Poisoning fails to turn Wahaha sour
TOM KORSKI in Beijing
One of China's biggest food product companies is claiming record growth in profits despite a poisoning scandal last year.
State-owned Hangzhou Wahaha Group last week reported 230 per cent growth in first-quarter net profits to US$8.86 million, and claimed output of fruit drinks and other products nearly doubled compared with last year's result.
Wahaha Group was hit by disclosures last year that one of its beverage products was to blame for fatal poisonings of children in Anhui. The company has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.
The beverage manufacturer claimed sales were so brisk that 'plants are in production 24 hours a day and still cannot meet the demand'.
'Entering the new year, orders have poured in from all over the country,' the company said in a notice in the official China Business Weekly.
'This is a sharp contrast to many state enterprises which find it difficult to sell their products,' it said.
Revelations of poisonings involving Wahaha Group products, first disclosed by the official Beijing Youth Daily last June, prompted authorities to fire the newspaper's president in apparent retaliation for uncovering safety concerns at the company.
Wahaha Group avoided all mention of the controversy, insisting the company's products had 'earned the fondness of consumers' on the mainland.
'A successful strategy in establishing a famous brand serves as the gold key to open up the market,' the company said.
Wahaha Group has established seven joint venture projects with foreign partners.