotels and big brands are utilising the cakes as marketing tools.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” explains Kho. “Because of the economic and commercial development happening in China and Asia, people are capitalising on this holiday.”

Commercial cakes

The past few years have seen mooncakes hit the big time; Häagen-Dazs and Starbucks are just a few global names that have taken advantage of the immense popularity the traditional dish can generate.

Pi emphasises the role that mooncakes play in business and social circles. “Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to present mooncakes to their clients or relatives, helping to fuel the demand for high-end mooncakes.”

Kho pinpoints the versatility of the mooncake is the key to its success, with its ability to come in both savoury and sweet flavours. As a result of this flexibility, the mooncake has developed into a gourmet experience for many companies.

“High-end mooncakes are hot sellers are business gifts. A bestseller since 2012, Island Shangri-La’s signature Seven-Star Mooncake in Hong Kong returns again this year,” explains Pi. “This comes with a hefty price tag of HK$928 (that’s equivalent of US$118.60)!”

A healthy alternative

While commercialisation of the cake has been gradually increasing over the past few decades, the healthy trend is transforming the traditional dish at a rapid pace.

Shima Shimizu, chef at the Hong Kong raw food delivery service Foodcraft, is in the midst of her third year making healthy mooncakes. With traditional mooncake options often racking up to around the 1,000 calorie mark, Shimizu recognised the need for a healthy choice.

Using only six raw ingredients, including coconut and pineapple, Shimizu believes that these mooncakes are a result of an expat-driven movement to have healthier options available.

The push for a more nutritious mooncake reflects a larger movement in Hong Kong, according to Shimizu, who became a raw chef back in 2009. Since starting, Shimizu has noticed the shift towards eating healthier foods, and the need for food companies to switch to specific diets.

Clara Ming Pi also recognises the gap in the market for widespread healthy options, as well as a need to reduce waste reduced by the tradition of gift-giving during the festival. “As many as two million mooncakes are thrown away each year in Hong Kong alone, not to mention the often voluminous packaging. Hopefully less packaging and healthier formulations of mooncakes with emerge on the market soon.”

The Mid-Autumn Festival will begin from 4 October this year.

Emily Lewis

 

Pictures:

Main: A variety of mooncakes packaged in lantern shaped boxes from Purple Cane Tea Restaurant (Kian Lam Kho)

Inset: Häagen-Dazs ice cream mooncakes in a refrigerated display case in Shanghai, China (Kian Lam Kho)

As wine consumption steadily rises in China, experts predict the country is set to become the world’s second biggest wine market by 2020, reports Emily Lewis

Following the death of chairman Mao in 1978, the past four decades have seen a previously isolated China evolve and expand into the world’s second largest economy. In the early years following Mao’s passing, his successor, Deng Xiaoping, oversaw the participation of China in international trade in a major way, with the economy having grown a near 10% since the late seventies.

This growth does not exclude the alcohol market – China’s adoption of wine drinking over the years has lead industry experts Vinexpo to predict a 7% growth in the market annually over the next four years, alongside the rapid expansion of the Chinese middle class.

“China has only opened for development for some thirty years,” says Robert Mang FCSI of Dishes Company Ltd in Hong Kong. “Chinese people were very poor at that point. In the beginning, only rich people drank wine.”

With predictions that, by 2020, the wine market in China would reach a value of US$21bn, the days of esoteric wine consumption are officially over.

Discovering the new world

For years in China, ‘old world’ wines from Europe have been synonymous with decadency due to price and availability. However, the emergence of a significant portion of the Chinese population that can now afford a consumer lifestyle has led to a rise in popular wine consumption.

“Wine sales in China have grown exponentially,” says Toni Clarke FCSI of RT Hospitality Solutions based in New Zealand, remarking that this growth has occurred “hand-in-hand with the rise of global consumer culture, Millennials, increased desire for premium liquor, rising disposable income, increased exposure to western lifestyles and as indications of a higher status.”

While Clarke notes that the initial emergence of wine drinking in China was concentrated in first tier cities such as Beijing, Robert Mang recognises that “products from the old world are too expensive for the middle class,” with Australian and New Zealand wines “more welcome by this class of consumer.”

According to Clarke, these ‘new world’ wines hold a competitive edge in their ability to undercut the prices of their European counterparts.

“The trend is now value for money. Australia has positioned itself very well in this market, due in part to the zero tariffs on Australian wines,” say Clarke.

East meets west

Travel and technology have encouraged the diffusion and exploration of other cultures, and this especially rings true for the food and drink industry.

Associate FCSI member Michael Lau of Singapore-based Pro-Kit & Project Management believes that, as the Chinese middle class plan their annual family holidays, what they are seeking is the “improvement of their lifestyle and ‘catching-up’ with the world’s trends.”

Brandon Kua FCSI of Malaysian-based Citrus Consult equally accredits the popularity of wine to travel and western influences, saying “young people are influenced by western culture, and they will definitely bring back these culture traits to their homeland, which we have seen over the past decade in the rise of wine cafes and bars in China, and also parts of South East Asia.”

Lau pinpoints expatriate presence as a major factor in increasing Chinese and overall Asian interest in wine. “Social networks with expatriates promote wine sales, as well as the demand for more wine bars, in different provinces with different designs,” Lau explains.

“The habit of wine drinking is certainly different in Hong Kong,” says Mang, who is based in the expat-dense city. “Wine drinkers in Hong Kong are more like Westerners. It’s more for enjoyment.”

Mang’s recognition of the differences between eastern and western drinking cultures is important; drinking habits in each respective hemisphere have long dictated the trajectory of their liquor markets.

Baijiu, a traditional Chinese liquor made from grains or rice, has long reined king of the alcohol industry as the most widely consumed spirit in the world.

“As to why China took some time to catch up in wine consumption; part of it is due to the acceptance of western drinking culture,” says Lau. “Unlike the Western way of drinking, the momentum with which the Chinese drink is much faster.”

The Chinese custom of ganbei, which in literal terms means “drying the cup”, stipulates that, following a toast, participants must finish their entire drink. This has had some repercussions for how wine in consumed in China.

Mang agrees, stating that Chinese drinking is “always bottoms up! [Because of this], the consumption volume is much higher. Thus, the high sales volume is not only due to the increase in wine lovers, but also the volume they consume.”

Death of gift giving

Increasing wine sales has coincided with a decrease in the popularity of baijiu, following Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign that began back in 2012.

Included in the campaign’s list of targets is the practice of graft, in which Chinese officials use baijiu and mooncakes (a pastry usually filled with red mung bean paste and coated in duck egg) for bribery purposes.

In accounting for the popularity of wine in China, an industry expert who would prefer to remain anonymous has stated that, “it is connected to the steadily growing middle class and the move away [from spirits], partly forced by the anti-corruption drive associated with the old days of ‘white spirit excess drinking’ that maintained many Chinese brands. With a cut-back on these, wine has been a much appreciated alternative.”

What next?

“The Chinese have been buying and investing in offshore wineries in Europe and the USA, and global wine brands have been entering into joint-ventures with Chinese wineries,” says Clarke.

Clarke sites examples in recent years such as Australian wine producer Penfolds partnering with e-commerce company JD.com to tap into online sales, and Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek changing its packaging to gold labels in a bid to enter a higher price bracket within China.

Although tradition has long played a large part in wine consumption, with red wine remaining more popular due to the colour’s associations with luck and wealth, Clarke recognises that “consumption of white wine and sparkling wine are increasing rapidly – 50% of consumers are younger women who see wine drinking as sophisticated and successful.”

Mang himself notes the role of the hospitality industry in the push for wine, with the increasing presence of international hotels working as a major driver in the alcohol industry.

As this demand for wine rises, so too will the demand for foodservice and hospitality outlets that can provide it. “It is important to at least have a few wine options on a menu, not just for a wine bar or hotel lounge, but for some casual dining restaurants or cafes, to increase their revenue. They are aware that this is a trend which cannot be ignored,” says Lau.

Emily Lewis

Demand for meat is rising across the Asia Pacific region and standards are struggling to keep pace. A new report examines the consequences, reports Thomas Lawrence

Agricultural methods in Asia have long been gripped by controversy. China’s tainted baby-milk formula scandal in 2008 was a particularly dramatic example from recent years. The research by the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative highlights the scale of this ongoing problem.

The report, Factory Farming in Asia: Assessing Investment Risks, is the latest in a series from FAIRR. It argues that growing demand for meat, while a profitable short-term trend for suppliers, could have unforeseen repercussions for food standards, workers and the environment over time.

These repercussions are beginning to make themselves felt on a global level. In 2016, China’s imported 35% of Brazil’s total soybean production to satisfy surging demand for animal feed. Deforestation and pollution show no signs of slowing down.

It’s a tricky landscape with lots of overlapping issues and demands. Foodservice consultants, in a pivotal role between between suppliers and operators, have an essential role to play.

Key findings

The overarching theme of the research is that Asian meat demand is predicted to grow 19% from 2013 to 2025, worth 144 million tonnes. In the farming industry’s quest to keep up, standards are likely to be the first casualty.

Five key risks have been identified over the coming years. Food safety and nutrition is at the forefront, followed by epidemic risk, environmental footprint, animal welfare and labour standards. Risks in each category have become more acute in recent years as pressures on intensive farming have built up.

“Public health and environment are the key issues”, says Clara Pi FCSI, MSC. RD. “We have already seen the negative impact. More consumers are aware and are making demands for changes”. Certainly the issue of food safety stands out as a problem for producers. As Pi notes, increased use of antibiotics on farms is a “major concern – it has led to the emergence of the highly resistant ESBL E. coli on many farms, and is also driving the spread of livestock-associated MRSA”.

However, these difficulties vary throughout the region. As Gil D’Harcour, an FCSI associate based in Indonesia, points out, different areas are developing at different rates. In D’Harcour’s own country of Indonesia, “the issue of better farming prevails over the issue of intensive farming for the time, as the country is trying to educate its population in agricultural standards”.

One discovery that unites the region, however, is the growth of alternative diets. The number of vegetarian products on the market rose by 140% and vegan products by 440% between 2012 and 2016 in South East Asia.

“This trend is here to stay”, says Pi. “There is a rising awareness that organic, plant based diets are healthy for people and our planet”. D’Harcour agrees. “Becoming vegetarian should be a new way of life, more sustainable for the land and healthier for people as we see an alarming rise of diabetic and high cholesterol in the middle class”.

The next steps

Intensified farming and changing diets mean the supply chain faces challenges like never before. Foodservice consultants in the region are on the frontline in helping businesses adapt to the changes highlighted in the report.

Enhancing awareness, through reaching out to eaters and lobbying politicians, is a vital precursor. “More can be done to educate the public about food safety and hygiene”, says Pi. “Pushing government to crack down on non-compliance would help”.

D’Harcour too is convinced of the need for a two-pronged approach. “Governments should place high emphasis on promoting sustainable farming practices”, he says. “We, foodservice consultants, should accompany decision makers in educating the young generation in understanding what the word ‘sustainable’ actually means”.

Pi’s summarising message – “educate, educate, educate,” – is an essential one to remember in the coming years. As Asia’s supply chain evolves, the associated risks and rewards evolve with it. Foodservice consultants with insights on the problems created by intensive farming will be a vital resource for the whole industry as changes gather pace.

Thomas Lawrence

 

The full report by FAIRR can be found at the following link: http://www.fairr.org/resource/factory-farming-in-asia-assessing-investment-risks/

After a four-year legal dispute with long-time joint venture partner Vikram Bakshi, the QSR giant is ending its association with India-based franchisees CPRL, reports Emily Lewis

In 1996, McDonald’s brought the famous golden arches to the Indian market. Now, with 300 outlets open in India, the company has decided to end its relationship with one of its two main franchisees.

Connaught Plaza Restaurants Private Ltd. (CPRL) has operated McDonald’s restaurants located in North and East India for the past 20 years. Meanwhile, Hardcastle Restaurants Private Ltd., owned by entrepreneur Amit Jatia, runs the outlets in South and West India.

Past problems for McDonald’s India

As approximately 90% of McDonald’s outlets are owned and operated by independent holders globally, the fast food chain’s decision to hand over its brand to CPRL’s managing director, Vikram Bakshi, was not an unexpected move.

It was not until recent years that the 50:50 joint venture became an issue for McDonald’s India Private Ltd. (MIPL). 2013 saw McDonald’s announce the removal of Bakshi from the position of CPRL’s managing director. Following this decision, Bakshi filed a petition with the National Company Law Tribunal (previously the Company Law Board). McDonald’s has since retaliated by pursuing arbitration against the ex-managing director in the London Court of International Arbitration.

Last month, the National Company Law Tribunal finally ruled that all steps taken in the pursuance of non-election of Bakshi were unlawful, stating “The status of Mr Vikram Bakshi as managing director of CPRL is restored.”

This decision followed the sudden closure of 80% of McDonald’s outlets in Delhi in June 2016, subsequent to the expiration of mandatory regulatory health licences for the restaurants.

21/08/2017: issues come to a head

The problems of recent years for McDonald’s India Private Ltd. culminated yesterday, as the company announced the termination of its franchise agreement with CPRL for 169 restaurants in the North and East of India.

Stipulated as part of the termination is a 15-day grace period for CPRL, at the end of which no outlet involved in the joint venture is permitted to use any intellectual property of McDonald’s. That includes name, systems, trademark, designs, and additional areas.

While MIPL have stated that it is “committed to finding the right developmental licensee partner for north and east India”, if a new partner is not found within 15 days, the major foodservice chain will face temporary closure in this area of the country, potentially placing thousands of jobs on hold.

In a statement issued by MIPL, it explained, “We have been compelled to take this step because CPRL has materially breached the terms of the respective franchise agreements relating to the affected restaurants and has failed to remedy the breaches, despite being provided with an opportunity to do so in accordance with the agreements.”

Emily Lewis

Following Starbucks’ recent success in China, the Seattle coffee giant announces the acquisition of a further 1,300 outlets, alongside the opening of a Shanghai Reserve Roastery

This summer has been big for the king of the coffee world. After a 9% growth in revenues reported in its Q3 Earnings Call in July 2017, August saw Starbucks’ announce the company’s acquisition of the remaining 50% of its East China join-venture at its Partner Open Forum in Shanghai.

With a comparative growth of 4% globally, and 5% in the Americas and the US, China emerged as the most promising market in the Q3 call, with comparable growth at 7%.

“China represents the most important and exciting opportunity ahead of us,” says executive chairman Howard Schultz, with CEO of Starbucks China Belinda Wong remarking at the forum, “this is the beginning of yet another exciting chapter for Starbucks in China.”

As Chinese markets continue to embrace the Starbucks brand, associating the distinctive logo with cosmopolitan luxury, the company have seized the opportunity, with plans to open 5,000 stores by 2021.

Locked and loaded: Starbucks target China

Striking a deal with long-term joint-venture partners Uni-President Enterprises Corporation (UPEC) and President Chain Store Corporation (PCSC), Starbucks’ recently announced full ownership of 1,300 outlets in the Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. This acquisition has led to a total portfolio of 2,800 storefronts across Mainland China for the international café.

At $1.3bn, the trade was the largest single acquisition in the company’s history, and reflects the growing confidence Starbucks has in its largest international market outside the US.

Kevin Johnson, recently appointed Starbucks’ President and CEO, explains the move, saying “Unifying the Starbucks business under a full company–operated structure in China reinforces our commitment to the market and is a firm demonstration of our confidence in the local leadership team.”

Willy Wonka meets caffeine at Shanghai’s Reserve Roastery

This summer has already witnessed the expansion of e-commerce corporation Amazon into both India and Shanghai markets. With the Chinese municipality known for its tech-savvy population, the area is often cited as the perfect tester-market for companies experimenting with development in Asia.

Starbucks have joined the Shanghai hype, announcing the opening of a second Reserve Roastery on the influential Nanjing Road next month.

“As our first international Roastery, we will take even bolder steps to make this Shanghai location our most stunning store, while making it completely unique and relevant to the Chinese customer,” explains Howard Schultz. “The Starbucks Roastery environment honours coffee innovation as a modern day Willy Wonka experience, where customers are only feet away from the theatre and artistry of our coffee craft.”

Described by the Starbucks newsroom as “one of the city’s latest and most iconic must-visit lifestyle destinations and landmarks,” the Roastery has even received government endorsement. Subsequent to a meeting with Starbucks’ global leaders, Shanghai Jing’an party secretary, An Lusheng and Shanghai Jing’an mayor Lu Xiaodong said, “The new Jing’an is focused on developing high-end commercial sectors, establishing new developmental goals for a modern cosmopolitan city, and encouraging new retail innovations within our district.”

The Shanghai Roastery is to be accompanied by the future opening of several other Reserve Roasteries in global locations, such as Milan and Tokyo in 2018. These Roasteries will serve as the base for Starbucks Reserve stores, which have been described by the company as “a new retail format that will integrate the theatre and romance of the Roastery with the unique experience of the company’s new Italian food partner, Princi.”

Rollback of influence in Taiwan

As Starbucks’ expansion in China presses ahead, the coffee house has decided to relinquish influence in Taiwan. Coinciding with the announcement of acquisitions in China, the company released the news that UPEC and PCSC will assume 100% ownership of Starbucks operations in Taiwan for $175mil.

Starbucks’ joint-venture partners, UPEC and PCSC, are already major players in Taiwan’s foodservice industry. UPEC currently hold the title of the biggest food and beverage manufacturer in Taiwan, with business in China and Southeast Asia. PCSC, with UPEC as its parent company, is the largest convenience store operator in Taiwan.

Likening the move to Starbucks’ 2011 decision to fully license its Hong Kong and Macau operations, Johnson states, “this is a critical next step as we advance our multifaceted China growth strategy for long-term profitable growth in Asia.”

Emily Lewis

The e-commerce corporation looks to gain a bigger foothold in India’s online grocery market, reports Frances Ball

Amazon looks poised to expand into India’s online grocery market. The development follows the Indian government’s June 2017 approval for the global e-commerce giant to stock and sell food in its country.

As we previously reported, the move comes after Amazon announced plans in June to acquire Whole Foods Market in a deal worth $13.7bn, clearly demonstrating its intention to become a major player in food retail. The company’s Amazon Fresh brand already operates in the US and UK and was rolled out to some areas of Tokyo, Japan, in April this year.

“There does appear to be a growing interest in buying groceries online in India, particularly in urban areas. This is being driven by consumer’s hectic schedules and their desire for convenience so that the little leisure time they do have is not taken up by domestic chores,” says Ranjana Sundaresan, global food and drink analyst at Mintel.

For Amazon India, investment in a fresh food delivery service would increase the foothold of some Amazon operations already running across parts of the country. Amazon Now was piloted in 70 area codes of Bengaluru in early 2016. This app-only service is partnered with major retailers in the sector including BigBazaar and Reliance Fresh, delivering goods provided by those retailers to customers through Amazon’s app within a specified two-hour time slot. India’s first Prime Day, a measure intended to increase the online consumer base for rapid household goods delivery, saw Prime subscriptions increase in small Indian towns as well as in cities as Amazon expanded their reach across the country.

The online market in India is a hotly contested space. In a country of 1.3 billion, the online population is between 460-465 million, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Major companies, notably Amazon and Alibaba, are seizing the potential in Indian firms. Alibaba has a 40% share of online payment system Paytm (an acronym of ‘Pay Through Mobile’), which boasts 200 million online Indian wallets. With increasing numbers of smartphones in India, online payments for fast food delivery could pose a significant threat to the current market leader of traditional ‘mom-and-pop’ bricks and mortar grocery stores.

As Sundaresan notes, “Amazon faces competition from existing players who have already established themselves in India in the online grocery space, meaning that Amazon will need an offering that sets itself apart.”

Operational centres

Separately, Amazon announced in July this year that it would be building a 90,000 sq ft ‘Fulfillment Centre’ in Bhiwandi, India, its sixth such building in the Mumbai area. Amazon forecasts that by the end of 2017, there will be 41 operational centres of its kind in 13 states across India. Intended to provide small and medium businesses with the capacity to tap into the online market and offer bases for delivery across the country, these centres follow Alibaba’s footsteps in China in building increasing numbers of warehouses.

“In line with our vision to transform the way India buys and sells, we have been consistently investing in enhancing our capabilities to provide superior experience to both buyers and sellers,” says Akhil Saxena, vice president of India customer fulfillment at Amazon India. Amazon was unavailable to comment on whether these new centres would facilitate grocery retail, should they expand.

Amazon’s eye for potential in Asia is not only on developing markets. The company’s highly anticipated first move into Southeast Asia began on Thursday 27 July, as Amazon Now was launched in Singapore.

“The primary reason Amazon picked Singapore as its first market in Southeast Asia is due to the fact that consumers here are more westernized and affluent,” said Xiaofeng Wang, a senior analyst at Forrester, in a statement. Singapore also has a higher level of internet penetration than India.

This move pits Amazon against Alibaba in another Asian country. The Chinese online retail giant has a controlling stake in regional e-commerce firm Lazada. Last year, Lazada bought Singapore-based online food retailer RedMart, which offers grocery delivery to customers in Singapore within a two-hour delivery window. Amazon Now is in direct competition with Alibaba’s Singapore venture.

As the competition in Singapore mounts, and as India’s online market grows and more customers turn to ordering groceries online, food retail looks set to be a battleground for major players searching for dominance in e-commerce.

Frances Ball

This year’s HYPER JAPAN, the UK’s self-styled “biggest J-culture event”, saw the festival bring its boldest foodservice offering yet to the capital

Held from 14-16 July at London’s Tobacco Dock, HYPER JAPAN’s organisers promised a reinvigorated foodservice offering for 2017 and did not disappoint. South-East Asian cuisine – from sushi to katsu curry – was well represented amidst an explosion of Japanese culture.

Guests were greeted with a cocktail of enticing aromas – the food court, sandwiched between the games section and one of the main event theatres, was the event’s runaway success. With queues snaking around the lower ground floor to sample Peko Peko’s signature gyoza dumplings, enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine among European diners was evident.

Highlights included freshly prepared sushi courtesy of Mai Taiko, as well as some treats from further afield; Hong Kong egg waffles, a bubbly take on their Belgian counterparts, were served up by Miso Hungry, packed with ice cream, marshmallows and Nutella. A capacious carton of bubble tea provided the perfect accompaniment.

Street food was a major focus at this year’s festival with the addition of Shoreditch’s Urban Food Fest to the lineup. Italian, Jamaican and Korean vendors all contributed to HYPER JAPAN’s most global show yet; each stall offered a Japanese fusion dish, reflecting the growing popularity for food transcending national boundaries on street food stalls and restaurant menus alike.

The culinary delights didn’t stop there; proceeding upstairs to the ground floor offered a whirlwind tour of Japanese foodservice. Traditional and modern came together in the exhibition’s sake and craft beer sections, while the Japanese sweet zone offered some interesting insights into Japanese eating patterns. Big exporters like Meiji were well represented, as well as smaller producers not usually available outside Japan; attendees had their pick of sweet souvenirs.

From Tokyo to Tobacco Dock

Although HYPER JAPAN is a celebration of all Japanese culture, the popularity of the culinary element and the organisers’ emphasis on fusion cuisine this year highlights foodservice’s pivotal position. Asian food continues to break out of speciality supermarkets and events into the European and American mainstream.

The event also demonstrated how far South-East Asian cuisine is evolving as it continues to penetrate Western markets. Chicken Katsu burgers and American-inspired craft beer might seem like sacrilege to traditional chefs and brewers, but their popularity in the street food stalls and bars of London is indisputable.

Japanese cuisine’s status in Western culture is well established, but its growth and evolution is continuing among small-scale sellers, gourmet restaurants and big caterers. Foodservice professionals of all kinds need to be on top of insights and developments in these areas. HYPER JAPAN is the perfect place to start.

Thomas Lawrence