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Nation sinks its teeth into chocolate

By Pan Mengqi | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-14 08:11
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In the early 1980s, when the country had just embarked on its economic reform and opening-up, a piece of chocolate was regarded more as a precious rarity than as a daily necessity.

Yu Xiaoning, CEO of the import and distribution company Vandergeeten, shipped his first container of Belgian chocolate to China in 1994.

Yu said at the time that the price of Belgian chocolate was a benchmark by which Chinese people gauged its quality, and also made chocolate from European countries a byword for luxury instead of a "kitchen cupboard essential".

"There were some domestic chocolate brands in China then, but most of them could not meet the international definition of genuine chocolate, as the products used replacements rather than real cocoa butter," Yu said, adding that the introduction of European brands enabled Chinese consumers to acquire a basic knowledge of chocolate.

International standards require chocolate to contain at least 35 percent cocoa butter, while China has lower standards of 20 percent, and allows additives such as cornstarch, vegetable oil and cocoa substitutes to enhance the flavor.

In the book Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of China's Consumers, author Lawrence Allen writes: "Almost none of them (Chinese) had ever eaten a piece of chocolate. They were, to coin a phrase, 'chocolate virgins'."

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