In the early years of China's market reforms, one of the most visible signs of opening up was the presence of foreign brands such as Coca-cola, Pepsi and Colgate. Their gradual arrival since 1978 heralded a period of strong growth in the sales of frequently bought consumer goods such as packaged food and toiletries. These goods, known as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), are products with a quick turnover and relatively low costs and are sold mainly in grocery stores, convenience stores and supermarkets. They include household care products and even some pharmaceutical products and consumer electronics goods. Foreign players such as Unilever and P&G had dominated the market. But in the 1990s, more local companies entered the fray. After China joined the World Trade Organisation in late 2001, a substantial increase in foreign investment further boosted the development of the FMCG industry, while the growing popularity of hypermarkets and superstores, such as Carrefour and Wal-Mart, in recent years has widened the distribution network, giving another lift to sales. A survey of 100 companies running supermarkets, malls and convenience stores found they posted 530 billion yuan in sales in 2006, up 20 per cent from the previous year, according to the China Chain Store and Franchise Association. That represented almost 7 per cent of total annual retail sales on the mainland, China Daily said in a report on the survey. More shoppers are also turning to the internet for such products. According to online research organisation China Polling, the volume of online shopping jumped 128 per cent to 120 billion yuan last year. The gloom cast by the current global downturn has halted some companies' plans to expand and recruit, recruitment firm Taihe Consulting found in a poll, China Daily reported. But the continuing rise of personal incomes and increasing urbanisation are expected to generate steady demand for consumer products over the coming years. Food safety, however, has become a key concern for consumers. Recent contaminated-food scandals, including the tainted infant milk powder that killed at least six babies and made nearly 300,000 ill, have dented confidence in local companies. Some of the leading dairy product companies, such as Mengniu Dairy and Inner Mongolia Yili, reported drastic drops in sales after the scandal erupted in September last year.