HONG KONG'S food imports from the United States increased 41 per cent last year as a result of more people adopting US-style shopping habits and the growing popularity of 'yuppie' restaurants selling American produce. 'Total US agricultural exports to Hong Kong exceeded the US$1 billion mark for the first time in 1994,' according to Market Overview, the territory's US Agriculture Trade Office report. 'At US$1.23 billion, Hong Kong ranks as the seventh-largest export market for US agricultural products,' the report says. The territory is now Asia's second largest importer of high-value and value-added US foods and farm commodities. Poultry, meat, oranges, ginseng, apples, vegetables, cotton and tobacco are Hong Kong's biggest US imports. The US is now the largest supplier of fresh fruit to the territory. US fast food restaurant chains such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Hardee's, Fairwood, Cafe De Coral and Jack In The Box have expanded their operations rapidly during the last 10 years. Restaurants with an all-American image - Dan Ryan's, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and Shooter's 52 - have also emerged as 'favourite hangouts for Hong Kong's ever-increasing number of yuppies', the report says. In the retail sector, supermarkets are replacing traditional Chinese 'wet markets'. And the old-style supermarkets are being challenged by the arrival of warehouse-type retailing, the report says. There is excellent growth potential for US grocery exports as the number of existing and new food retail outlets continues to increase. 'Because of established ties and advantageous trading arrangements, most of Hong Kong's grocers traditionally look to Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries for supplies. 'In recent years, however, buying habits have been shifting and many American items are now available on local shelves, at highly competitive prices.' New US-style warehouse/club retail stores in Hong Kong, such as Goldmart, which sell mainly US food, have done much to increase sales of US products here, the report says. The trend is expected to continue because the territory's growing affluence will keep on fuelling demand for grocery products, the report says. 'According to a recent purchasing power parity study conducted by the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong residents enjoy the highest purchasing power in Asia . . . surpassing even Japan,' the report says.