The Strategic Guide to Export Food Brands in China

Imported Food products in China is a double digital Market Growth. The Complete Guide to Export Food Brand in China, with Top Selling Strategies.

The imported food industry is a dynamic and lucrative market in China. The rise of the middle class, the increase of products available on the market, and a lack of confidence in local products has led to dramatic changes in the grocery shopping landscape. Imported food products reply to this lack of trust.

Sales of imported food products in China are still growing with a growth rate of 15% per year against a worldwide average of around 4%.

The imported food market suffers a little bit of a high competition and of taxes of importation more important for overseas products than local products.

Impossible is not Gentlemen Marketing Agency, it’s always an opportunity for foreign food brands to develop their business in China and our agency can help you to improve your food brand reputation through Chinese consumers and increase your sales in China.

Our team is composed of experts about the food market industry in China. They had a lot of experiences with different foreign brands and can help you.

This guide is here for those interested in entering the imported food product industry. It will help you understand the complexity of the Chinese food market and to give you some tips to be effective in China.

CHINESE IMPORTED FOOD MARKET

OVERVIEW OF THE IMPORTED FOOD MARKET IN CHINA

The imported Food market is booming in China. More and more Chinese consumers prefer buying foreign products than local products and that for some reason.

There are three main reasons for the development of the imported food market:

FOOD SAFETY

The Complete Guide to Export Food Products in China

China’s middle class has evolved rapidly, with a more and more raised available income. The standard of life changes and eating habits have changed too. Chinese make sure to eat better and pay attention to food safety.

China suffered of many food scandals challenging all kinds of products consumed in daily life, which has reinforced the concern among Chinese around food security. It is an opportunity for Export Food Products in China.

The scandals on food security have a significant impact on consumers, they are less confidence toward local brands but it also impacts foreign brands.

Now, around 86% of Chinese consumers pay attention to food security when they buy their products.

Another interesting point for foreign food brands: most of Chinese consumers are against food additives. 88% of Chinese consumers in the cities of 1st and 2nd row are against and 25% of them preferred to pay higher prices for food without additives inside.

HEALTHY FOOD

How to Export Food Products in China

Chinese consumers show greater interest in eating healthy food. It is true that today, consumers are paying more attention to their healthcare and thus what they are eating to stay healthy. They are also sensitive to their body weight, synonym of good health. In Chine, Health is very important, Chinese people pay more and more attention to their health.

There is a huge untapped potential in several segments of foreign healthy food:

As stated above, consumers are now more looking for healthy food without food additives, but, also organic products, low in calories and has a slimming effect.

These four categories are the trends that foreign brands should develop.

Chinese consumers embrace this new organic trend, they want to eat healthier. Over 30% of consumers in the cities of 1st and 2nd rows often buy organic food. Consumers seek foods with fewer pesticides that can harm their health.

Having a child will also influence on how to consume the food. Parents are more vigilant about food. Families with high income are willing to pay more for organic food.

67% of consumers look at the ingredients and nutritional information that constitute the food. The vast majority who are concerned with nutrition is the parents. Indeed, in China, due to the increase of wealth, the phenomenon of obesity is growing. Lots of parents give too much food to their kids. They want to prevent their children from getting sick and care about many of the ingredients of the food they buy.

But now, they are more and more aware that their kids suffered of obesity, that’s why, they look for the list of ingredients and high quality products.

FOOD GLOBALIZATION

Chinese people want more and more international food

We can say that there is a globalization of food. Globalization is changing people’s food habits, the food is discovered by traveling, consuming imported products. Cultures mix and include many different foods around the world.
In China, over 80% of consumers buy imported products: the most consumed products are products of everyday life.
The consumption of imported products depends primarily on whether the consumer has children or not and also its income.

Buying foreign food products in China is also an image question. It shows to the others that you are open-minded and you have a high purchase power. In China, the rank you have regarding to your peers in the society is very important.

FOOD PURCHASING BEHAVIOR

HOW CONSUMERS RESEARCHING FOOD PRODUCTS?

As with most things in China, the internet is the main source of information when it comes to Chinese consumers researching food brands.

Nearly two thirds check Baidu (China’s Google) for information on food brands before purchasing a product.  Family, friends and KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) represent the second most popular source of information.

Regarding to imported food consumption, age does not play an important. All Chinese consumers of different ages have the same purchase behavior.  The one area where age did play a role worth considering is in the 25 -34 age group who are more likely to be strongly influenced by social media.

In China, social media and mobile apps are more powerful than print media advertising in newspapers or magazines. They are the best allies to export Food Brand in China.

Print media advertising is not a primary marketing avenue for imported food in China as it is costly and difficult to measure.

Social media and mobile apps are effective. They allow you to interact with your consumers and to make creative advertising.

In China, be digital is the key to touch your consumers.

HOW CHINESE CONSUMERS
BUY IMPORTED PRODUCTS?

60% of Chinese consumers who buy imported food buy online because you have more choices and it’s more convenient. In addition, you can also find better prices through online platforms than in traditional stores.

Friends and family recommendations, as well as online information was the driving factor which led 60 % of the Chinese consumers to buy imported food online.

WHAT KIND OF IMPORTED PRODUCTS DO CHINESE CONSUMERS BUY?

China imports a wide range of food products including dairy, meats, jam, chocolates and confectionery.

 Dairy products and snacks foods are the most commonly purchased. It’s becoming a new Chinese habit to consume this kind of products they didn’t consume before.

WHAT CHINESE CONSUMERS ARE LOOKING FOR WHEN THEY BUY IMPORTED PRODUCTS?

As said before, they are mostly looking for safety. Foreign food products are reputed to be safer than the local products.

Quality is ranking second, seen as an important buying trigger for 66% of the Chinese consumers.

Most of the consumers who buy imported food are impacted by the brand.

Export Food Brands in China

WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR COUNTRIES FOR IMPORTED PRODUCTS

The United States and France are the most popular source markets.

 These two countries are seen as having the best reputation for food.

Japan and Italy follow very closely behind, with New Zealand and Australia also ranking well.

These countries appeal to consumers on two levels :

  • Chinese consumers thought they are more advanced in food production with better production methods and more hygienic factory environments.
  • They are aspirational countries with lifestyles the Chinese try to emulate. For the affluent young Chinese, consuming these products show a sign of wealth and worldliness.

WHY FOREIGN FOOD BRANDS HAVE A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES IN CHINA?

TAXES ARE DECREASING

China has suffered severe inflation pressure since 2008. To release the pressure, Chinese government chooses to decrease the price of food. As a result, the tariff for imported food products has been gradually decreased over the years. Starting in 2008, China Customs has cut off the tariff of some major food products such as frozen pork, pistachios, cod cans and baby milk by at least 50%.

The gradual decreasing tariff makes some tariff such as foreign baby milk even lower than most favored nation tariff.

CHINESE CONSUMERS WANT INNOVATION

Chinese are curious and willing to try new culinary experiences. 53% of consumers enjoy trying new food. Consumers can try different foods from different countries or traditional food. Innovation is needed in the kitchen to raise the taste buds of Chinese consumers.

IMPORTED FOOD PRODUCT AS A PRESTIGIOUS GIFT

In China, imported food products are often used as a gift.

“Mianzi”, literally “Face”, idiomatically means dignity/prestige is an important subculture in China that strong rooted in people’s mind and deeply influences daily life of Chinese.

In China, you have to offer a decent gift to show how respectful you are to who receive the gift. A bad quality or cheap looking gift is equal to provocation.

Imported food products in China are better packed. Western brands pay attention to the packaging of each product because in Western countries it’s one of the purchasing criteria for consumers.

In addition, the price is relatively high which makes it a perfect choice of gift. In some important occasions like weddings, business meeting…imported food products are also widely welcomed.

You can see that there is a place in the market for imported food products and that consumers are open to buying them.

Foreign food products are more and more appreciated and buy by Chinese consumers. To be very effective, you need to be transparent with your Chinese consumers. Foreign food producers have to shift the focus of their marketing strategy to the security, quality and originality of their products.

It’s now your turn to take a part of the pie and introduce your food brand to Chinese consumers.

Let’s see some tips to develop your food brand on the Chinese food market.

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR SALES IN CHINA?

The key to develop quickly your brand in China is to understand that you need to adapt your strategy to Chinese channels.

Lots of food companies tried to develop their sales in China but failed because they used the same marketing strategy as their own country on the Chinese market. China has a different way of thinking. You have to understand that if you want to sell your food products in China.

THE EQUATION IS A SIMPLE ONE:
IMPROVE YOUR AWARENESS

E-REPUTATION + TRANSPARENCY + BRAND IMAGE
= SUCCESS

CROSS BORDER E-COMMERCE IN CHINA: THE BEST WAY TO SELL IMPORTED FOOD PRODUCTS

E-Commerce platforms are very convenient for foreign companies. You can sell straight away without a physical presence in China so long as you gain approval from the relevant cross-border platforms.

With China’s huge online population of over 900 million netizens and 250 million e-shoppers an online sales infrastructure is everything when entering the market. It’s an advantage for brands to conquer the Chinese market without having to pay heavy charges or taxes.

Everything is convenient for both parts. Consumers have the possibility to have access to foreign products without fear of the language barrier because the websites are optimized in mandarin. The delivery is as fast as for local products because all the e-commerce infrastructure is organized.

For sellers, it allows you to sell your products in China without suffer of the big gap of understanding.

The Chinese market has many opportunities since it affects a wide range of consumers. Foreign companies have the opportunity to target the right niche markets to market their offers.

Online food sales continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek convenience and choice.

94 % of Chinese consumers have ever purchased food online.Tmall is the preferred platform, but JD and Yihaodian also are well appreciated.

Buying directly from the brand’s website ranked further down in fifth position. This can be attributed to the strategic move by many brands to distribute through a larger Chinese e-commerce platform for logistical ease.

For Chinese consumers, it is more efficient to visit an aggregator site to find all options and to be sure of the safety and quality of the products. These cross-border platforms are reputed to only accept quality brands and they guarantee a good product.

TMALL: A HUGE E-COMMERCE PLATFORM FOR SALES

Tmall is the most reputable cross border e-commerce platform in China. The cross-border e-commerce platform is associated by Chinese consumers with quality and authenticity in a market place often associated with fake.

No wonder why imported food brands want to establish their stores on Tmall.

A Tmall.com storefront is essential to the China retail strategy of leading global businesses. It’s the most effective way for China market penetration.

But Tmall only accepted brands who have already a significant presence and realized high sales in China. That’s why a lot of companies are rejected by the platform which wants to keep a high standard.

There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:

  • If you are a company with China in-country business operations, you can apply to Tmall.com.
  • If you are a company with overseas licenses, you are eligible to Tmall Global.

QR CODES TO DRIVE TRAFFIC ONLINE

Having your own Tmall, JD or Yihaodian store is fine but you also need to drive traffic to your shop.

One of the most effective way is to set up QR codes to drive traffic between multiple platforms.

A QR Code is a powerful method for driving traffic between multiple platforms.

Chinese consumers are addicted to QR codes. They always scan QR codes they see. Use their habits to touch them.

QR codes can allow you to redirect buyers to:

  • App
  • WeChat Official Account
  • Shopping cart page via mobile

Users can scan directly the QR codes and be redirected to one of these online platforms.

BET ON THE DIGITAL CHANNELS
TO DEVELOP YOUR E-REPUTATION

The impact that social networks have on individuals is immense in China. Social media are an integral part of the daily life of more than 900 million Internet users. The digital sphere in China has taken a completely different turn from the one we know in the West due in particular to the censorship of the Chinese government concerning social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Google. The Chinese government has created his own social media sphere in parallel.

Internet users have the opportunity through these applications to be part of different communities, groups, follow the news and be able to follow their brands, buy online and share content. WeChat and Weibo are the two most popular social media platforms. You need to have an Official Account for your food brand on these two platforms.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS TO IMPROVE YOUR E- REPUTATION

Social media are very effective in China because it’s the perfect place to create relationships with your consumers. Chinese consumers love following brands and communicate with their representatives. Connecting with Chinese consumers is mandatory in China.

WECHAT

WeChat counts around 900 million monthly users and 700 million every day. WeChat is not only a simple social media platform, the app offers to its users an application regrouping all the necessary options in everyday life. With WeChat you can book tickets, book a taxi or order food. The platform also offers an electronic payment system with Wechat Pay which allow users to pay in stores.

On WeChat, you can also open a store called “mini store” and sell your products. It’s very convenient for little brand which has not yet a high reputation in China. Tmall or JD will not accept small brands.

Wechat combine two effective medium: gain in visibility and sell online.

WEIBO

Weibo is one of the most appreciated social media platforms. Chinese users love Weibo because it is the first place where they can express themselves “without” censorship. That’s why the platform is so popular in China.

Weibo is only a social media platform where people can communicate and share information. The platform is often compared to Twitter, but it’s a bit better than Twitter because users are allowed to write long posts and customize their posts.

Weibo, as a pure social media platform is effective for imported food brands to communicate with their followers and potential consumers. It’s also a good platform to send information, discounts, announce products launch, asks users’ advices and to do advertising.

In addition, you don’t need to be connected to the brand to see their posts. You can touch more people.

A WEBSITE IN MANDARIN & ADAPTED TO CHINESE NORMS

Aesthetic norms in China are really different. Western consumers will prefer a clean design, but Chinese consumers like pages with a lot of information, animations and pictures.

You also need to adapt your content. Of course, it has to be in mandarin. Because you have to be understood by your target. A mandarin website will also allow you to do SEO because when they do research, they use mandarin key words. With SEO, you will gain in visibility, which is the key of success in China.

Your website also needs to be hosted in China that is to say in “.cn”.

Chinese consumers like to read content. Create quality content will help them to trust you. Thanks to that you can improve your image and develop your e-reputation. Quality information show that you are a professional.

IMPROVE YOUR RANKING ON BAIDU THANKS TO SEO

75% of the research in China are made on Baidu. Before buying everything, Chinese consumers will first spend time on Baidu to have more information about your brand.

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that works to rank your official website in the natural search results over time. If your ranking on the natural search results is good, you will be more visible and Chinese consumers will trust you.

INFLUENCERS ARE A GOOD TOOL TO GAIN IN VISIBILITY

Influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are very powerful in China. They are simple users who became famous by generating a lot of traffic on their accounts.

They are often more popular than celebrities and Chinese consumers trust their advices. Key Opinion Leaders are more effective in China because users tend to be more impressionable, they highly value the status of such individuals.

KOL are numerous in China, find the one who matches with your brand can help you to attract your Chinese consumers. But, as usual, find the good KOL is not easy, work with professionals can help you to save time and money.

WHO WE ARE & HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

The imported food market is a lucrative market full of opportunities for ambitious players. The Chinese market is totally different than the other market in the world. That’s why it’s so complicated for brands to develop their businesses in China. Devising the right digital marketing strategy for this market is therefore the key. Working with a local agency as Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you to avoid the traps of the Chinese market which are numerous. Our agency work with western food brands since 2012. We help to export Food Brands to China, using the latest Marketing Strategies.  We have a lot of imported food brand projects and our experts are here to help you develop your business in China. Send us a message to Receive our Case Studies.

Guide to Export Food Brands in China

EXPERTS IN SEO ON BAIDU

Our focus is to promote your business with your target closely in mind. To sell online, you need to have a good image and to be reputable. We’ll use digital tools including: Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management. Then, we’ll manage the campaign and assure its optimization & success.

We are experienced on Baidu

  • High knowledges of the Baidu’s functions
  • A ROI-focused agency
  • We are effective
  • We worked with more than 300 western brands

PROFESSIONALS OF THE LEAD GENERATION

We are professionals of the lead generation. To be effective in your lead generation, you need first to develop a good e-reputation. Invest in online advertising and create quality content will help you developing your e-reputation. Finally, measure results to improve your performances.

We are lead generation experienced and we apply it to our agency. We get an average of 350 leads per month (March 2018) by applying the method we offer to companies that use our services.

UNDERSTANDING OF IMPORTED FOOD CONSUMERS

Since 2012, we are dedicated to the improving of many imported food companies in China. We understand the expectations of chineses and we know their habits and expectations when they want to buy imported food.

WE ARE A ROI-FOCUSED AGENCY

We are a ROI-focused agency. The solution is to attract and also re-target the most qualified traffic in order to increase conversion rates. We use advances Marketing to export Food Brands in China, and target Distributors.

A FRENCH AND CHINESE TEAM

We are french and Chinese team, here to help you developing your business in China.

We understand the Chinese consumers: their needs and habits.

We also understand the foreign brands’ difficulties when they tried to enter the Chinese market.

Each member of the team is specialized in a field. They have experience and they are effective.

AND IN BONUS

We are a friendly team, we offer the coffee if you book a meeting with our consultants to discuss about your project in China.

And trust me… our coffee is really good wink

In China, reputation is everything and with social media so widespread, everyone can have a public opinion on everything.  Making sure customers are talking about your brand through these channels in a positive manner will build your brand profile and should result in greater sales.

Using experienced marketing agencies such as Gentlemen Marketing Agency can make the process easy, designing strategies effective for the Chinese consumer.

OUR EXPERIENCE : OUR CASE STUDIES

GLENDEE

Glendee is a snack brand from Thailand. They produce potato chips, coconut chips and other variations of chips made from different fruits and vegetables. Their products are healthier and more natural.

They had two goals :

  • Attract Chinese tourists visiting Thailand
  • Sell their products in China Mainland

Export Food Brands in China

A CHALLENGE FOR GMA TEAM

  • New Brand for Chinese Customers
  • Less Awareness
  • Less Reputation
  • No Potential Customer Community
  • Fierce Competitive Environment

THE SOLUTIONS WE FOUND

  • Weibo KOL (Key Opinion Leader) campaign
  • WeChat account set up & shop & content management
  • E-Reputation
  • E-commerce Sales on Little Red Book

WHAT WERE THE RESULTS

Thailand Export Food Brands in China

Weibo KOLs:

  • Average 2 million views per post on KOL videos

 

WeChat:

  • 11,031 followers
  • Daily Posts
  • Video posts and sharing

 

E-Reputation:

  • More than 40 PR releases
  • Ranked at the top on Baidu Search

 

Little Red Book:

  • 12 Influencers promoting on e-commerce platform
  • Little Red Book can work on Crossborder (Help to Export Food Brands to China)

TWIST & DRINK

Twist & Drink are a child-friendly drink brand from Austria launched in 1973. The juices are all made with natural mountain spring water. There are a range of different fruit flavours highlighted by the bold colours and unique designs of their bottles. They are a family owned company who now produce over 50 million bottles of the popular kids’ drink each year. They currently sell in over 20 countries and wanted to strat the chinese adventure.

CHALLENGE

The issue was Twist & Drink were simply not known in China. Despite increased international trading and influence the market place is still relatively separate.

They had no reputation and little visibility on Chinese online platforms. Many parents in China are discerning and research extensively online before making purchases. They buy brands for their Children and if the brand is not established they will not buy, regardless of the quality.

SOLUTIONS

Weibo: creation of an Official Account, new content posts were launched 5 days a week at peak times to increase views and interaction.

Wechat: created a game based around the different characters where users would compete to collect the most points in the ‘twist & drink arena’.

RESULTS

  • Weibo : 5000 on their Weibo account.
  • Wechat : Over 10 000 players joined the game per day which was linked directly their official account. 3000 followers for their WeChat account
  • After the campaign, the brand connected with a quality local distributor

GET IN TOUCH

Devising the right strategy for this market is therefore the key.

We are a specialist agency with a wealth of experience in imported food field.

For information please contact our experts for an
in-depth discussion.