Peru is trying to make quinoa the trendy grain of choice in the China market. (Shutterstock)
Hoping to follow the lead of American farmers who have seen China become a key market for their blueberries and pecans, this week Peruvian companies are pushing their wares at SIAL China 2015, looking to make quinoa cool in the country of 1.3+ billion consumers.
According to Peru this Week:
At the Peruvian stands, organic tricolour quinoa takes pride of place, with new products targeting the booming Chinese market, such as noodles fortified with the protein-rich grain.
Also on show are organic Andean teas, cocoa, and powders of camu camu and aguaymanto.
Part of a large-scale push on the part of the Peruvian government to make inroads in China, the involvement of Peruvian producers indicates the country hopes to take advantage of greater health-consciousness among China’s more affluent consumers. While Peruvian cocoa has a well-established supply chain in China, Peru is hoping its iconic grain quinoa—which broke into the U.S. market via the Lululemon set in cities like Los Angeles and New York—will find a receptive market among Chinese shoppers.
Chinese consumers are willing to pay a premium for imported food products thanks to the perception that foreign brands are safer and higher quality. However, quinoa is a grain that's not found in Chinese cuisine, meaning that it has a disadvantage compared to Japanese rice, which has become a hot foreign luxury food in China. To address this issue, Peruvian producers are creating localized versions of quinoa noodles, cereals, and snacks for the Chinese market.
If it does become popular, Peruvian producers may have local competition to contend with. As with every other industry from wine to smartphones, China itself is looking to get a piece of the nascent quinoa game. According to the UN, China is one of a handful of countries experimenting with growing the crop, along with Canada, Denmark, Italy, India, Kenya, Morocco and the Netherlands.
Whether quinoa fully takes off in China will be anyone’s guess. For now, interest is driving the entrepreneurial spirit among a very small number of Chinese merchants: a search for the grain on Tmall offers 42 results.