Made in America, Please? China Shells Out for U.S. Exports
From chips to makeup, companies are marketing to consumers across Pacific.
May 15, 2012 — -- In China, there is a hunger for all things American -- and U.S. businesses, small and large, are taking note.
According to the U.S.-China Business Council, the Chinese spent $104 billion in U.S. exports in the last year -- up 542 percent from 10 years ago.
In China recently, Oscar Atkinson, a CEO at Silicone Arts Labs in Memphis, Tenn., visited with potential partners in Beijing and then went to a medical trade fair in Shenzhen, shopping around his company's new skin concealer product called Dermaflage.
"The Chinese consumer is just as image-conscious as the American consumer," he said. "We could have great success if we could find the right partner [and] overcome the regulatory hurdles, which are not significant. I'm looking forward to it."
U.S. Chips, Drinks Tailored to Chinese Consumers
Even U.S. giants like Pringles and Coca-Cola have figured out there's money to be made across the Pacific.
In Jackson, Tenn., a Pringles chip plant changes the flavors of its chips to soft-shell crab, grilled shrimp and seaweed before shipping to the Chinese middle class. Currently, one of every three Pringles cans goes overseas.
Skippy peanut butter, which is made in Little Rock, Ark., now ships to 70 countries. And Coca-Cola has created a beverage -- which tastes like a sweet version of orange juice -- to cater to the Chinese. The oranges come from the groves of Florida but are sold 11,000 miles away in Shanghai in a drink named Pulpy.
It's not just food. Mack's, the world's largest manufacturer of moldable, silicone earplugs, now provides labels for the Chinese market.
And most of the makeup in China bears U.S. labels -- which is why Atkinson was there, traveling from city to city making his sales pitch for Dermaflage.
He said the Shenzhen trade show was packed with people and international companies.
"It's really something to behold," he told ABC News.
But other U.S. entrepreneurs like Lion Brand Yarn in New Jersey have found another way to reach the masses in China -- through Export Now, an Amazon.com-like business that helps small- and medium-size U.S. businesses sell to Chinese consumers.
"Much like customers in other parts of the world, Chinese customers are often skeptical about the quality of Chinese-made products," Export Now said. "U.S. products ... are getting more and more welcome in the local market."
The company, which sells everything from flip-flops to T-shirts and skateboards, said that 370 million Chinese had logged in to shop for U.S products on its website so far and that last year the site had sold $60 billion in U.S products.