As the world’s most populous country and one with a rapidly growing economy, China is a big player in the global food market. And while most people think of Chinese cuisine as involving rice, noodles actually play a big role in the country’s culinary landscape. In fact, pasta is becoming increasingly popular in China and the market for it is growing rapidly. Here’s what you need to know about this burgeoning sector of the Chinese food industry.

China Pasta Market is Promising, Here is Why

It may come as a surprise that China pasta market is projected to grow rapidly in China. Culturally, while China and other East Asian countries include plenty of noodles in their cuisine, this kind of pasta is very traditionally Western. However, there is an obvious shift in this region shown in the numbers. As China becomes one of the most powerful economies today, the dietary demand of its workforce is changing, and globalization is allowing for the increased exchange of goods. With these factors in mind, people around the world now have easier access than ever to cuisine from other cultures.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

In 2020, the global pasta market was valued at USD 68.24 billion. Compared to its 2016 value of USD 59.6 billion, this is a 12.6% growth in only four years. This is a major increase, especially when considering the global economic impacts of the pandemic. This growth is forecasted to increase in the following years, following a compound annual growth rate (CARG) of 3.66%. This means that in 2028, the pasta market is predicted to reach USD 90.49 billion.

The Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, holds the biggest market share in the industry, taking up 38.16% just in 2020. Because of China and India’s increasing population, this number is expected to continue growing. Interestingly enough, it’s not just the population growth that’s causing the increased CARG. Here are several other factors influencing the pasta market in China:

Demand for Instant Foods

To sustain China’s growing economy, its labor force is steadily increasing. With this comes a demand for instant and easy-to-prepare foods that take less effort and energy. Traditionally Eastern noodles may seem like the first thing that comes to mind for this kind of food rather than Western pasta; after all, the former is more culturally familiar in Chinese cuisine.

Surprisingly, pasta is competing well with it, as its method of preparation is almost the same. In addition, consumers are starting to follow healthier diets. Pasta is seen as a better alternative since it contains less sodium and preservatives than instant noodles for instance. 

Emerging Market for Italian Food

In 2005, China recorded USD 68 million in agro-food imports from Italy. This amount increased six-fold in 2017, with USD 446 million in total imports from the country. These trends are showing heightened interest in other cuisines of the world, particularly Italian.

The strict quality control of Italian pasta also helps in maintaining competitiveness in the market. Consumers are assured of food quality and safety, so they gravitate more towards products from this country. And, of course, we cannot disregard the appeal of geographical origin. This background already counts to most as proof of quality and excellence.

Variety of Products and Flavors

The biggest players in the Chinese pasta market are coming up with ways to incorporate new products and flavors in their lineup. This is to address the diverse and often health-conscious professionals that are the main market for pasta.

Because of the demand for healthier products, pasta manufacturing companies are creating products without gluten, pesticides, and inorganic ingredients. Globalization is playing a major hand in making all these new products more accessible to the Chinese market in its entirety, resulting in the increased market share of the country.

Significant Segments of the Pasta Market

The pasta market is divided into three categories: ambient, dry, and refrigerated pasta. This classification is based on the storage and preparation techniques of each kind. Over the years, ambient pasta and noodles have emerged as the top category with the other two trailing close behind.

Ambient Pasta and Noodles

The total market share of ambient pasta and noodles in the market amounted to 39.15% in 2020. This is the most common type of pasta seen in supermarkets or grocery stores; consumers can find it stacked on shelves, wrapped in plastic, or stored in cans.

The composition of the pasta and preservation methods ensure that it has a stable shelf life and won’t require refrigeration. In addition, it’s got the greatest variety of flavors and types of products. It’s also easy to prepare and can be incorporated into an array of recipes, even ones that aren’t Italian in origins, such as Americanized pasta dishes and even localized versions. Ambient pasta’s convenience makes it the perfect meal for China’s many busy professionals.

All of these factors combine to make ambient pasta and noodles the most in-demand product in the pasta market. This trend is expected to continue over the years. 

Dry Pasta and Noodles

There’s a bit of confusion between dry and ambient pasta, as the term “dry” is more popularly associated with ambient pasta. However, ambient pasta needs to be cooked in boiling water for up to 10 minutes before it reaches the “al dente” stage. On the other hand, dry pasta is meant to be soaked in hot or boiling water at the time of consumption. There’s no need to cook it for a long time, as it simply needs rehydration.

There are many types of products that can fall under ambient or dry pasta and noodles. Common ones include soba noodles, rice noodles, and fettuccine. Since some of them are made fresh and then dried later, they may require refrigeration or special packaging. This makes logistics and storage more difficult for this type of pasta.

However, it’s seeing increased popularity — not just in China, but also in countries like India and Argentina. The Asian continent as a whole is beginning to see the appeal of dry pasta and noodles. This segment is expected to have the highest growth by 2025.

Refrigerated Pasta and Noodles

The segment that takes up the least market share in the pasta market is refrigerated pasta. The type of dough used for this needs to be packaged and stored in cold environments during transport and selling. They are typically more delicate than dry and ambient noodles, so refrigeration is a must for long-term storage. Because of this, they are more logistically demanding than the other two.

Still, these types of pasta offer the same convenience as dry or ambient ones. They do not require long cooking times and they have a quality similar to that of fresh, handmade pasta. These pasta are targeted towards professionals who have little time to prepare food or want to be more time-efficient. It can be kept at home in refrigerators, ready to add to dishes at any time. The types of pasta that most commonly need refrigeration are ones with fillings, such as tortellini and ravioli.

Why This Market Is an Opportunity for Global Pasta Brands

China presents a major opportunity for global pasta brands to expand their reach and supply to a larger Asian market. All it takes is a good strategy and lots of research into the market. When keeping in mind the following factors, success in this country is almost a guarantee.

Steady Growth of the Market Is Guaranteed

As mentioned, there’s a steady 3.66% compound annual growth rate in the global pasta market, and it’s forecasted to increase in the next couple of years as demand shoots up. This applies the most to China with its ballooning labor force. They demand instant and hassle-free foods that help them save time while also getting the nutrition and fuel needed for work. 

Recession Resistant

As the world recovers from the pandemic, a new threat in Eastern Europe becomes the next catalyst of another potential recession. The geopolitical crisis between Ukraine and Russia may deter some companies from expanding. However, the pasta and noodle market in China doesn’t seem to show any decline in growth. As people around the world turn to affordable staples, varying forms of pasta will have a steady demand whose market value will reliably increase, even during recessions.

Diverse Markets in the Region

While pasta is preferred by people who want quick and easy meals, it doesn’t mean that those people are the only market for pasta in China. There are others who want products from other countries, others want nutritious foods that supply more than just carbs, and others still want non-GMO or gluten-free pasta. There are many niches that you can take advantage of if you know how to market your products.

Who Are the Biggest Players in the Chinese Pasta Market?

While the Chinese pasta market offers plenty of opportunities, companies dipping their toes into it might find heavy competition. There are many established regional and multinational companies that have set their roots in this market. Today, the biggest players are:

  • Nestlé
  • Nissin Foods
  • Kraft Heinz Company
  • Acecook Vietnam JSC
  • De Cecco
  • San Remo Macaroni Company
  • Conagra Brands
  • General Mills

So pay attention to these companies and the strategies they use for localizing their branding strategies. You can emulate their business models and adjust your strategies as you go. That way, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding in this market.

How to Sell & Distribute a Pasta Brand on the Chinese Market?

There are a few key things that you will need to do in order to successfully sell and distribute a pasta brand on the Chinese market. First, you will need to build a strong distribution network throughout the country. This means working with local distributors who have a good reach and relationship with Chinese consumers. You’ll have to invest in local sales channels such as Chinese eCommerce platforms.

You will also need to do extensive market research in order to understand what types of pasta products are most popular in China and what flavors resonate most with Chinese consumers. Finally, you will need to create an effective marketing campaign that resonates with Chinese consumers and drives awareness and demand for your pasta products.

In terms of marketing, you’ll likely want to partner with a local company in order to reach Chinese consumers effectively.

How to build a distribution network in China for my pasta brand?

There’s no easy answer when it comes to building a distribution network in China. However, there are a few key things you can do to increase your chances of success:

  1. Make sure your product is high quality and able to compete with other brands in the market.
  2. Research your target market and identify potential distributors who would be a good fit for your product.
  3. Attend trade shows and other events where you can meet potential distributors face-to-face.
  4. Invest in Lead Generation. Utilize social media and other online channels increase your visibility and brands reputation – in short, use marketing to have disitributors come to you instead of you chasing them. It will give you leverage when negociating a deal with them.

Why should pasta brands invest in Chinese eCommerce?

There are a few key reasons why pasta brands should invest in Chinese eCommerce when selling in China:

  1. Chinese consumers are increasingly shopping online for groceries and food items. This provides a huge opportunity for pasta brands to reach Chinese consumers online.
  2. Chinese consumers are highly value-conscious and are looking for good deals when it comes to groceries and food items. By selling on Chinese eCommerce platforms, pasta brands can offer competitive prices to Chinese consumers and thereby attract more buyers.
  3. The majority of China’s online shoppers use mobile devices to shop online and research brands.
  4. There is a lot of competition among pasta brands in China, so it’s important to have a strong online presence to stay ahead of the curve.
  5. Finally, Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in imported products, and purchase items through their favorite ecommerce app cross-border section.

Which Chinese Online Marketplace should I sell my pasta brand on?

There are so many Chinese online marketplaces that you could sell your pasta brand on, but the two most popular ones are Tmall and Taobao.

Tmall is China’s largest online marketplace, and it’s owned by Alibaba. Taobao also belongs to Alibaba and both apps are interconnected and equally popular. The difference comes in the requirement to join which is much higher on Tmall than on Taobao. Tmall also benefits from a cross-border option that Taobao does not offer to merchants. For a company with no presence on the mainland, Tmall is the place to go.

Both Tmall and Taobao have millions of active users, so they’re great platforms to reach a large audience of potential buyers. They also offer comprehensive services that can help you with everything from marketing to shipping, so they make it easy for you to sell your products online.

Obviously, there are many other Chinese marketplaces you can sell your pasta brand on, for instance:

  • JDcom: similar to Tmall in terms of prices, entry requirements and selling otpions
  • Pinduoduo: on the lower end price – focuses on group buying and C2M, perfect form smaller company
  • Wechat: any business with a wechat services account can open a wechat store
  • Kaola: biggest cross-border app in China. Work as a online distributors.

Promote your pasta brand on Chinese Online Platforms

Promoting your brand on Chinese online platforms will help you reach a wider audience. According to Internetlivestats, as of July 2018, there were around 772 million internet users in China – that’s nearly 60% of the population! By promoting your brand on popular Chinese online platforms, you’ll be able to reach a large number of potential customers. Plus, most of the platforms you use are blocked in China, thus, your marketing effort globally won’t help you with the Chinese market.

From social media, to search engines, Pr et Forums, there are many places on the Chinese internet you can use to get your pasta brand more visibility and awareness. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Baidu SEO & SEM

Here are a few things you can do to promote your pasta brand on Baidu:

  1. Create a website for your brand and make sure it is optimized for Baidu search. This means using Chinese keywords and having a Chinese-language website.
  2. Post original & regular content to target specific keywords
  3. Backlink to increase your website authority on Baidu.
  4. Place ads on Baidu. You can use the Baidu Advertising Platform to place ads that will appear when users search for relevant keywords related to your brand or product.

Chinese Pr & Forums

There are a few reasons why public relations would be a great way to promote a pasta brand on the Chinese market. First, PR is an effective way to create positive buzz and generate word-of-mouth marketing. In China, word-of-mouth is especially important, as consumers are often hesitant to trust brands that they don’t know. By getting influential people to talk positively about your pasta brand, you can encourage Chinese consumers to give your product a try.

By taking advantage of Chinese forums and engaging with potential customers, you can increase awareness of your brand and generate interest in your products on the Chinese market. There are a few ways you can use Chinese forums to promote your pasta brand on the Chinese market:

  • Create several thread on popular forums and include a link to your website or online store. Do it with users accounts and official account.
  • Participate in existing threads and discussions about pasta or food in general, and mention your brand as a great option for people looking for quality pasta products.
  • Post long content that will rank on Baidu and others Chinese search engines.

Use Social Media to Promote your Brand on the Chinese Pasta Market

Some general tips that may be useful include creating engaging content that appeals to Chinese users, using relevant hashtags and influencers to reach your target audience and running targeted ads on popular social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo.

Now, China has tones of social media platforms and it may not be easy to choose which one suits your the best. As a rule of thumb, we suggest to at the very list registering for a business account on WeChat and Weibo. There are two of the most consulted social media in China and business account offers interesting communication and marketing tools that you don’t want to miss out on.

seedap instant noodle china
Seedap on Wechat – by GMA

Keep in mind, however, that your strategy on Wechat and Weibo are going to be different as both apps serve different purposes. Use Weibo for visibility and build awareness while you use Wechat for nurturing and building brand loyalty.

If you want to learn more about Chinese social media, have a look at our china social media guide. It should give you good insights on each of China’s most popular apps as well as if it is right for you or not.

Want to start selling on China Pasta Market?

gma - DIgital Marketing Agency China

Contact us now, we have extensive experience in the Chinese F&b market and have worked with pasta brands and producers. Feel free to ask for our case studies too!

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