Like Marmite, toast and tea, Weetabix long has been favored by British consumers as a breakfast staple. But now a major Chinese food conglomerate believes that Chinese consumers, who traditionally prefer congee porridge to start their day, will gobble up the iconic cereal as well.
China’s state-owned Bright Food has bought a 60-percent stake in the 80-year-old brand, which accounts for about 7 percent of U.K. sales. Western eating habits are slowly catching on in China and across Asia as wealthier citizens seek to diversify from traditional staples such as rice and steamed bread.
“We are excited by the many growth opportunities for the business, especially in international markets, and Asia in particular,” said Zongnan Wang, chairman of Bright Food, according to the U.K.’s Guardian. “With Bright Food’s strong resources and our expertise in both the Chinese and broader international markets, we are excellently placed to develop the Weetabix business.”[more]
The nation’s favorite breakfast cereal was family-owned until 2004, when it was bought by a private-equity firm based in Texas. Then another private-equity firm, Lion Capital, bought Weetabix, and it will retain a 40-percent stake in the brand after the Bright Foods deal.
The sale to Shanghai-based Bright Foods highlights the shifting tastes of Chinese middle classes, who are consuming more western foods than ever, especially beef, pork and dairy foods. In 2007, according to the Guardian, Premier Wen Jiabao said he dreamed of the day when every child in the country could drink a pint of milk a day. Imports of dairy products have more than doubled in the last five years, even though milk isn’t traditionally part of mainland Chinese diets.
At least British tea brands aren’t likely to be looking over their shoulders for acquisition by Chinese companies. That’s one staple the Chinese seem to have no interest in handing over to foreign-brewed brands.