When a group of leading bakers from across the United Kingdom traveled to China last spring, their intent was simple: discovery. They returned home with new ideas, opportunities and friendships. The Shanghai and Beijing market tour, hosted by Rich’s, revealed new perspectives and opportunities well beyond expectations.
Organized by British baking industry icon David Powell, in conjunction with members of Rich’s China Team – Peter Lai, General Manager, China; Martin Mu, Marketing Manager, Retail Bakery; and Michael Goh, Regional Technical Manager – the recent trip was the corollary of a 2011 visit by a similar Chinese delegation to the UK.
Ted Rich, Managing Director of Rich’s Europe/Middle East Region, accompanied the baking group on its 10-day tour. “We’re passionate about bringing innovation to life and adding value for the thousands of customers with whom we have the privilege of working around the world – our Rich’s family,” Rich said. “That spirit goes well beyond our products and extends to unique experiences such as the Shanghai and Beijing market tour. The China visit produced new insights, new relationships and, ultimately, more business for our guests on this journey.”
While the British travelers expected to come across a few new trends in desserts, cakes and local Chinese bakery practices, the party quickly discovered that the country has become a hot spot for global concepts. Day after day, samplings of French, Korean, Japanese and American foods from behind the Chinese counters were commonplace, exposing the fact that a cross-pollination of cultures, particularly culinary arts, is occurring faster than ever.
While visiting supermarkets, manufacturers and the annual trade show of the China Association of Bakery & Confectionery Industry, the contingent pounced on new topics for stimulating discussions, which often extended into the late evening hours.
“China is an extremely dynamic market,” said Powell. “Beyond the opportunity to explore indigenous tastes, we happened upon a microcosm of culinary trends from around the globe. Our group discovered new products and revolutionary approaches that could be immediately implemented in the UK.”
A prime example was the emphasis placed by Chinese bakers on front-of-house concepts. Packaging was transformed from simply functional to beautifully artistic, luring in the shopper. Production was placed closer to the consumer, becoming a point of wonder, learning and engagement. In some cases, with lines of onlookers stretching out the door as bakers worked within sight, the buying experience took on an aspect of theatre.
“Rich’s is a truly global organization, with locations covering six continents and a product portfolio in excess of 2,000 items sold in more than 100 countries. This diversity and international reach helps us – as one Rich’s business spanning the globe – provide our customers with an unparalleled level of in-depth knowledge, perspective and guidance for bringing new ideas to market,” noted Rich. “The visits to both the UK and China during the past two years have brought together talented and innovative teams for some great collaboration and idea-sharing, blending business counsel with inspiration. New trends and forward thinking imparted on the most-recent trip will soon be spread around the world, and there’s nothing like getting a jump on seeing this kind of ingenuity first-hand!”