With its wealth of resources, it's no surprise that despite being far, far away from the glittering economy of the east, Sichuan is home to a number of brands that are household names around the country. Below are ten of our picks, in no particular order.
While the New Hope Dairy's backbone is its factory farming—it is the nation's largest and covers everything from animal feed and medication to egg and dairy production to meat and poultry processing—you might know the brand best for its yogurt, sold in refundable foil-topped glass bottles. New Hope's much-loved success story goes like this: Founded in 1982 by four brothers with RMB1,000, the company spawned into a number of different sectors—insurance, technology, banking, real estate. But agribusiness is still the Hope Group's mainstay, and the New Hope Dairy now boasts an annual output of 750 million poultry, 10 million pigs, and 800,000 tons of milk, annual sales of USD6.5 million and, as of the late 1990s, expansion into Southeast Asia.
Wuliangye baijiu is distilled from five grains: red sorghum, rice, sticky rice, wheat and corn, hence its name, which translates to something like "Five-Grain Liquor." Sichuan is known for top-notch liquor production; with several other top labels including Swellfun based in the province, Wuliangye is in good company. The Yibin-based operation holds a reported 45 percent of the global baijiu market share.
Changhong is one of the country's oldest and most-beloved TV brands. Established in 1958 in Mianyang, it's now Asia's leading supplier of consumer electronics with distribution across six continents and a product line spanning air-conditioning units, refrigerators, small home appliances, digital audio and video products. In 2008 it was one of only 15 Chinese companies to be named to World Brand Lab's 500 Most Influential Brands list.
Hongqi Chain Stores
Less than a decade ago, Hongqi swooped in on predecessor Huhui's turf and waged a battle: Red Flag versus red-and-yellow stripes. Hongqi has since built up an empire that includes thousands of shops across Sichuan province. Offering more selection than a convenience store without the hassle of a full-blown supermarket, Hongqi serves up local pride alongside its endless aisles of bottled drinks, packaged foods, household goods, and, at some locations, produce. Next, the Red Flag will have to hold its ground against newcomer WOWO (below).
WOWO Convenience Stores
With its uniform blue and orange stripes glowing all day and night on what seems like every street corner in Chengdu, WOWO has been recording explosive growth every year since its opening in late 2005 in the city's southwestern Kanghelijing district. Offering a range of packaged drinks, foods, tobacco. What differentiates them from every other corner shop in Chengdu? They claim it's their offer of fresh, ready-to-eat breakfast products—corn cobs, hot dogs, eggs, and zongzi (they allegedly sell 200,000 of the sticky-rice pyramids daily)—but the rest of us think it's their omnipresence (nearly 300 shops in Chengdu), compact, organized presentation of goods, and, most importantly, 24-hour service. Up next, WOWO plans to spread its chain stores to Chongqing as well as other second-tier cities such as Kunming, Changsha, and Wuhan to boast over 1,000 stores by 2014. Now, if only we could get a definite answer on how to pronounce the name.
Baijia makes and markets packaged food, most notably fangbianmian—otherwise known as that ever-popular late-night favorite "instant noodles." Its trademark product, Baijia Instant Sweet Potato Noodles (which, in case you needed further proof of its popularity, boasts its own Facebook page) is distributed all over the country and exported to dozens of countries. With four factories and annual sales in the hundreds of millions over its eight-year history, this Chengdu-based company is a hometown hero.
Sichuan Haoji Foods
You've surely seen (or at least heard) the commercials on TV, the male voice enunciating "Haoji jijing!" Persuading the nation that chicken bouillon beats (or at least equals) MSG was no easy task, but in 1987, facing a RMB1.2-million debt, that's what Haoji (at that time Puge MSG Factory) president Yan Junbo decided that's what he had to do to stay in business. In 1995, Haoji became a nationally distributed brand (it's now a household name), and in 2001 the company signed a joint venture with Swiss food giant Nestlé to create its current incarnation.
Available at every corner shop, Pride cigarettes—recognizable by the fuzzy panda mascot gracing every package—are earmarked as one of the nation's key cigarette brands. Produced by the Chengdu Cigarette Factory since 1995, one of three local cigarette factories, it makes a variety of labels for the massive domestic market of smokers.
Sichuan Blue Ray Industrial Corporation
Sichuan Blue Ray Industrial Corporation was founded in 1990 and is now the largest local real-estate firm, owning many of the buildings you visit on a daily basis—Oriental Times Mall (home of the Hemp House), the Blue Caribbean Plaza (home to Café Panam(e), and the Chunjiang Huayue plaza (home to Salut). You can also see the BRC logo on drinking-water bottles since the company expanded its operations into other industries.
With operations beginning in 1988, Sichuan Airlines now flies to more than 50 destinations. Sichuan Airlines made news in June by flying the first Airbus aircrafts produced entirely in China, following its 1995 move to become the first Chinese airline to fly the Airbus A320.
This article was researched by Marvin Tan & Chih Tseng and originally published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 25 ("Sichuan").