China: Talk about a taste for luxury

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Indy Lifestyle Online

While the rest of the world in the past 12 months saw declining figures in the sales of high-end goods, China's market continued to blossom. And as well as its developing desire for brand names, the nation appears at the same time to be growing a very sweet tooth.

China's chocolate market - driven by "designer'' chocolate makers such as Belgium-based brand Godiva - was worth around seven billion yuan (740 million euros) in 2009 and is expected to grow by 11 percent through to 2011, according to market watchers.

China's capital last week saw the opening of its first chocolate theme park - the Chocolate Wonderland - situated at Beijing's iconic Bird's Nest Stadium and featuring 80,000 kilograms of chocolate, including a replica of the Great Wall and the nation's famed life-sized Terracotta Warriors. It will remain open until April.

And April is the month that Shanghai is expected to celebrate the opening of what is being billed as the world's largest chocolate shop - 300 square meters of delights from Godiva.

That brand only opened its first branch in China in Shanghai in September and is now scouting sites in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou.

Industry insiders say the expansion is in keeping with an increased desire for luxury in China.

The international luxury goods market shrunk by eight percent in 2009 while China's grew by 12 percent, according to the international management consultancy firm Bain & Company.

Last November, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to promote an economy "driven by consumption'' and it certainly appears people have taken his words to heart.

Godiva will be expanding into a market that in the past decade has flourished as the likes of Jeff de Bruges, a European chocolatier, have established themselves in China, along with lower-priced sweet makers such as Ferrero, Cadbury and Hershey's.

But Godiva's president, Jim Goldman, sees tasty times ahead - for the consumer and for his brand.

"I think Chinese consumers are interested in learning and experiencing new things and food and beverages are areas that the Chinese love,'' he told the China Daily newspaper.

MS

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