From British beer to Russian ice cream, count on Xi Jinping to boost sales

Mr Xi trying an Irish coffee during a visit to Lynch Farm in Ireland in 2012. When Mr Xi consumes a food item, its sales in China soar.
Mr Xi trying an Irish coffee during a visit to Lynch Farm in Ireland in 2012. When Mr Xi consumes a food item, its sales in China soar.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Fish and chips and the Greene King IPA beer that Mr Xi tried in Britain have since been ordered by almost every Chinese customer to the pub, The Plough at Cadsden.
Fish and chips and the Greene King IPA beer that Mr Xi tried in Britain have since been ordered by almost every Chinese customer to the pub, The Plough at Cadsden.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING • What do Russian ice cream, British beer and dumplings with stir-fried pig liver and intestines have in common?

When Chinese President Xi Jinping consumes them, their sales in China soar.

The latest indicator of the Xi factor: A surge in purchases of Russian ice cream after Russian President Vladimir Putin brought some as a gift for Mr Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou last month. Sales jumped after the news, the Chengdu Economic Daily reported last Tuesday.

"The Chinese tend to follow the trend, to jump on the bandwagon," said Mr Wu Ge, 63, from Beijing. "Throughout history, the Chinese have looked up to their great leaders, and that's how it is with Mr Xi, especially among young people."

Mr Wu stood last Thursday outside Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop near Beijing's Financial Street. The restaurant was an early indicator of how Mr Xi could boost sales, not long after he took office.

More than three years after Mr Xi's surprise visit to the restaurant chain to eat a set meal of dumplings, vegetables and stir-fried pig liver and intestines - now known as "The Chairman's Set" - business there is still booming.

A queue of over 30 people backed up at the counter last Thursday while, outside, a group of 27 from Shenzhen-based fresh fruit supplier Shenzhen Lohas World posed for a picture after a meeting nearby.

Ms Wang Qing, 58, visiting with her husband from Yantai in Shandong province on the east coast, sat with him at Mr Xi's table, eating The Chairman's Set.

"My husband has been here several times before and I've always wanted to come," she said. "I told him that when I visit Beijing with him, I must come here."

After Mr Xi visited a British pub with former British prime minister David Cameron last year, sales of British beer surged in Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency reported last October.

It said that sales of the Greene King IPA beer surged in China after Mr Xi was seen sipping the beer, with orders coming from hotels, bars and restaurants.

Mr Xi also impacts outbound tourism. Following his visit to New Zealand in November 2014 and the airing of a popular reality TV show in China that featured New Zealand that year, Chinese visitor numbers leapt more than 34 per cent last year to almost 356,000.

"Both events resulted in a significant spike in online searches for keywords such as "New Zealand", "New Zealand tourism" and "New Zealand visa", as eager Chinese citizens rushed online to learn more," said Milford Asset Management analyst Zhu Shing in a January report.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'From British beer to Russian ice cream, count on Xi to boost sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe