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Condiment sector seasons township's rapid growth

Updated: Nov 14, 2023 By ZHAO RUIXUE in Laoling, Shandong Print
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Employees process chilies at a workshop of a condiment and seasoning company in Laoling, Shandong province, in May. JIA PENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

At an 800-square-meter warehouse run by Laoling Yongxinghe Food Co Ltd, more than 100 workers are busy packaging condiment products such as sauces and spices to help fulfill orders placed on e-commerce platforms.

The company, located in Yang'an township of Laoling, a county-level city in Shandong province, delivers 100,000 packages on average each day throughout the year, said Cui Mingsong, general manager of the company, adding that sales via e-commerce sites account for half of the company's total sales. "Around 130,000 packages were delivered today," Cui said.

There are over 260 companies like Yongxinghe involved in the condiment and seasoning business in the town with a population of 50,000 people, of which about 33,000 are actively part of the business.

These companies produce spice products that have a 40 percent market share in China. They are also sold to markets in more than 70 countries and regions, including European and Southeast Asian nations, the township government said.

China has seen steady growth in both the production and sales of main condiment products during recent years as producers make efforts to develop rich varieties that meet market demand, according to the China Condiment Association.

"Ready-to-eat dishes and instant foods have brought opportunities to the condiment industry," said Liu Jihua, secretary of the condiment branch of the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal Byproducts.

Liu made the remarks at the China Spice Conference held in Laoling recently.

The conference saw the participation of more than 400 businesspeople, officials and experts from home and abroad, including the United Kingdom, India, Japan and Vietnam.

A wide range of spices and sauces that bear marks such as "green", "organic" and "no additives" caught the attention of attendees at an exhibition held during the conference.

"We need to develop products that are more convenient, safer, tastier and more affordable to meet the development trends of the condiment industry," said Liu.

From selling chili powder in the 1970s, business owners in Yang'an township have developed 1,200 kinds of condiments and seasoning products, ranging from spices, sauces, compound seasonings and pickled peppers to instant foods and snack foods.

To cater to increased demand for healthier sauces, companies in town have developed new products with organic materials and zero additives.

"For example, when we make ketchup, we buy organic tomatoes from Xinjiang," said Pang Xuehui, general manager of Shandong Pangda Food Co Ltd.

Riding on a wave of ready-to-eat dishes, many sauce producers in the town have expanded their business.

"Our aim is to make cooking as easy as boiling water," said Xie Xuemin, manager of the customer service department of Shandong Huabailin Food Technology Co Ltd.

Last year, the condiment production and related industries in the town generated an output value of 22 billion yuan ($3 billion), three times more than that in 2018.

"The local government has played a pivotal role in developing the condiment industry with measures such as offering free use of workshops for three years, organizing exhibitions to promote our products and providing financial assistance," said Pang.

The town has also built a condiment industrial park to foster collaboration and expansion.

Since building the first facilities in the park in 2021, Shandong Huachang Food Co Ltd has developed from a team of fewer than 10 employees to a specialized company with 200 people.

"Our annual sales have been growing by 30 percent during the past years, and we expect to see sales exceed 200 million yuan this year," said Yang Lifang, chairman of Huachang.

In the financial sector, banks like the Shandong branch of China Construction Bank have also joined in local efforts to provide companies with financial services to ease the pressure of raising funds.

The flourishing condiment industry has also provided employment opportunities for local farmers.

The increased demand for raw materials by the thriving condiment industry has also promoted the planting sector with spices, such as chili and anise, generating more income for local farmers, said Yang Bo, an official in Yang'an township.

Cui Yulian, who works at the warehouse sorting packages, said she earns over 4,000 yuan each month. The 35-year-old mother of two, who returned to the town earlier this year after working for several years in Tianjin, expressed happiness that the commute to work is less than 10 minutes by electric bike and that she is able to properly care for her children.

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