In the last of three instalments from Proper Cornish’s marketing director, he travels to Shanghai on a bakery mission – to meet distributors, buyers and agencies.

I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to explore China and find out what makes it tick from a food perspective. The trip was an education in the eastern perception of this sector – and I hope I’ve converted a few people to the wonders of a traditional Cornish fairing along the way.

Biscuits aside for now, it was eye-opening to learn a little more about the region. Its economic struggles have been well-documented over the last year or so, with slowing growth that now stands at just below 7%. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in significant changes to China’s growth strategy, which in turn reinforces the importance for UK businesses to keep an even closer watch on the development of the east.

Keeping an eye on your competition has never been more important than in this age of international influence. At Furniss we work hard to incorporate the latest trends, while maintaining a good selection of well-loved favourites from the good old British biscuit tin.

With many trends originating in the US, it can be easy to miss developments over in the east. But it is well worth any manufacturer’s while to put China on their ‘ones to watch’ list, as Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng said earlier this year that consumption in the country would grow at a fast pace in 2016. Likewise, Reuters has reported that consumption accounted for 66.4% of China’s GDP growth last year, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.

The Chinese government has highlighted manufacturing as a focus over the current five-year plan to 2020, as well as expanding domestic consumption to the wider population. By moving manufacturing up the value chain, it is expected that we will see a great deal more development and innovation coming out of China in the years ahead.

Tourism also bonds China to Europe, with a 40% increase in Chinese visitors expected this year. This could be down to manageable flight times or appealing brands and cuisine on offer. Despite the country’s economic woes, tourism has so far accelerated in 2016 and therefore provides UK brands with an opportunity to impress travellers with authentic British foods. Equally, I enjoyed sampling foods from the east and I cannot recommend enough that those involved in new product development, or the food industry overall, get out to as many countries as they can and see what trends can be incorporated back into their own businesses.

So my east meets west expedition has ended, and I want to thank Santander for making it happen.