Opinion / Raymond Zhou

Pasta imperfect as noodle sales drop

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-18 09:27

I don't know the per-capita sales in other countries, but I doubt we will ever return to that level of consumption again.

Yes, there are high-end choices that may help change the product's image, but just like the bicycle it will never be a choice for everyone again-unless, God forbid, a nationwide famine strikes.

As the scene of hundreds of thousands of bicyclists rushing along Chang'an Avenue is gone forever, the sight of hundreds holding a bowl of instant noodles in a train car will recede into fond memory.

My economics professor at Berkeley once justified the Chinese tendency to dress alike during the years before reform and opening-up by saying that it was much more cost-effective to make the same style of clothing, even the same colors-usually blue and gray-for a billion people.

The more of the same you make, the more economies of scale would kick in, he said.

By the same token, if every Chinese lives on a heavy diet of instant noodles, the cost-and hence the price-would be further lowered and the whole nation's food bill would come down.

However, human beings are not only economic animals. They have other needs. Even though one food item can prevent us from starving and one set of clothes can keep us warm, we yearn for diversity.

That's why one-size-fits-all merchandise or service, which used to sound so tantalizingly utopian because everything is calculated by "times 1.3 billion", is just a phase in growth, which China has happily outgrown.

Once our basic needs are satisfied, we search for things that differentiate us from others, things that define who we are, or rather, who each of us is.

I have no prejudice against instant noodles (I'm a regular consumer of it). But when it became the choice for everyone, it was like reaching the peak of a mountain. The only way to go further is down.

For more stories by Raymond Zhou, click here

Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News