This week, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and representatives from several N.C. commodity groups are visiting Beijing on a trade mission. Andrea Ashby, NCDA&CS assistant director of public affairs, is also in China and will be posting periodic updates of the visit.
Lee Swinson, a peanut producer from Duplin County, knows peanuts are a popular snack in the United States, but he is also learning more about Chinese tastes in peanuts as he meets with potential business contacts in China.
Swinson’s company, Golden Grove Candy Co., produces Carolina Crisp bars, a peanut bar made with peanuts from his farm. Swinson is part of the 30-person trade mission to Beijing hoping to learn more about how to sell his peanut bars and bags of salted in-shell peanuts to this growing market.
In meetings with potential buyers Wednesday, the businessman learned that peanuts are marketed very differently in the United States compared with China. While U.S. customers prefer to see the in-shell peanuts in the bag, Swinson said it seems that Chinese consumers are more focused on shelf life rather than seeing what the actual product looks like.
In addition, the shelled peanuts sold are significantly smaller than the Virginia-style peanuts popular in the U.S.
Taste and flavor are strong selling points for his peanut products, and Swinson hopes that leads to future opportunities in China for peanuts and candy bars.
“Most people here stay away from American sweets because they are too sweet for their tastes, but once they did eat the Carolina Crisp bar they really enjoyed the flavor,” Swinson said.
He is also encouraged by the fact that stores carry more than one type of peanut product, which is different from the U.S. marketplace.
Swinson, who has experience exporting peanut bars to England, Ireland and Sweden, is optimistic about the potential for future success in China.
“Beijing has a little over 22 million people, and with that many people there is always opportunity,” Swinson said. “People here are eager to do business, they are growing in their income and they want better quality products.”