China’s Imported Food Market : Best strategies revealed (2020)

Chinese middle class loved imported food brands, for 20years. 

  • Very good gift for Chinese new year 
  • high quality food 
  • Symbol of good lifestyle that enjoy the middle Class

Imported Food Product Market in China

.According to the estimation from the Association of Food product Industries, China’s imported food product market will keep a surprising increase from 2005 to 2020. The fast increase will help China be the biggest importer of food products in the world by 2018.

480 billion RMB

The market value will total 480 billion RMB by that time. The report from the National Bureau of Statistics of China also shows that the new generations born in China, especially those after the family control policy will not only accept more foreign culture but also pay more for imported food products. (Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China) Data from companies also presents a promising future of China’s imported food product market.

Read as well: Guide to exporting food to China

So how to advertise your food brand in this market?

The annual growth of both the China candy market and the biscuit market in 2011 has reached 22%; The imported food product market has grown over 15%  for the past five years.

Lucrative Food niches in China

China has already become the No.1 importer of US pistachio, 10% of the pistachios in the world are consumed by the Chinese. (Source: AC Nielsen, China Import).

Mass Market is becoming more and more profitable

More and more foreign food product producers are now shifting their focus to this huge and still growing market. As Shawn Warren, the president of the world’s second-largest food company industry, Kraft China states, “China market is now the engine for Kraft business.”

The support of China Imported Food product market

The average profit of imported food products ranges from 40% to 50%. Compared with the average margins of other sectors: 20% in the manufacturing sector; 30% in catering, the margin in the imported food industry is really high. The support for the high margin comes from both the market and the government.

1. Decreasing tariff

China has suffered severe inflation pressure since 2008. To release the pressure, one solution that the Chinese government adopted is 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, cold cans, and baby milk by at least 50%.

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

2. Increasing customers of imported food product

With the increase in income and demand for quality of life, more and more Chinese people are joining the group of high-class consumers. It deeply impacts the imported food product market of China and from the leisure food market and candy market, we can see the trend clearly. China’s leisure food market has reached a size of 40 billion RMB in 2009 and it still is developing at an annual rate of more than 10%. Reports also show that China candy market, including chocolate, candy, gum markets, has increased by over 63% from 2005 to 2010. (Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China)

To dig deeper into the market, we can see that the customer market of imported food products doesn’t increase only in quantity but also in quality. For imported food product which is regarded as higher class consumption goods, middle and high-class people are the target people. Most of them are so-called white-collar class. Compared with others, they are sensitive to fashion and new products and they have a higher demand for a quality life. The good news is this group of people is increasing rapidly now in China.

What needs noticing is that young people are playing a more and more important role in this market. In China, young people, especially those born after the “family control policy”, are famous for their spoiled life and their parents are generous enough to them that they just buy what they want, needless to care about price. These characters make them perfect consumers for imported food.

Food Distribution in China : the big challenge

The greater diversity of distribution channels such as online sales removes another barrier to the development of imported food products: geographical limit. Because of the transportation, information spread limit, big cities like Beijing and Shanghai in China consumed most imported food products in China. However, the situation is changing; those middle and small cities far away from the coast also provide a number of opportunities for imported food sellers.

Now many people from those places have already bought and tasted imported food products. In such a typical second-tier city in China like Chengdu, 68% of citizens have bought imported food products. (Source: Wccdaily)

3. Reputation : because Chinese buy Brand first then products

Imported food products enjoy a good reputation for their taste, package as well as safety. Based on its good reputation, imported food products can sell much better even labeled at a higher price.

Your eReputation is your Trust Capital in China

Many imported food products are created or planted in foreign countries, but the Chinese seem to adapt to their tastes very well. As a result, China has become the major market for them such as nuts and wine. China now consumes 10% of pistachios in the world and most of them are imported. However, China has planted their own pistachio for over 13 centuries while it seems Chinese don’t like the taste of local pistachios but foreign ones. As a total occidental drink, wine also gains great success in China market. Even during the global crisis, China wine market still keeps growing at an annual growth of over 70%. Without good taste, they can hardly sell well in this market. What’s different between pistachios and wine is that pistachios enter China by their natural taste while wine conquers the market by teaching people how to drink and taste.

Food security also contributes to the good reputation of imported food products, especially in the milk powder industry. Since the first milk powder scandal in 2008, the food security scandals happened from local dairy makers one after another. As a result, customer confidence in local food products has been greatly undermined and it even becomes a panic for safety. The panic is spreading from dairy to other fields. On the contrary, imported food products are becoming more and more popular. The price of imported baby milk powder has increased by about 20% this year and has taken over 80% of the market.

4. Gift with “Mianzi”

Imported food product in China is often used as a gift in China.

“Mianzi”, literally “Face”, idiomatically means dignity/prestige. It’s a subculture in China that strongly rooted in people’s minds and deeply influences the daily life of the Chinese. In China, a decent gift is a must to show how respectful you are to those who receive the gift. A bad-quality or cheap-looking gift sometimes equals provocation.

Imported food products in China are better packed with a relatively high prices which makes it a perfect choice of gift. On some important occasions, imported food products are also widely welcomed. See wedding candy market in China.

Credibility problems of Imported Food Products

Although local competitors are suffering the public reputation disaster, foreign companies are also influenced. Food security problems alarm Chinese customers and they become more sensitive to the quality of the food products, originality, and also the brand.

This requires foreign food producers to shift the focus of their marketing strategy to the security, quality, and originality of their products.

A package of monitoring, precaution, and quick response solution to the food security crisis is very important for a company now.

How to proove the quality of Imported Food products in China

The impressive performance of China’s imported food product market has attracted countless foreign food product companies and also fake foreign food sellers.

Fake originality has been a headache for imported food producers for a long time.

As introduced by Wang who is in charge of food safety in Shao Xing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, it has been discovered that many so-called “imported fruits” are only labeled with imported fruit prices. In other fields, imitation also exists.

According to the regulation released by Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China in 2006, all imported food has to pass the inspection and put with a CIQ anti-fake label. The little round label in blue can distinguish real imported food from those fakes.

Major Sales Modes of Imported Food Products in China

1. Franchise store

Franchise store mode developed at the early age of imported food products market. It seems that this mode has come to its end. According to the survey by Alibaba, many franchise companies in the imported food products market focus more on developing new franchise stores which makes it seem more like pyramid selling. Only less than 20% of the franchise stores can survive. see more info about Franchise in China

We know the strategy to develop Franchise in China, (contact us) 

2. Dealer mode

Dealer mode was once the most popular model in the import market, in not only food but also almost all the other import market.

Now there are tens of thousands of imported food dealers in China. But most of them are quite small. The number of sizeable enterprises is less than 100. A large number of small and mini companies slows down the market maturity. However, those unqualified small companies are wiped off by the market gradually. On the other hand, those big companies will take the blank of those small companies left and grow faster in the following few years.

Cooperating with dealers can save food producers many problems and troubles in the importation, marketing, and sales.

On the other hand, food makers should also notice that dealer mode also has its own risk. In some cities, the same products can have several prices which can confuse the customers and positioning of the brand.

We know the way to develop distributors networks in China, (contact us) 

3. Supermarket

As the major distribution channel, supermarkets don’t sell so many food products as expected. But now they are trying to contact some foreign food producers directly to limit the cost.

Imported Food product in the supermarket[/caption]

And it works, a 281ml frappuccino imported cost ¥26 in Starbucks, ¥16.9 in Century supermarket or only ¥15 if there is a discount. It’s a win-win situation, Century supermarket increases its sales and Starbucks increase its exports.

We know the way to enter big supermarket channels Carrefour, Auchan, Wallmart (contact us) 

View more information about

  1. Chocolate Marketing in China
  2. Coffee market in China
  3. Olive Oil Market in China

4. Online sales : leverage the magic power of e-Commerce in China

In China, online imported food product sale is undergoing a fast development period.

As mentioned before, most consumers of imported food products are from the white-collar class, who are busy with their work and have a higher demand for quality life than others. Online sale caters to their special demand for fashion, convenience, and speed.

What’s more, online sales allow companies to reach consumers from remote areas. Companies can also integrate their positioning and branding strategy.

The online sale also has its shortages. Since customers cannot see the goods they want for themselves, they will worry about the originality and after-service. So CIQ certificate is more important for online imported food sellers because customers trust it.

Who’s your target customer? How do you reach them? How do you convince them to buy your products?

About GMA

We are a Marketing Agency in China, we can help you to promote your product.

  • Increase the traffic of your website SEO/SEM
  • Social Media communication
  • Community Management
  • PR in China
  • E-reputation

We also know how to distribute food products 

  • Distributors networks 
  • online resellers 
  • Enter to small Supermarket 
  • Deal with Big supermarket Chains 
  • sell online via your own eStore 

Who we are 

GMA Chinese digital ecommerce Agency
Wechat Solution marketing Agency China

Our case studies 

Lyfen: USD 3Million sales in one month on tmall. 

if you have a project, do not hesitate to contact us to know the 2020 marketing solutions. 

We have experience and we can be a great help to you. 


  • Pacific Food trading

    We are an importer of food & beverage in China. We can import and distribute your products to a large wholesell network. If you want collaborate, let me know.

  • Hello,
    We are a distributor of premium brand in China, and we are searching for Olive Oil packaging gift to introduce to our distribution networks before the Chinese new year.
    Brand should be luxury, and well known.

    Contact me soon please

  • Hello
    we are a hotel chain of 20 luxury hotel in China, and we are interested to resell foreign premium brand of snacks and imported fine food.
    Contact us to know more

  • Nando Pons

    Hi Philip, my name is Nando Pons, spanish nationality and resident in Guangzhou since 2003. Recently i have embarqued in helping the Spanish food and gourmet industry as I believe we have much better products compare other European Areas. After my support, I will not be able to follow up due to my age and as I am planning my retirement. Philip, could you provide me let´s say 50 contacts (complete data with the Purchasing Department name and email contact as Importers from China or Hong Kong the size of Bright Foods, City Super, Shanghai TangJiu Group etc.? in exchange, by December 2018 and also by December 2019 I would send you the data of all Spanish Companies introduced to your database contacts. Sounds fair? And a gift as well of course…

  • mql5 signals

    Nice site Marketingtochina. and good looking theme. Can you update with more information about Olive Oil ?

  • hello philip

    My name is Sultan from kenya I have read several articles you wrote, quite interesting! as a foreign cashew nuts importer,my company can supply to 20ft container to up. Let me know if interested

    • Olivier

      Send us an email with more details, but we are not distributors, we are a Marketing Agency…

  • My name is Sangyal from Mainland China and my company is keen to import Chicken mid joint and chicken paw.
    I am planning to import on regular basis and If you do that for me then we work togther.
    Please note chicken factory has to have verification approved by chinese quarantine authority.

    • Hi Sangyal,
      Please email me on We are supplying chicken products to China mainland now with SIF registered factories from Brasil.

  • Parveen

    Season’s Greetings..

    Would like to introduce, Prime Nuts as a Premium Quality producer of processed nuts & Seeds that surpass the best snacking experience in the market. The company has a state of the art best in class manufacturing facility, for processing nuts and seeds, with an annual capacity of 20,000 MT, located in United Arab Emirates.

    We would like to know your interest in offering premium quality nuts packed in your in-house brand to cater to the ever growing snacks segment in markets of interest to you.

    Request you to provide us contact details of the person with whom we should get in touch , in this regard.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Parveen kirat

  • Haiqing Hua

    My name is Haiqing Hua, Asia sales rep for Central Epicure . I would like to take an opportunity and introduce our company that is involved in manufacturing frozen smoke salmon, frozen smoke fish in Toronto, ON, Canada having a considerable amount of experience in fish industry and a smoked salmon manufacturing and processing facility of 8000 boxes daily capacity, and a strong production, marketing and sales team, our company has been the leader in the area of Toronto.
    We offer you to place an order for the following products: 下面是我们目前的主要产品:

    ATLANTIC SALMON, Belli Fillet, Hot Smoked 大西洋三文鱼,Belli大片, 热熏
    ATLANTIC SALMON, Snack, Hot Smoked 大西洋三文鱼,小吃, 热熏
    ATLANTIC SALMON, Spiced Strips, Hot Smoked 大西洋三文鱼,五香条, 热熏
    ATLANTIC SALMON, Whole, 8-10lbs, BBQ 大西洋三文鱼,整鱼,8-10 lbs,BBQ
    ATLANTIC SALMON, Belli Fillet, Hot Smoked 大西洋三文鱼,Belli大片, 热熏
    ATLANTIC SALMON, Snack, Hot Smoked 大西洋三文鱼,小吃, 热熏
    BBQ Fillet of Atlantic Salmon 大西洋三文鱼,大片,BBQ
    CARP, Chunk, Hot Smoked 鲤鱼,块 ,热熏
    CARP, Fillet, Hot Smoked 鲤鱼,大片,热熏
    CISCOES, Hot Smoked 加拿大雪鲦,热熏
    HALIBUT Greenland, Whole, Cold Smoked 格陵兰大比目鱼,整鱼,冷熏
    HERRING Fillets, Digbies (10lb box) (NOT KOSHER) 鲱鱼大片,Digbies(10磅盒)(NOT KOSHER)
    HERRING, Whole, COLD Smoked 鲱鱼,整鱼,冷熏
    HERRING, Whole, Hot Smoked (Buckling) 鲱鱼,整鱼,热熏(Buckling)
    LAKE TROUT, Fillets, Peppered, Hot Smoked 湖鳟,大片,胡椒,热熏
    MACKERAL, Fillets, Cajun, Hot Smoked 鲭鱼,大片,Cajun料理,热熏
    MACKERAL, Fillets, Dill, Hot Smoked 鲭鱼,大片,莳萝, 热熏
    MACKERAL, Fillets, Pepper, Hot Smoked 鲭鱼,大片,辣椒,热熏
    MACKERAL, Fillets, Plain, Hot Smoked 鲭鱼,大片,原味, 热熏
    MACKERAL, Whole, Head On, Cold Smoked 鲭鱼,整鱼,去头, 冷熏
    MACKERAL, Whole, Hot Smoked 鲭鱼,整鱼, 热熏
    OMUL, Head Off, Cold Smoked 贝加尔白鲑,去头, 冷熏
    RAINBOW TROUT, Fillets, Cajun, Hot Smoked 虹鳟鱼,大片,Cajun料理,热熏
    RAINBOW TROUT, Fillets, Peppered, Hot Smoked 虹鳟鱼,大片,胡椒,热熏
    RAINBOW TROUT, Fillets, Plain, Hot Smoked 虹鳟鱼,大片,原味,热熏
    RAINBOW TROUT, Whole, Hot Smoked 虹鳟鱼,整鱼, 热熏
    SALMON TROUT, Balik, Cold Smoked 鲑鱼鳟鱼,Balik,冷熏
    SALMON TROUT, Belly, Cold Smoked 鲑鱼鳟鱼,腹部, 冷熏
    SALMON TROUT, Whole, Cold Smoked (Garbusha) 鲑鱼鳟鱼,全,冷熏(Garbusha)
    STURGEON, Hot Smoked (NOT KOSHER) 鲟,热熏(非 KOSHER)
    VOBLA, Dried VOBLA,鱼干
    WHITEFISH, Steaks, Hot Smoked 白鱼,鱼排,热熏
    WHITEFISH, Whole, Cold Smoked 白鱼,整鱼,冷熏
    WHITEFISH, Whole, Dried 白鱼,整鱼,鱼干
    WHITEFISH, Whole, Hot Smoked 白鱼,整鱼,热熏
    WILD PACIFIC SALMON, Chunks, Cajun, Hot Smoked 野生太平洋鲑鱼,鱼块,Cajun料理,热熏
    WILD PACIFIC SALMON, Chunks, Hot Smoked 野生太平洋鲑鱼,鱼块,热熏
    HERRING, Low-Salt ,Vacuum Packed (sold by each) 鲱鱼,低盐,真空包装(每袋的价格)
    EPIC-CURE, Low Salt Herring (30 Count) EPIC-CURE,低盐鲱鱼(30一组)

    Other production can be added according to the market demand. Please kindly let us know your requirement and specification. I look forward for your kind support and healthy business relationship with your esteemed firm in future.
    You can go to to check out our latest products. Please pass this email along to those who may be interested in this business if you are not. Thank you very much.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Haiqing Hua
    Asia Sales Rep
    Central-Epicure Food Products Ltd.
    WeChat: china-marketing-hua



    我们非常愿意与贵公司讨论如何合作共赢,一同开发市场的事情,如果您有兴趣请与我们的销售代表华海庆(Haiqing Hua)联系,他的联系方式如下:



    Central-Epicure Food Products Ltd.

  • hello philip

    i have read several articles you wrote, quite interesting! as a foreign foods and wines importer and a consultant in supply chain management for many years for china market, i agree with you in some points, but the differences of the customer behaviors from city to city in china, the motivations of buying foreign products are too far different. here we can make the platform for whom like to exchane the experiences on china imported foods and beveages business, i like your blog.

    best wishes to you in the new year 2015


  • Hello

    I am dealing with Meat & Poultry International Trading
    for more than 10 years and have serious databases
    of suppliers in Europe.

    I can arrange for your regular supply for Meat & Poultry
    from serious suppliers.

    If you need new sources and interested to cooperate with
    a professional purchaser in Europe please let me know.

    Thank you f

    • My name is Sangyal from Mainland China and my company is keen to import Chicken mid joint and chicken paw.
      I am planning to import on regular basis and If you do that for me then we work togther.
      Please note chicken factory has to have verification approved by chinese quarantine authority.

  • Hi Phil,

    Really interested in your article about imported food in China. For the online sales of imported food in China, can you please let me know how to sort out the logistic issue if I am based abroad rather than in China and want to sell them into china, since the delivery cost is very high. What is best business model for sale of imported food in China?



    • hi Maggie, glad to see your comment. as for the logistics, it really depends on what kind of food you want to deliver, for example, the frozen food is delivered in a totally different way as chocolate. and quantity of the parcel is also a factor make the difference in delivery. but almost all the company in this field will choose professional express delivery

  • Donald Wilson


    I represent a Signature Food line here in the US with product in over 4000 Walgreen’s and Costco, TJ Max and other stores. Currently they are selling gourmet shortbread cookies but have other bake good products. Any suggestions for reliable, qualified bake goods importers for first, second and third tier territories?


    Don Wilson

    • Don, sorry, i’ve no idea about reliable and qualified that suits you, but we can find you a list, are you interested in that?

  • Hi Philip,
    How about the agricultural products market? Both raw and finished products. How it running in China?
    Thank you

  • Nick Nicholson

    Philip, I want to sell USA made baby food (starting with milk) directly, maybe by mail order, to customers in China. What are government regulations etc. and how best to start?
    Best regards, Nick

  • Hi Phillip, I am a bit concerned that you base most of your figures off the NBS numbers. These numbers are notoriously unreliable. What other sourcing do you use?

    • Thanks for mentioning this important point. It’s true that NBS is notorious for that. But as you know, nobody can get the exact statistics. NBS’s data is probably the best you can get for free. It’s not perfect, but it won’t be big mistake like other data about average price of estate.
      Since you are working in this field, I think you also know that valuable data is not free 🙂
      Thank you again for pointing this out.

  • Ximena Shelton

    Hello Phillipe,

    I read some of your articles, they are very nice, I particularly like the one about imported food, do you have any information about The Coffee Market in China? We are an English Company specialized in supplying the highest quality of Single Origin 100% Colombian Coffee products, we have completely unique products, like Flavoured Coffee Cubes and Coffee Beans Coated with Chocolate, that we are selling into the Fine Food Market in the UK to customers such as Harrods, and we would like to enter into the Chinese Market. any suggestions?

    Have a lovely day, Ximena Shelton.

    • Hi Ximena,
      Coffee business is also in a rapid development now in China. But Chinese have different taste for coffee. Although the total sales of coffee is huge, few people really understand what’s real coffee. In fact, most high class coffee sold well in China are good at marketing.

  • u’ve got some nice points, Philip.
    I run several small wine shops in Beijing, but business is not so hot as should be. my wine are from Central Spain, but it’s really not so easy for me to let my customers believe that central spain is a place where nice wine are made, they go more for french wine, any suggestion for me?

    • Laleh Golzari

      Hello, good day.we are the green umbrella of trading company,the largest producer/exporter all kind of pistachio in iran.we can supply all kind of pistachio with so great price and best quality .we hope to have a good cooperation with you.
      MY WHATSAPP NUMER:(+98)09370633822

    • Hi Josh, Just see your comments by chance, you are telling the reality. I work in import wine business too. Seems 3 different kind of business here, one is to sale cheap wine with nice ticket by volume,example as Castel. the second one is really good wine but need alot effort on customer education(like Rioja wine, or Rebera del douro), the last type is well know wine name, such as Lafitte, Latour!

    • Jim Mountjoy

      I can get you French wine and other Spirits and Irish foods Products Duck Pork Fish Baby Food
      Let me know if interested.
      Jim Mountjoy

    • Hi, Josh
      thank you for your comment.
      Wine market is changing now, there are less and less crazy wine buyers as before. Consumers are becoming smarter, so companies now have to change their marketing plans. It’s true that many companies have met up with troubles now. Have you got any solutions?

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