Move over congee, peking duck, and hairy crab, because China is projected to be the biggest consumer of processed food in less than two years. Quartz reports:
According to estimates by Euromonitor International, in terms of volume, the Chinese market for packaged processed food like ready-made meals, snacks and drinks like cookies, chips, and soda will surpass America’s by 2015. China could consume as much as 107 million tonnes of packaged food, compared to 102 million tonnes in the US.
That still means the average Chinese resident will eat only about a quarter as much processed food as the average American. And the American market will still be worth more ($369 billion versus an estimated $238 billion in China.) Still, Chinese consumption of these foods will have grown 66% from 2008, according to Euromonitor.
What’s fueling that growth? As more Chinese leave farm life for the cities and more women enter the workforce—the same trend that sparked America’s TV dinner craze in the 1950s—there has been a boost in convenience foods from baby formula to frozen dumplings and instant noodles. Increasing wealth has meant that more Chinese are eating more meat than before. The entrance of packaged food makers like Kraft, Nestlé or PepsiCo has increased the consumption of Western-style snacks at 7-Elevens and other convenience stores, ubiquitous in Chinese cities.
And, big surprise, this increased intake of yellow 5, gum arabic, and corn syrup, is taking a toll on the health of Chinese citizens, of whom 12% suffer from diabetes. In Shanghai alone, 40% of adults are overweight, and it doesn’t take a statistician to observe that the little tykes are porking out as well – a result of both the myriad processed food options and the “little emperor syndrome” that comes with China’s emerging wealth. Over 15 percent of city youths 10-12 years old are overweight and an additional 8 percent are deemed obese.
Despite growing demand for organic in response to rampant food scandals, at this stage, the average Chinese consumer doesn’t have as much to spend on healthier, high-quality packaged food as their US counterpart. And whereas the general consensus in the US is that fast food depots such as McDonald’s are low-class and unhealthy (even though we’ve all eaten there), in China they represent capitalism and progress and therefore cater to the rising middle class.
The lack of emphasis on exercise isn’t really helping either.
[Image credit: @zak3000]