Fast Food Adapts To International Demand • Japanese Scientists ...

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19APBN • Vol. 2 • No.1 • 1998
Fast Food Adapts to International Demand
Japanese Scientists Eye
Commercial World
t has been observed in Japan in recent years that more and more scientists
are beginning to cross the line that divides research and business.
Understandably, the government is paying lip service to this trend, allowing
that it hastens technology transfer from the laboratory to the market. However,
scientists complain that many legal matters need to be put in order before they
really have a free hand to pursue these business ventures the government is
so enthusiastic about.
Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) believes that very few university
scientists have set up their own businesses so far, but that this is by no means
an indication that they are not interested in doing so. However, a law prohibits
members of national institutes from serving as board members of commercial
companies. MITI says it is pushing the Ministry of Education to amend the
law, but the process may take some time.
Capital is also a problem. Universities often look into setting up licensing
organizations, so that they can arrange for the selling of their technologies to
commercial companies. However, many lack the start-up funds necessary. In
addition, investors in Japan are usually unwilling to put up the money for a
new business venture, preferring to invest once the company is listed.
The dichotomy between academia and industry also presents a problem.
Researchers claim that without a business background, they lack the confidence
to take the plunge into the commercial world, and also have a tough time
convincing investors to have faith in them. Likewise, investment companies
admit that the rift between themselves and the academics is so great that a
real opportunity may pass them by simply because they cannot immediately
recognize its potential.
Despite these difficulties, a number of Japanese scientists have made their
mark in industry, and more are moving into the market all the time. An
executive director of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN)
estimates that the institute will be establishing six new venture businesses
within the next few months. Projects include gene analysis, robot design and
manufacture, and developing network equipment for the Internet.
The recent economic slump has shaken many Japanese out of the conventional
thinking of 'lifetime guaranteed' employment, and it is believed many more
scientists would venture into industry, given the correct channels. Without
changes in legislation and more pro-active government support, however, it is
likely that many will not be able to realize their ambitions.
ecent research carried out by Euromonitor has revealed that the popularity of fast food is on the increase
worldwide, although different factors are
held accountable for this trend in different
countries. The US is still the world's
greatest per capita consumer of fast foods,
with Japan second and the UK, third.
However, tremendous growth has been
observed in recent years in Europe and
Asia, where fast food companies have
adapted resourcefully to local demands.
In general, the convenience food industry
has received a boost from changing lifestyles, with more and more women going
to work and being unwilling to spend time
preparing meals. In addition, a trend
toward longer working hours and shorter
lunch breaks has contributed to fast food's
rise in popularity in such countries as Italy
and Spain.
Demand for healthier food — in the wake
of such scares as the BSE ('mad cow'
disease) crisis and epidemics of Escherichia coli infections — is on the increase,
although different countries have different
interpretations of what ‘healthy’ food
entails. In Germany, for example, organic
food is very much in demand, while in
Japan, many foods are enhanced with
vitamins and minerals. Fast food companies have taken account of such
demands, and have adapted their products
Fast food companies are increasingly
tailoring their products and marketing
strategies to the needs of local consumers.
In Thailand, for example, McDonald's has
successfully released a ‘Thai-spiced
burger’ to cater for local tastes, even
gearing its advertising campaign around
the theme of Thai nationalism. According
to Mr. Dej Bulsuk, managing director of
McThai Co., the ‘buy Thai’ theme of the
campaign fits into line with government
policy to reduce imports during this unstable economic time. In fact, the strategy
even hints at the government’s intentions
to increase exports wherever possible. Mr.
Dej has even gone on national television
to explain that 85% of McThai's supplies
are bought locally. So far, the strategy
R has helped boost overall sales ofMcDonald's by 15% in Thailand, with the
Thai burger itself accounting for 30% of
total sales revenue.
20 APBN • Vol. 2 • No. 1 • 1998
Agriculture in Zhangzhou Takes a New Direction

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hangzhou City of Fujian Province
has taken the lead in
developing market-orientated agriculture.
Many farmers have started venturing into
business recently by signing contracts with
local companies to supply their farm
products. At present, there are 1400
companies in Zhangzhou processing farm
products including milk, frozen vegetables,
dried vegetables, and fodder. The market
risk is shared by both the farmers and the
companies concerned as the price of the
farm products is negotiated well in
advance and stated in the contract.
The city government has been playing an
important role in developing marketoriented agriculture. It has set up five
integrated development areas and eight
farming bases for export. More than 200
markets have also been established to
handle farm products. In addition, an
information center to provide farmers with
information on the national and international market situations has been set up.
All these will help local farmers to industrialize and at the same time learn market
The city’s close proximity to Taiwan has
also helped agriculture in the city to
develop at a faster pace. 280 farming
projects in Zhangzhou, involving US$380
million, are financed by investors from
Taiwan. In 1997, these farms produced
more than US$1 billion worth of products.

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