Chocolate has long been considered as a way too expensive product in China, an unclassifiable food in their national gastronomy and hardly adaptable to local dishes. Its market establishment in China is therefore kind of recent and came up with the culture of offering gifts, where it becomes fashionable to exchange this exotic and luxurious product.
- Read also the ultimate guide to Export in China.
How to Export your Chocolate to China
Tip 1. Gain the trust of Chinese customers
Comptoir du Cacao is a French chocolate factory run by Desmartins family that choose to focused on exporting and chocolate trade shows abroad. Their last market? Shanghai city and its cosmopolitan citizens. We moved to the French trade Wine and Gastronomy 2017 in Angers to meet Mrs. Roucheray, multitasking employee and saleswomen at the chocolate factory, this time exhibitor at the chocolate village.
Faced with cheap industrial chocolates, hand-crafted factories are on a roll. No doubt for Ms. Roucheray that a chocolate factory must target high-end to seduce the Chinese market: “The Chinese are looking for major brands. The influence of France helps a lot because it gives us a representation of quality in one’s mind. Visit the local trade show also helps a lot to make our brand & products more famous.”
The company does not hesitate to travel abroad and offer to taste the products to make itself known. They have participated in several trade fairs in Shanghai: “We offer a lot of tastings to our Chinese customers, not a single kind of chocolate testing but on the contrary all the different kind that will be founded in the box. We make sure they will like every products of our compositions. Generally chocolates like ganache truffle or liquor are the ones leaved untouched because they are less popular for customers taste, so we do not work with ganache truffle or liquor chocolate. We let no surprise in terms of ingredients inside.”
Tip 2. Adapt yourself to local market
Used to food scandals of all kinds, Chinese consumers reveals themselves to be very demanding and inquisitive: suppliers do not hesitate to ask companies about their list of ingredients and manufacturing secrets. “It’s hard to work with them. A chocolate maker will never reveal his manufacturing secrets or even the ingredients contained, the eventuality of being copied afterwards is too high. It took three years for the family business to adapt its production to Chinese customers and win the trust of their new suppliers by sending a profusion of free tastings, even giving away the list of ingredients contained in their chocolates. “We finally succeed and our first orders arrived from China”
Marriage becoming an omnipresent social pressure in China, Chinese folks celebrates three Valentine’s Day: their traditional Feast of Love Qixi, falling on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the western celebration on February the 14th plus a commercial day invented on November the 11th and targeting the ‘unfortunate’ singles who needs to cheers themselves up through shopping and friend’s presents. A highly reflected trend in mass-consumption: “Our customers are fond of Valentine’s Day, they order girly boxes of chocolate, with red and pink colors full or heart-shape decorations. It must be bright and visible. We do sell it less in France but amazingly well in China. We simply follow market trends. ”
A breeze to export products to China ? An experienced businessman would not swear it. Comptoir du Cacao is currently only present at Shanghai Trade Shows because of the complexity to move in China, as material transportation has a significant cost and the products getting quarantined beforehand.
The company has of course relied on e-commerce, a great way to boost their sales especially with the hooked up Chinese customers.
The chocolate history
Cocoa culture is almost as old as the tea culture: it goes back to the first millennium BC. The word “cacao” came from the Olmec language, spoken by the pre-Columbians inhabiting the lands that became our contemporary Central America.
The pulp of cocoa beans was first commonly eaten before turning to another use of beans. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the chocolate candy appeared in his modern form, produced in the first British industrial chocolate factory of the world. As Pastor Thomas Cook target the tourism development, Joseph Fry hoped to use chocolate as an alternative to alcoholism, misery of the English society in those days.
Switzerland then impose its know-how until today by introducing the chocolate bar into carving squares, an egalitarian and easy split encouraging sharing-spirit in a still deeply steeped religious society.
Now, chocolate has become one of the main sources of snacking in Western society, particularly appreciated by children. It is currently developing in the Chinese market for consumers whose tastes are changing.
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