An Irish-Chinese entrepreneur is attempting to introduce Tayto crisps into the Chinese market.
In China, Ireland’s favorite crisps are known as tudoushenshi shuping, which translates as “Potato Gentleman Crisps.
The man behind the plan is Qian Wei, who first travelled to Ireland 11 years ago to attend college, while studying he met his wife Miriam Collins and is now an Irish citizen.
“It was my wife who first had the idea, she said she didn’t like Pringles, she thought that Irish crisps were the best in the world, so we started to think about the idea of selling them in China,” Mr Qian told the Irish Times.
When the family business in Dublin began to suffer due to Ireland’s economic downturn, Mr Qian decided to approach Largo Foods, which makes Tayto about the prospect of selling the Irish crisps in China.
“He needs to know if his crisps will be liked in China. I went to him with the idea. He said he had tried to break into China before but he didn’t know how to make the brand famous in China to complete his dream of making a factory here. I want everyone in China to know that Tayto is the best,” said Mr Qian.
Mr Qian began running the office of Largo Foods in Shanghai last year and the first Tayto crisps will be sold in the New Year through the convenience store chains Lawson’s, Lianhua, Family Mart and Metro which are some of the biggest retail chains in Shanghai.
A considerable upsell, the famous Irish crisps will retails at 50 yuan (€5), a packet for a 50-gram packet.
The Chinese crisp market is dominated by the global brand Lay’s, with other brands accounting for a mere 5 percent of the market.
A change from the Tayto tradition, there will be no cheese and onion flavored crisps to start with. Instead flavors will be tailored to suit the market.
“We’ll initially focus on Thai sweet chili and original salted. We are using sunflower oil and organic potatoes and that’s a point of sale, that’s our advantage,” said Mr Qian.
So far consumer reaction has been positive according to the businessman.
“The reaction from the shops has been great. Chinese people’s lifestyle is changing, and there is demand for crisps here in China – they’re addictive,” said Mr Qian.
“China is the most expanding country in the world at the moment. People here are always catching on to fashions – they love Starbucks for example, even though 20 yuan out of a wage of 2,000 yuan a month is a lot,” said Mr Qian.
If Tayto manages to penetrate the Chinese crisp market, plans for Tayto factory in Shanghai could be on the cards.
“There are 20 million people in Shanghai – if I can get just 10 per cent of them to buy Tayto, it would be great,” Mr Qian added.