China keeps its position as the global leader in the field of food imports and despite the multiple challenges of market entry, the Asian juggernaut has a lot to offer to producers from around the world.
The main opportunities lay in a number of sectors that have showed significant growth in the last years.
1. Meat Products & Seafood
Pork remains the top meat consumed by Chinese and tradition plays an important role in this aspect but in the past decade other types of meat have started to gain market share thanks to the expanding middle class, health concerns and various other factors.
Beef, lamb and poultry are among them but salmon from Northern Europe and Scotland is also popular. The Chinese meat importers are interested in both fresh and frozen meat varieties.
Pork imports arrive mainly from the United States and Europe – Germany, Poland, Spain and beef is imported in majority from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and Canada.
2. Sweets & Confectionery
Local producers of sweets dominated this sector but as in the case of many other food categories an increased demand for high end products, healthier ingredients and more variety allowed many EU, US and Japan companies to have success in China. The market has seen a growth of more than 10% in the last years.
Chinese confectionery and sweets importers are mainly interested in high quality chocolate and snacks and there are interesting opportunities for companies who focus on the production of truffles or premium biscuits.
3. Olive Oil & Coffee
Coffee is winning the hearts of more and more Chinese, especially in the urban areas, and some experts consider this sector as the next “El Dorado” for foreign companies. Both premium, often Italian, and more affordable products can be successful.
Chinese olive oil importers have also reported a huge increase in imports in the past 12 years, more than 1000%, and there are now around 50 foreign brands established in the larger Chinese cities.
Thanks to its health benefits and increased popularity among the Chinese middle class, olive oil is expected to be far more popular, some analyst reporting that the consumption might reach 900,000 tons by 2020. The top 3 exporters to China are Spain, Greece and Italy.
For companies who operate in the beverage industry, wine and beer remain strong imports in China and opportunities still remain for those who target the higher price segment.