by Asia Perspective

Chinese Consumers Gravitate Toward Organic and Imported Foods

August 23, 2018

For the rapidly developing middle class in China, healthcare is of increasing concern.

Organic food at a Chinese farmer's market

Food safety is the most important factor when addressing the diet changes. In order to avoid a high fat diet, people change their eating habits. They are more interested in organic and plant-based food, additive-free food, and functional health food. Some advocate the benefits of vegetarianism. Sources estimate that China’s health food market has grown at an annual rate of 10-15%.

To accommodate these new habits and customer desires, many food companies are changing their strategies to meet the growing market demand for healthy products.  How can the Chinese food market change their products and grow sales in this segment?  One Chinese frozen dumpling company has reduced the meat content and increased the vegetable levels of their products.  Overall, the vegetable-only dumpling market has increased 30% in 2017.  Even the junk food industry in China is changing. Master Kong, the biggest producer of instant noodles, has launched a new product line with low-fat, low-salt, and improved nutritional levels that satisfies the consumer’s desire for lighter taste and healthier snacks.

The frozen dumpling company’s research shows that consumers, particularly ages 20-35, seek healthier fast food choices. Young people, especially young white-collar workers, are changing their food habits. “Gluten-free diet” and “open sandwich” are current fashionable food words for this age group. High earning and strong working pressures are two main reasons that this group of consumers are changing their food habits toward increased quality, natural and healthy foods.

Favorite imported food in China

Seafood:

In terms of “superfoods”, salmon, berries, and oatmeal are especially beneficial for heart health and improved functionality of the brain and nervous system. This kind of food, which abounds in Nordic countries, is more attractive to health-conscious Chinese consumers. Chinese consumers are more interested and motivated to buy imported food from Nordic countries, especially niche local brand products. Moreover, many Chinese are also interested in Nordic style, which represents simple, clean, and pure living. As a result, there are increased opportunities for small and medium Nordic enterprises to expand into China.

In 2017, Norwegian seafood exports to China reach a peak of  80 thousand tons. The total export price reached around 1433 million NOK, which increased 34% from previous year. According to the exported seafood data from Norway, white fish and Norwegian Arctic cod are the two most exported seafood products, with increased prices of 37% and 23% respectively in 2017. With the development of the fresh channel in China, there is increased demand for imported seafood food. High quality, uncontaminated seafood provide opportunities for foreign firms to enter China’s fresh food market. In addition, to support the growing imported food segment, Beijing has changed the entry-exit inspections.  Reduced  sampling inspection rates and controlled inspection times for high risk products have improved  the efficiency of the customs clearance process.

Organic food:

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture expects that China will be the fourth largest consumer of organic food in the near future. Currently in China, the bestselling imported organic foods include pork, beef, oil, and fresh milk. In recent years, the volume of production and organic consumption has grown considerably in China. Chinese consumers have become more concerned with health rather than taste. The Chinese middle class is interested in changing their food habits from heavy oil-tasting food to vegetarian-based, light, organic meals.

A recent report showed that organic cereal can create a healthy lifestyle, which led to an increasing demand for cereal on a Chinese breakfast menu. Oatmeal is the favorite food for white-collar workers between 20 and 35. In 2017, the total amount of imported cereal reached 22 million tonnes, up 13.5 percent from the previous year. Besides the taste changes, Chinese consumers are interested in importing food for safety reasons, as there are frequently local food safety scandals in China. Therefore, Chinese consumers are more likely to trust the high quality and credible imported food than local food.


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