This is too juicy to pass up writing about. Trader Joe’s, a very successful retail food chain based in California, has pulled all Chinese-made food products from its shelves.
Click here for a brief news item from AFP: US store chain cuts sales of food from China
From the article:
US grocery chain Trader Joe’s said Monday it would stop selling food imported fromdue to customers’ concerns about the products’ safety.
“Our customers have voiced concerns about products from this region and we have listened,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said in a statement.
“All single ingredient food items sourced from mainland China sre scheduled to be out of our stores by April 1,” she said.
What this means is that (1) if an ingredient for a food product is sourced from China, that food product may still be sold in Trader Joe’s and (2) Trader Joe’s may eventually sell foods that are made entirely in China sometime in the future.
This is the very definition of “growing pains,” folks. The same sort of process occurred in Taiwan, thirty or forty years ago. Here’s how it works:
Stage One: A developing country offers competitive advantages in labor costs and manufacturing speed. Many first world countries switch their manufacturing to this country.
Stage Two: The developing country’s factory owners achieve some success, and then through a combination of penny-pinching greed, lack of foresight and vision, and general lack of understanding of what the foreign market demands, start sending product with quality problems. In the case of products like foods, toys, and tires, this is downright dangerous. Consumers in the first world country react, the media plays up the problems, and the flow of orders starts to dry up as buyers look elsewhere, maybe paying a bit more.
Stage Three: The government of the developing country realizes that if something isn’t done to reign in these factory bosses, the country’s export manufacturing business is going to go to hell in a handbasket. They clamp down on dangerous practices, enforcing compliance with safety regulations.
Stage Four: The developing country recovers its export market, and continues to develop its technology and safety measures.
The interesting question here is, with enforcement in China so haphazard and hit-and-miss, will China successfully get through Stage Three to Stage Four? Several efforts have already been made to crack down on abusers, but in China, where the emperor is far away, the subjects often do what they want.
Bottom Line: If you are sourcing your products from China, you’d damned well better be on the ground, or hire someone trustworthy to be on the ground, watching your suppliers like a hawk. There are many fantastic suppliers in China, but many are still learning how to deal with your standards.