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Laurel: master of traditional foods brings speed to the urban kitchen.

In the evolution of successfully transforming traditional Chinese cuisine into frozen foods, Laurel Enterprises Corp. was the pioneer that blazed the trail many others would later follow in Taiwan. It all started back in 1970, as members of a family-run ice-making concern concluded that the growing popularity of freezer-equipped home refrigerators in rapidly developing Taipei presented them with an opportunity to catapult their business from the "ice age" to the modern era of IQF. The forward-thinking Wangs not only had a vision, but also the guts to invest in a future that was very uncertain at the time.

"There were a lot of skeptics around when we introduced frozen foods to Chinese consumers more than 20 years ago," recalled Ben C.I. Wang, president of the company now capitalized at over US$ 3 million. "But we calculated that Taiwan's rapidly industrializing society would soon learn to appreciate the convenience value of nutritious frozen foods. And by speeding up Chinese cooking in domestic settings, we have given many traditional foods a new lease on life in today's instant society."

While some people insisted that such delicate ethnic fare had to be hand-prepared form scratch to be capable of imparting truly authentic flavor, Laurel worked hard at adapting ancient recipes to the quick freezing process. The tasty results were soon in demand not only throughout the island, but also among far-flung foreign markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, North America and Europe.

From Laurel's initial introduction of a few varieties of dumpling and dim sum, today's long line of retail and institutional specialties range from meat rolls and cuttlefish balls to pineapple pie, lotus seed buns and joji. "Sesame rice balls and steamed buns are the best sellers abroad," noted Mr. Wang. "And so-called 'Chinese Pizza' -- which is actually a pancake containing green onions -- is also a big hit."

More than 500 people are employed at Laurel's two factories, with an additional 140 working at its Star Foods Supplies Corp. subsidiary. The latter links a fleet of 135 refrigerated vehicles to three cold stores with 5,000 pallet positions, three distribution centers, and 11 depots strategically situated in the south, middle and north of Taiwan. It delivers temperature-sensitive payloads around the clock to 8,000 retail and wholesale points for Laurel and 20 other unaffiliated food manufacturers. Among Star's biggest clients is the 720-store 7-Eleven chain.

"We make every effort to remain in the forefront of our field by constantly updating operational and information technology," said Jamin C.M. Wang, marketing director. An inspection of the company's highly efficient DPP computer system and its ultra-modern production plants underscore the point.

Laurel's frozen food output can reach up to 150 tons per day during peak periods. Its second factory in Chungho, which is only one year old, cost US$ 40 million to build. The four-floor facility is partially tiled with Italian marble and is fully appointed with world-class equipment.

"With labor rates rising by about 10% a year, we must concentrate on increasing productivity to stay competitive. That is why we imported two more spiral freezers from Frigoscandia in May," said Ben Wang.

As Taiwan prepares itself for the economic changes that will continue to reshape its people's busy lifestyle, Jamin Wang assured that one thing will stay constant in the food-loving culture: traditional Chinese delicacies from Laurel. "The good flavor will remain the same, though the packaging formats may vary to accommodate different consumer needs. Bulk packs or bundles of five-packs, for example, have been introduced at warehouse stores that are gaining ground here."

Meanwhile, the company is looking to build upon its solid Chinese frozen food foundation to further sales. It recently became the exclusive Taiwan agent for the American giant ConAgra.
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Frozen Foods of Taiwan: 1993; Laurel Enterprises Corp.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:When it comes to food packaging King Yuan Fu sits on Taiwan throne.
Next Article:Taiwan's frozen food industry: gearing up for future prospects.

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