China’s import quantity of F&B products has increased greatly; according to statistics from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ; 中华人民共和国国家质量监督检验检疫总局), 35.141 million tonnes (USD 48 billion) of import food was inspected and quarantined in China, representing year-on-year growth of 7.3% (amount) and 3.3% (value).
In 2005 imported food trade was valued at over EUR 8.7 billion (USD 10 billion) and by 2014 this has more than quadrupled to EUR 42.0 billion (USD 48 billion).
Top 6 Exporters (Country) by Value
In recent years, China’s imported food source has become increasingly international. In 2014, China’s imported food products came from 192 countries and regions. The top 10 importing sources in terms of import value were:
The European Union
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
In 2014, the top 5 EU countries importing to China (prepared foodstuffs, beverages, spirits and vinegar, tobacco – Hs codes 16 to 24. Source: China MOFCOM) were France, The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and Italy, with total amount of EUR 1,237 million, 756 million, 441 million, 316 million and 298 million
According to research conducted by Mintel, the retail market value for China’s full-service restaurants (excluding fast food restaurants)12 reached EUR 265 billion (CNY 1,865 billion) in 2014; Mintel predicts that by 2019, the retail market value will reach EUR 390 billion (CNY 2,724 billion). Despite marked growth, competition among players remains strong, and the choice of cuisine remains limited.
In China, imported F&B products are generally consumed in bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels in urban settings, and Chinese consumers are increasingly choosing ‘Western food’ when they dine out. Many Western-style restaurants that were originally targeted at expatriates now have predominantly Chinese clientele, and generic Western-style chain restaurants are widespread. Many social occasions and family celebrations now take place in Western restaurants, boosting traffic in these venues.
Chinese online retailer Taobao13 is a market leader in the e-commerce sector, and online shopping is a daily routine for 65% of Chinese consumers. In 2014 alone, Taobao’s total sales reached EUR 170 billion, with Tmall14 achieving EUR 73 billion in annual sales the same year. According to the annual financial report compiled by the Alibaba Group, year-on-year sales in the e-commerce sector reached 394% in 2014. Taobao, Tmall, JD15 and Yihaodian16 were the largest F&B importers to China in 2014-2015.17 Online shopping in China is not only about buying things consumers need or want but also about information sharing, communicating and a keeping up with trends. The Chinese are the world’s largest consumers of online products, with one in seven consumers purchasing online every day. The surge in e-commerce is not necessarily bad news for brick-and-mortar stores since consumers seek more than just ‘products’ when they shop; instead, they want and expect a more integrated and personalised experience.18
For more information on the Chinese e-commerce market, please download the EU SME Centre report Selling Online in China, available at http://www.eusmecentre.org.cn/report/selling-online-china.