Day two of BB associate editor Georgi Gyton’s diary of her bakery tour in China sees the hustle and bustle of a trade show and meeting the team from Rich Products.

Day two: Friday 11 May 

As I had arrived in Shanghai a day later than the rest of the group from the UK, I had unfortunately missed out on a few business visits the day before, so Ted Rich and David Powell kindly filled me in on what I had missed and some of the things they had seen on the bakery tour so far. 

The group had visited a number of retail bakery outlets – from Malaysian and Japanese, to Korean and, of course, Chinese bakeries – as well as a few supermarkets. Ted explained: “They sell the product completely differently over here.” In their retail outlets, they often have the products displayed in individual perspex boxes, where customers pick up a tray and some tongs, and pick the products themselves. And they are not separated out into sections. Right next to a cream-filled cake you could find a savoury pork roll, added David. 

One of the shops they visited looked like it could have been a nightclub, and its products were sold in very boutiquey packaging. David said it’s about “face” in China – you have to been seen to be wearing the right clothes and have the right bag, and bakery is no exception. Even small snack products come in really elaborate boxes.

The bakery trade show was certainly an eye-opener. There were queues of people to get in, and we were herded through the doors like cattle. It was noisy, there was a lot of pushing, music blaring from the stands and the chatter of many Chinese businesspeople. But it was also colourful, vibrant and exciting. It had a very different feel to trade shows in the UK. Even the stands were a sight – some were built to look like Chinese temples. 

To kick off, Martin Mu, marketing manager – retail bakery at Rich Products in China, showed us a few of the products and concepts that Rich is promoting in China at the moment. Cake pies – a cake made in a pie base – and mousse doughnuts were two of the new concepts it has launched, while Martin told us that fruit is becoming increasingly popular for use in cakes and as a decoration, with strawberry the firm favourite.

We were then let loose to explore on our own. There was so much to take in, and such a variety of different products from stand to stand, most of which would be unfamiliar to the Western eye. The cakes, especially, were beautifully decorated, with often very ornate designs. Meanwhile the breads were seldom plain varieties, there were many with seed toppings and inclusions, or cheese and spinach rolls, for example. There were also many stands that were dedicated to moon cakes, as well as packaging for them. They are traditionally given as gifts at the time of the moon festival, so beautifully-made packaging is a must.

The day ended with a fantastic dinner at a restaurant in the financial district of Shanghai overlooking The Bund. The evening was hosted by Rich Products, with a number of its key Chinese customers also present. We were served a huge array of different dishes – some easier to pick up bits of with chopsticks than others (the mushrooms were particularly difficult) – giving us a real flavour of Chinese food.

Georgi heads to Beijing in day three of her bakery tour and will be reporting back to British Baker tomorrow.