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Wednesday
Nov172010

China Imports $6 Billion a Year from Washington State

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(BEIJING) -- China's status as the United States' number one-importer has heavy hitters like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg passing through Beijing jockeying for a piece of the China market, but there's one little welterweight that's making a big hit.

Call Washington State the little engine that could.

In the last decade, Washington State's exports to China increased over 300 percent. Last year, the state exported nearly $6 billion worth of products to China, second only to California.

Chinese consumers are going crazy for a Washington State candy called Almond Roca.

The buttercrunch toffee is an affordable treat in the United States. In China, it's marketed as a luxury item, showcased in upscale department stores and repackaged with Chinese characters. The Chinese character for Roca actually means "happy family."

Asians first got a taste of the candy during World War II, said Almond Roca Chief Executive Officer Pierson Clair. "We [United States] had a number of Navy bases in the Puget Sound and so captains and supply officers would throw on cases of Almond Roca to be on the ships for provisions, but they also used them for barter across Asia," Clair said.

The candy was formally introduced in Chinese department stores 22 years ago. It's an export that American workers can rest easy about; all of the candy is made in America, and sales in China have caused the factory of 300 workers to create another 25 jobs. "China is the star of our export business," Pierson said.

Washington State isn't stopping with the candy. There's a new opportunity in wine. The expansion of restaurants and supermarkets in China is providing a new opportunity for marketing wine from the state.

As more of China's elite make the move from the traditional white liquor called Baijiu, they're increasingly toasting to success with a nice, glass of Washington State wine mixed with a splash of Coca-Cola. They say the Coke makes it sweeter.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio