Asian Food Business
Asian foods came with migrant workers, immigrants, students or business people over the Pacific Ocean to the west coast. First Chinese came for the trans-continental railway construction and gold rush, followed by Philippine-Japanese for mining-agriculture developments, and then Thai-Laos-Vietnamese after the Indochina conflicts. Once confined among ethnic communities, they gradually spread to ethnically close people. Later some appear more often to our eyes and tongues, for exotic, appealing and tasty natures to our eating or cooking. Let’s see its progress in business.
Retail: Ethnic people started living together for convenience and security. Chinatown, Japan-town or Little Tokyo, Korea-town, Little Saigon, Bangladesh-town as almost all immigrants grouped together. Their imported foods or daily necessities were sold in the beginning and later locally available ones were added. There were also mom-pop grocery stores in big cities or college towns as Asian students or business people came. Recently some of them have grown into large stores or even chain supermarkets for growing populations of ethnic descendants and new arrivals. There almost all items could sustain them to live like they did in their native countries. Furthermore, the mainstream supermarkets or gourmet stores have started carrying some in the Asian food alley. Frozen dumplings, wonton soup, yakisoba (a Japanese version of chow mein), or shrimp tempura sit next to chimichangas or burritos at Costco stores in CA. Occasionally a guy is spotted shopping for sushi materials today.
Importer/Distributor: Many foods are exported from Asia through a handful of importers. The Asian food items are from respective countries or manufactured by contract manufactures often in China or Taiwan or Indochina countries, just like apparels or other made-in-Asia merchandises. Our FDA and USDA keep watching their food safety and compliance to our regulations. After imported, distributors sell the merchandise to retailers or restaurants. An import label in English tells you the origin of product, ingredients or nutrition info. Of alcohol beverages like sake, the federal and state governments impose different regulations, and importers, distributors, retailers or restaurants must carefully follow them with appropriate licenses and tax-fees.
Restaurants: Asian tastes have now settled down as a part of our eating thru localization or Americanization by adjusting taste or presentation to ours. Sushi, soup noodles, or other Asian foods, you can eat at airports, resorts, cruise ships, food courts, in casinos or shopping malls. Some of them may have gone beyond the original food culture boundary, though. Those who prefer the traditional taste have a choice at authentic eating places, often at higher prices. The polarization of Asian restaurants appears to go into these two directions. Another interesting matter is a blending of Asian foods at an eating place like buffet, Kaiten (carrousel) sushi, or so-called Asian restaurants. There we would be able to eat Americanized Asian foods all together at one place. Fried sushi and Kimchee fried rice were my recent experiences. Not so bad! More Asian restaurant chains would come and flourish in a rice bowl, soup noodle, fast Asian-Chinese food or bento business.
Food Manufactures: Today soy sauce, tofu, instant and fresh noodles, dumplings and other Asian foods are manufactured here by major Asian food companies or local ones. Among them, the made-in-USA soy sauce is the most noticeable with red or green caps. Sake, brewed-in-CA, is not bad with respect to taste and price, particularly if warmed. Locally grown Asian vegetables are good to eat fresh or cooked. For cutting shipping and import costs, more local manufacturing would come for ready-to-eat consumer products as well as ready-to-use restaurant products. Some may be able to export to Asia. There must be a good business chance for Asian foods if one is innovative.