By 2030, roughly two-thirds of the world’s middle class will be in the Asia Pacific region, largely in China, according to a report by Ernst & Young. Currently at around 150 million people, the Chinese middle class is expected to reach 1 billion.
Representing a $250 billion market for American companies today, according to the U.S.-China Business Council estimates the country, it’s worth noting the American companies that can take advantage of the enormous opportunity. Some of the nation’s biggest brands have already managed to be the Chinese market leaders in their particular segments. Apple sells more tablets than any competitor in China and Gillette more razors than any other brand. While some of these companies are facing increased competition internationally and from China-based firms, others appear to be pulling away from the pack.
Because China is not an open market, international companies cannot compete in some sectors. According to the U.S.-China Business Council, the Chinese government currently imposes restrictions on about 100 different sectors in both manufacturing and service industries, including much of the agriculture and food production, cloud computing, financial services, petrochemicals, and health insurance, among others.
In the sectors that remain more open to international competition, China represents an opportunity for companies to strengthen their brand and also move ahead of their closest competitors globally. One example of a company capitalizing on its leading position in China is Yum! Brands. The fast food company is behind global competitors like McDonald’s, which had roughly double Yum’s worldwide sales in 2012. Nevertheless, Yum! currently has a very strong foothold in China. Its leading chain, KFC, has more than 4,200 stores in the country, more than double that of McDonald’s, its closest competitor. What’s more, the company, despite setbacks, is growing its presence significantly there.
No doubt, the companies that entered the Chinese market planned their entry carefully. But it’s also clear that many managed to capitalize on their domestic and international brand dominance outside of China. Companies such as Starbucks, Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola have thrived in the country — just as they do all over the world. Whether the companies can continue to leverage that value against up-and-coming Chinese brands remains to be seen.
These are the most popular American brands in China.