Master Kong and Uni-President are two of the biggest players in China's instant noodle market. (Photo/CNS)
Taiwanese food conglomerate Uni-President was the secret instigator behind the boycott in China of the instant noodle brand Master Kong of its rival Tingyi, reports the China-based website China Economic Net.
The brand owned by Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corporation, the largest instant noodle producer in China and founded by Taiwanese entrepreneurs, has become a target of inflamed anti-Japanese sentiment in the country over a territorial dispute after it was revealed that Tingyi is part-owned by a Japanese investor.
Sources told the Chinese-language China Business Times that Uni-President was orchestrating the Master Kong boycott from behind the scenes by distributing leaflets, forwarding microblog posts and commenting on internet forums. Evidence allegedly includes what appears to be an internal company email, photos of the leaflets and boycott activities.
According to the source, an email dated Sept. 15 forwarded by "TeMing Lin" was an internal Uni-President email that urged recipients to take advantage of anti-Japanese sentiment and use their personal microblog accounts to promote the "truth" that Master Kong is a Japanese-invested brand. The email urged managers to spread banners and photos promoting the boycott of Master Kong but warned that no Uni-President T-shirts should be seen at any of the organized activities.
Another email said to have originated from Uni-President's business division on Sept. 16 accused their rival of retaliating against the boycott and urged the company to fight back, according to China Economic Net.
The email was said to have been forwarded by "RongLong Hou," whom sources purport to be Uni-President general manager and executive director Hou Ronglong. Sources allege that Uni-President management repeatedly reminded workers to keep their company's name out of the boycott activities to avoid arousing suspicion.
China Economic Net contacted the supposed originator of the Sept. 16 email, surnamed Wu, who confirmed that she did indeed work for Uni-President's business division, though she denied sending the email in question despite initially telling reporters that she could not recall.
To counter the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment, Master Kong reiterated on its official website that it is a Chinese brand, adding that it should not be discriminated against for welcoming foreign investment in line with government policy.
Master Kong has already appealed to China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce with evidence and an investigation is under way, China Business Times reported.
Uni-President, the largest food production company in Asia, runs thousands of 7-11 franchises in Taiwan and thus serves as the representative of a brand owned by a Japanese company, Seven & I Holdings.
Anti-Japanese feeling has been running high in China after the Japanese government nationalized three disputed islands in the East China Sea last month also claimed by China and Taiwan. The islands are known as Senkaku to Japan, which controls them, and as Diaoyu in China and Diaoyutai in Taiwan.
Hou Ronglong 侯榮隆