08/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Export This!

Companies have done their best to capitalize on the Olympics, whether via serving as an official sponsor or posing as one, amping up brand image, signing up stars or pushing new products.

A high-level PepsiCo Food manager recently revealed to me a locally developed snack set for a post-Olympic China release. She gave me a taste test too. "It's so good," she said, "that we're even thinking export."

It could work with that product (anything crunchy with lime and salt is a good thing), but in regards to R&D in China, export is not generally the primary aim. Instead, most companies innovating here naturally target the massively growing market right outside their research centers. So if MNCs, or indeed Chinese companies, were interested in innovating products for export to worldwide markets, where might they begin?

I don't have the answer for that, but not to be entirely unhelpful, here is a list of popular Chinese products that won't ever successfully export. 1. Darlie Toothpaste Until the U.S. company Colgate-Palmolive bought the Taiwanese company Hawley & Hazel in 1985, Darlie toothpaste was "Darkie" toothpaste with a package featuring a wide-eyed dark-skinned black man sporting a lascivious grin and a top hat. Although the English name was changed and the character received a makeover, the toothpaste's Chinese name, "Heiren Yagao," still translates literally to "black people toothpaste." If you would like to provide feedback about this product, here's Colgate"s contact info. 2. Chicken Feet China eats theirs -- so no chance of a domestic export opportunity here -- but ever wonder where all the U.S. chicken feet go? Don't let it keep you up another night. As a representative from the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council told me via e-mail,

"Last year, we exported 374,705 metric tons (of chicken paws) to China, worth $235.8 million. This year we are on pace to send 353,007 metric tons, worth $243.1 million."

He adds:

"The number of paws exported to China tends to pick up the last half of the year."


3. Hello Kitty Face Masks
Unfortunately, there is just not enough occasion for this in the rest of the world. (*M1)

4. American Flags
At least if you're in Minnesota, don't expect to purchase another foreign-made Old Glory. Here, the excellent writer Adam Minter blogs about how it's now illegal in his home state to buy anything but domestically made flags and punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

5. The Chery QQ

Or any other Chinese-brand automobile for that matter. As my friend, translator Brendan O'Kane, warned me before I searched through Chinese car crash test videos: "Spoiler alert: the steering column punches through the crash test dummy, whose head detaches just before the body of the car crumples around it like a tinfoil wrapper."
Buckle up.

6. Salty Carbonated Water
Older folks slug this stuff down in the summer in an effort to keep hydrated and balance their electrolytes. If you added some sugar and cheap tequila to the lemon-flavored one in the Shanghai Chivalry "cool" series, maybe you could package it as a fizzy fountain margarita at Kum & Go.

7. Disney Lingerie
Every time I walk past Disney lingerie advertisements in Chinese department stores, in which 13- or 14-year-old Eastern European girls pose coquettishly in Minnie Mouse bras and panties, I die a little inside. Most hypocritically, Disney recently raised a stink about its billion-dollar child star Miley Cyprus' Vanity Fair appearance. Maybe it's because she wasn't posing in their nightwear.

8. Anti-Radiation Aprons
Generally worn by pregnant women, others can also reap the benefits, which, according to this site, prevent the following conditions that may be induced by computer use(translation):

--Dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervous breakdown
--Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, heart palpitation, nerve disorders;
--Miscarriages, in-uterine birth defects, discoloration and distortion;
--Disruption of the menstrual cycle, male sexual dysfunction, baldness and white hair;
--Leukemia (especially in children), cancer, tumors, immune system disorders. (*M2)

(*M1) Shout out to Mara Hvistendahl!
(*M2) Shout out to Micah Sittig!