Made in Taiwan

Food for Thought

In the last few years, I began looking specifically for “Made in Taiwan” on food packages. In the East Village, Taiwanese restaurants are popping up everywhere (at least before the pandemic). “Taiwan” is now a hot new brand. The country seems quite adept at combining various Asian influences and making them their own. I heard that many top Chinese chefs fled to Taiwan after the communist takeover of China, including the chef who invented General Tso’s chicken.

This particular “Korean Pancake” I found at H Mart was quite good, but it was not easy to see it’s made in Taiwan. Firstly, the name of the company is “Daifuku” which is Japanese, and the description is in Chinese, Korean, English, and Japanese. On the back, in a small typeface, I finally found “Product of Taiwan.”

I also found a great castella that is made in Taiwan. This one clearly says on the front, “Taiwan Pineapple Honey Cake.” I’ve never had a pineapple-flavored castella before. I loved it.

And, of course, brown sugar boba ice cream is a genius idea, which is also made in Taiwan.

In some ways, the fact that most Americans do not have any preconceptions about Taiwan is advantageous for the building of Taiwan as a brand. In contrast, it’s an uphill battle for China since “made in China” has many negative connotations here.

If I were in charge of re-branding China, I would focus on different regions. “Wuhan” is unfortunately screwed at this point, but there are many other cities and regions to play with. Hong Kong already has a great brand, although it’s now at risk of losing the luster, with the central government slowly chipping away at their independence. I’d say “Sichuan” is a good brand to build on; Sichuan restaurants are already commanding a price premium over other styles of Chinese restaurants. “Beijing” is not a good brand because we use it as a metonymy for the Chinese government. Political associations are not appetizing.

But before I worry about which regional brands to promote, the first order of business as a brand manager would be to standardize the spelling of all Chinese words!