China has a hybrid economy, and its food sector also borrows the best approaches to both packaging and production.

With health-consciousness and incomes rising in China, Skypeople Fruit Juice is betting its Hedetang kiwi and other high-end juices will appeal to Walmart shoppers in Beijing and other cities. Source: Skypeople Fruit Juice Inc.

The global village usually refers to commercial trade, but it also is an apt description of the motivations and responses people exhibit to processed foods. To illustrate, consider Hedetang fruit juices, a retail line sold primarily through Walmart stores in China and geared toward quality-conscious people.

Per capita consumption of fruit juice is a fraction of the world average, but “with the expansion of the middle class in China, combined with already health-consciousness of Chinese consumers, the demand for fruit juice will continue to increase,” according to Spring Liu, CFO of Skypeople Fruit Juice Inc., a Florida indirect-holding company for the Hedetang brand and the production facilities that make it. While those facilities have PET bottling capabilities, the line of premium juices are filled in 280mm and 500mm glass. “Glass bottles are usually for higher-quality juices in China,” Liu explains.

Popular flavors such as apple and pear are included, but Skypeople is distinguishing itself with exotic combinations of kiwi and mulberry. “Kiwi is called king of vitamin C in China, and mulberry is famous for its antioxidant,” says Liu. “There is a market potential for our beverages in foreign countries, especially our kiwi and mulberry juice,” though meeting domestic demand for the premium-priced juices ($1.79 for the half-liter) is the current focus.

The kiwi is produced in Shaanxi Province at a state-of-the-art facility previously spotlighted in Food Engineering (“Not [just] about size,” June 2005). The plant, acquired by Skypeople in 2006, was built in the middle of a 1,647 acre kiwi plantation, cultivated specifically to supply the facility. Advanced technologies include an open-channel, tubular membrane R/O system to concentrate kiwi juice for export to industrial customers in the US and other markets. Skypeople regards the system as one of its six key technologies.

Skypeople’s path to retail branding provides a glimpse into the evolution of the Chinese food sector’s incorporation with the global market. US operations began in 1998 as an Internet consulting service, with food acquisitions commencing later. Marketing is driving the Hedetang brand’s growth, but “modern equipment and technology employed at our production factories,” along with “the strategic locations of our manufacturing facilities,” are the key to commercial success, the company states in its 10-K filing with the SEC. “Equipment and technology help us ensure product quality, control costs and allow us to meet international juice standards such as ISO 9001, HACCP and Kosher.”

For more information:
Spring Liu, Skypeople Fruit Juice Inc.,