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Asian food manufacturers invest in US production

With the US Asian population booming, ethnic food manufacturers increasingly are investing in new facilities to better serve that market.

China's Lehui Enterprises is among the latest Asian firms to announce a US beachhead. The company plans to process and package soy sauce and other condiments in a 225,750-sq.-ft. facility in Newnan, GA, about 27 miles south of Atlanta. A joint venture known as Kingwasong LLC, the plant is expected to employ 200 and begin production in the third quarter of 2007, according to Chris Clark, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. It joins Savannah-based Fuji Vegetable Oil on the state's growing roster of Asian food companies.

America's 14 million Asians and Pacific islanders represent 5 percent of the population and one of the fastest growing ethnic groups. California is home to a third, with 390,000 new arrivals since 2000. Southern California-already host to a Gardena noodle plant operated by Osaka, Japan-based Nissin Food Products Co. and an Irvine plant of Tokyo's Toyo Suisan Kaisha Ltd., maker of the Maruchan brand-gained another instant noodle powerhouse last year when Seoul-based Nong Shim Foods began production in Rancho Cucamonga. Besides California's 1.2 million Koreans, company President Harrison Nam says Nong Shim's spicy foods are finding a receptive audience among Hispanics. Outside Asia, Mexico ranks as the fourth largest market for instant ramen, according to the International Ramen Manufacturers Association, with Mexicans consuming more than 1 billion servings annually.

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