CHANGING LIFESTYLES OPEN ASIA TO IMPORTS OF CONVENIENCE FOODS

CHANGING LIFESTYLES OPEN ASIA TO IMPORTS OF CONVENIENCE FOODS

More convenience foods and fewer bulk commodities mark the way ahead for U.S. agricultural exports to Hong Kong and other Asian points, according to local officials, who say lifestyles are changing.

U.S. exporters should concentrate on the higher-value sales of processed and convenience foods, including microwave snacks and dinners, says Phillip Holloway, agricultural officer at the U.S. consulate here.Hong Kong and other places in the Asia-Pacific have a fast-paced lifestyle. In most households, both husband and wife work and the demand for quick but good meals is growing, he said in an interview.

Whenever I visit electrical appliance shops, I see people buying microwaves; they are becoming a staple in local homes, he said.

In addition to their convenience, microwave cookers are compact, a boon in the small apartments that are typical of Asia.

Despite having only 5.5 million people, Hong Kong last year bought U.S. produce worth US$466 million, up 17 percent from the 1986 figure and one of the highest per capita levels in the world, according to Commerce Department figures.

Among the star performers were poultry, up 65 percent to US$58 million; apples, up 75 percent to US$23 million; and beef, 40 percent higher at US$10 million. Such items as rice, ice cream and grapefruit doubled or tripled sales to the colony.

In an effort to spur that success, Tastes Great USA 88 is being staged by the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service to help nearly 70 exhibitors from the United States promote their edibles.

The trade-only show is drawing the cream of the import trade, Mr. Holloway said at Thursday's session.

In addition to the local major players such as supermarkets, there have been a number of new people this year. The big Japanese department stores (which have large food sections) are here, along with several hotel food and beverage managers.

Other attendees come from Thailand - which has a significant processed food industry involving U.S. companies - and some believed to be from China. The event lasted two days.

According to Mr. Holloway, the competition in selling beef, fresh fruit and vegetables comes from Australia and New Zealand. The European Community competes in confectionery and some convenience items. China ships in huge quantities of fresh food and meat.