If there is one ingredient that is hard to replace in the West, it’s cheese. Yet, in Asia, this product has never been part of their consumption habits. Indeed, especially in China, meals are limited to only dinner; there is no “cheese” time after eating, and almost never dessert. However in the last 30 years, since the economic development of China, the inhabitants have become richer. More and more Chinese have integrated the middle class and this has made them adopt a new way of living and eating. It also allowed them to travel to the West and get to discover a new culture with different gastronomy, very different from theirs. Their choice of products also got wider thanks to e-commerce!
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The cheese market is booming in China
The Chinese now have the means and the desire to discover new products. Especially foreign products because they associated them with an image of luxury and safety. Luxury first because this kind of product still remains inaccessible to some (too expensive). It is also products they are not used to consume, and living like “Western” is considered as a luxury in China. But also an image of safety that is reassuring for Chinese consumers. Because in the West, the hygiene is more controlled than in China. After repetitive food scandals in the country, the Chinese have lost confidence in some products of Chinese origin and prefer to pay more for a product of good quality.
Fast food chains such as McDonald’s (largely established in China) have also allowed Chinese to become familiar with the taste of cheese. The success of these restaurants has been so important that many other brands have decided to introduce Western flavors to their dishes; this includes the use of cheese. This is the case of many chains of bakeries, many cafes, bars, hotels etc. Although cheese is still far from being anchored in their eating habits, it has become more and more common in their diet.
That’s why the cheese market is booming in China. It has even become one of the most importing countries of cheese! Strong double-digit growth is expected for the coming years.
Who are the cheese consumers?
Chinese consumers remain relatively small. They eat 250 grams a year on average, which is in comparison far from the 26 kilos annual swallowed by a Frenchman. However, consumers are all alike.
They are young. Older people are always struggling with change, and that applies to their diet as well. They prefer to cook what they know and stick to Chinese food, while young people are more curious to discover new tastes and new flavors. It may seem exotic to eat something that is not traditionally basic in one’s diet.
In addition to being young, they are urban. Consumers of cheese are concentrated in the cities on the one hand because it is almost impossible to find elsewhere, but also because the inhabitants there are more sophisticated and more open to the Western world.
To be more precise, 60% of consumers are hotel customers because they usually consume the most cheese when they travel. 28% of the total cheese distribution is resold by stores and 10% is used to make desserts.
How to conquer this market?
- Adapt to Chinese consumers
Even if the interest of the Chinese for cheese continues to climb, it must not be forgotten that this remains a very unusual product for them. They do not necessarily know how to cook it, what to associate with it, how to eat it, etc. In addition, the aromas of some cheeses can be considered too strong for the palate of the Chinese. This is why they tend to prefer industrial cheeses, for example cheddar or cream cheese. These are the types of cheeses they find in restaurants / cafes / hotels, and they therefore seem less “scary” than blue for example. They are less strong in taste and smell, which they appreciate. In addition, these cheeses are easier to associate with their meals.
So even if untreated cheeses are still a niche market (especially for expats and Chinese cheese lovers), the vast majority of the population will prefer softer cheeses. It is necessary to adapt to their tastes to be able to be well established.
- Give everything on your packaging
By buying cheese, the Chinese want to buy a luxury product that comes from abroad. You have to give them that impression on the packaging. Because when they pay a little more than the average price for a product, they want to feel this feeling.
Another tip to catch their eye and convince them to buy your product is to clearly show the energy intake of your cheese. The Chinese are very interested in the protein and calcium content of the cheese. They consider cheese to be a healthy product because of this, and think of it as more effective than drinking milk. That’s why the child cheese market is a huge market to conquer in China! Because families want the best for their children. They want to buy healthy products, quality, and will not hesitate to pay a little more for it.
- Think about e-commerce
More and more Chinese are shopping online, even for groceries! It’s much more convenient and it saves time. E-commerce is also a facilitated solution to sell your products in China. In addition, it would allow you to reach the entire population as potential customers. If you need more information about e-commerce or any other digital marketing strategy, our agency can help you.
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