Thu, Oct 16, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Ting Hsin likely won’t feel the pinch

Amid the snowballing cooking oil scandal surrounding food manufacturing giant Ting Hsin International Group’s (頂新集團) subsidiaries, boycotting Ting Hsin items has seemingly become a public movement, with an increasing number of local governments, restaurants, traditional markets and schools echoing the call not to buy, use or consume the companies’ products.

Indeed, the public has every reason to be livid after the conglomerate’s repeated problems with cooking oil has caused great harm not only to the public’s trust in food safety, but more importantly to consumers’ health and the nation’s reputation.

However, will Ting Hsin feel the pinch as a result of consumers boycotting its products?

The answer is most likely “No.”

The truth is that the ongoing national campaign to boycott Ting Hsin products and services is not hurting its revenue stream at all.

Ting Hsin, best known for instant-noodle brand Master Kong (康師傅), is the largest instant noodle maker in China. Ting Hsin’s total revenues in China last year were more than NT$400 billion (US$13 billion). Master Kong alone brings in NT$326 billion, or over 80 percent of Ting Hsin’s total revenue.

By comparison, Ting Hsin’s business in Taiwan — primarily via Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業), a reputable local food brand which Ting Hsin acquired in 1998 when Wei Chuan was facing a financial crisis — accounts for a “mere” NT$14.4 billion.

It is clear that senior Ting Hsin executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) — former chairman of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co (頂新製油實業) and Cheng I Food Co (正義股份), two Ting Hsin subsidiaries at the center of the latest food scandal implicated for using animal feed oil to produce cooking oils, affecting hundreds of downstream customers — has no regard for consumers in Taiwan.

Ting Hsin’s disregard for Taiwanese consumers was evidenced by Wei shunning the media for days, not lifting a finger to face the public and explain himself.

On the contrary, adding fuel to Taiwanese consumers’ anger, was the striking manner of Ting Hsin’s response when it came to the Chinese market. It was quick to release a statement and stressed that the ingredients of its products in China are different from those of its products in Taiwan.

Was this Ting Hsin’s way of suggesting that Taiwanese consumers deserve substandard food?

In the latest oil scandal, even I-Mei Foods Co (義美食品), one of the oldest Taiwanese food enterprises, known for keeping a tight grip on quality, was found to have used problematic oil sourced from Cheng I Food Co, prompting Shin-Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital nephrologist Chiang Shou-shan (江守山) to sarcastically praise Ting Hsin for fooling even companies known for utilizing strict laboratory quality testing procedures.

In short, what Ting Hsin has done is truly despicable, putting consumers’ health at risk while exhibiting a total lack of business ethics, all the while staining the reputation of other Taiwanese brands and the nation’s international reputation as a “food paradise.”

With Ting Hsin seemingly having become an “enemy of the state,” will the boycott eventually drive this “black-hearted” conglomerate out of Taiwan?

We will have to wait and see, but perhaps Ting Hsin is counting on the short memory span of the Taiwanese public.

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