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Aussie cereal sees spike in demand in China

Reporter: Greg Navarro 丨 CCTV.com

11-02-2016 06:22 BJT

Australian breakfast cereal maker Sanitarium is experiencing a spike in sales after a well-timed product placement on a popular Chinese TV show. It is the latest in a growing number of Aussie companies trying to ride a wave of demand in China for clean, green food products.

When an actress on the popular Chinese soap Ode To Joy grabbed a box of Weet-Bix, the effect on the Australian cereal-maker seemed almost instant.

“We increased demand by around 50 percent as a result of the product placement on the show,” said Todd Saunders, executive general manager of Sanitarium.

That increase was also seen in Australia. But there are other factors contributing to the product’s success beyond the 120-year-old company’s control; one is China’s growing middle class consumers.

“They are losing confidence in Chinese companies producing healthy products and they know countries like Australia have a great reputation for producing very health oriented, green products and so there is a huge demand, particularly in the middle class, who are becoming more mobile and moving up to have a demand for healthier products,” said Gary Gregory, senior lecturer of University of New South Wales.

That is evident in the demand for Australian healthcare supplements, and Aussie dairy products, including baby formula.

"They think Australia has the best food and they think we have the best environment to produce healthy, organic and super food in this way so they want to give it a go," said Livia Wang, managing director of Accesscn.

Of course it didn’t hurt that Sanitarium hired well-known Chinese reality TV Star Alyssa Chia as a celebrity spokesperson.

Sanitarium is marketing Weet-Bix in China under a different name: Nutra-Bex. It is also trying to sell a product in a country where only 15 percent of the population eats breakfast cereal.

“It’s not so much marketers wanting to change as it is consumers wanting to try new things so as they become more sophisticated, more educated, more affluent then they are demanding and wanting to try best things from other places,” said Gary Gregory.

One big challenge for Sanitarium is to not only convince Chinese consumers to eat this for breakfast, but, more importantly, how to eat it.

Because Gregory says, Weet-Bix without any moisture is “kind of like dried cardboard.”

Nutra-Brex’s true appeal is that it is marketed as a healthy, Australian-made product—a strategy that appears to be in the right place, at the right time.

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