Stronger demand for natural foods during the COVID-19 pandemic has created a boom in the honey industry in 2020.
China is one of our top three export markets, especially during the past three years when there was a growing awareness among consumers.
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China honey production
Honey, in Chinese 蜂蜜, has become so much a staple food in China that you can find it more easily than sugar in a supermarket. Indeed, in 2020, with a population of more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, honey consumption exceeds 300 000 tonnes per year (three times the volume exported.)
The Middle Kingdom is indeed the world’s largest consumer of hive extract, but also the world’s largest producer.
The production is exported to Europe, some Asian countries, as Japan or the United States. China is the official European supplier, to importing countries like Spain, Germany the United Kingdom. Indeed, the source of the Chinese honey, comes from small beekeepers of the Qinghai region of China, more exactly to the north-west of the country, a product which draws the doubt since it is likely to be counterfeited,
Repetitive counterfeit honey is hurting Chinese producers
An unfortunate aspect of the Chinese honey industry is that its lucrative nature has also made it a popular arena for fake products. Even worse is that part of this fake or adulterated honey has made its way on the international market, seriously harming the image of honey from China.
Few times when it comes to real honey in China, laboratories in the United States have begun to check the origin of the honey and its components to be able to certify it and therefore select the best honey for the consumer.
Chinese honey is generally labeled as “made in Thailand”, the Philippines or Russia, and more recently Vietnam. Chinese honey was therefore removed from the European market, from 2002 and finally in 2011 since it contained chemicals and preservatives that made it dangerous for health.
Because of the many fake honey products in China, quite a few Chinese prefer to buy imported honey, which is great news for non-Chinese honey producers.
For New Zealand Manuka Honey Producer, China’s counterfeit issue comes as an opportunity
Here is the honey that the Chinese trust the most: the honey imported from New Zealand.
Good news for China but also for the exporting countries. Even if they have to support a huge demand for production, taking the right steps to enter the Chinese market, they will certainly succeed.
In short, demand far exceeds supply in China. This huge consumption has some consequences for the honey industry abroad, especially in New Zealand. The country has a low production compared to the demand of Chinese consumers. In 2016, product exports exceeded $ 24 million. And reached $ 3.5 million in Australia and about $ 1.2 million in the United States. China was taking almost 40 percent of the honey exported from New Zealand between July and December 2019.
That’s why there are still opportunities for other countries.
Why is New Zealand honey so successful in China?
Manuka honey is quite special since it comes from the juice of a tree that grows only in New Zealand or Australia. It has unique anti-bacterial properties. Chinese and even Hong Kong consumers, who take care of them and opt for quality products are constantly looking for this nectar. This has contributed to a growth of imports/exports of 1500 tons (the equivalent of $ 121.5 million) in 2014.
Given the rarity of this type of honey but also the complex process behind its production, 250 grams of Manuka honey is sold at 218 dollars on e-commerce platforms in China: like Tmall, or Taobao.
Partnerships between New Zealand and China
Honey producers in New Zealand are increasingly dependent on Chinese demand.
To better take advantage of this demand, New Zealand companies are partnering with their Chinese subsidiaries and they are expanding the offer to Chinese cities.
Chinese beekeepers, producers, and distributors end up with counterfeit honey in their hands, so they have to review the quality of the honey they sell and review their marketing strategies to meet the huge demand.
Good News! You can sell your honey in China, but you must adopt the right marketing strategy. Do you know what I mean???
Let me show you. The Chinese market is very different from the western one.
Your honey brand must be visible on Baidu!
Yes, I’m not talking about Google but Baidu for a good reason. Baidu is the first Chinese search engine recording 70% of the research made on the Chinese internet. At this time of social media domination, you may be wondering why is a search engine so important for your honey business? That is a legit question, so here is my answer.
Social media are increasingly important in China, but it does not cancel the role of a search engine such as Baidu for any brands or company looking to enter the Chinese market.
Baidu is the first step for any professional or customer after they find out about your products. Baidu is a tool to verify brand legitimacy and potential in the Chinese market.
I’ll put it simply, if a distributor or consumer Baidu your brand’s name and can’t find anything, the chance is you won’t get the sale or the call you were looking for. Honey distributors in China are looking for brands that already have an Online reputation in China and preferably are already being sold via e-commerce/daigou etc. You must be able to prove that your honey offers the quality you claim. Remember, Chinese selling agents receive dozen of requests per week from other honey producers that claim the same as you.
Backlinks & PR are still some of the most cost-efficient solutions when it comes to building your e-reputation in China and at the same time boosting your website ranking on Baidu. Build Credibility and get more visibility, it is a win-win. PR effort lasts in time.
I know a lot of companies have a website but do they have a Chinese website? if the answer is “No”
Your honey brand absolutely needs a Chinese Website
To rank, you have to create a Chinese-friendly website. Here are some suggestions:
- Translate it into Mandarin so that your target audience can read it.
- Hosted in Mainland China, Hong Kong, or any other close country, the reason: Loading speed.
- Upload content regularly and answer to consumers’ comments to give it a boost and to give it more authority on Baidu
- Content must be localized. Every country has its own practices and traditions even on the internet. Especially China.
- Mobile phones Friendly: Chinese netizens mostly use the Internet from their mobiles.
- No google Plugins… Your website just won’t load or appears to be broken.
- Live Chat is a bonus.
You should invest in your Online Reputation for your honey brand
Are you familiar with the term “mianzi”(面子) It means reputation/image and for every Chinese, the “Mianzi” means everything. You can be on Baidu, having a good website but if you have some bad comments or a bad/Inexisting reputation, nobody’s work with you or to buy your honey. Take care of your brand or company image. ORM: Oline Reputation Management is a solution that the most successful companies in the world have been using for years. It consists of building your brand and Oline reputation, and managing all the content related to it, navigating bad buzz like a pro but also keeping the positive results on page one of search engine and social media. In other words, we bury the bad and exhibit the good.
Internet Word of mouth to improve the reputation of your Honey Brand in China
In China recommendations mostly come from locals because Chinese consumers mostly trust other Chinese consumers. Word of mouth in China is the key, that’s why it is important a presence on Chinese forums and to do PR.
Brand reputation is an important element to promote your products. However, a successful reputation isn’t about what the company says about itself, but what Chinese consumers say about the brand. The online community is a crucial factor for becoming viral and staying at the top. Viral marketing will increase your Internet word of mouth and thus boost your brand’s awareness.
REVIEWS ON CHINESE FORUMS FOR YOUR HONEY BRAND
Opinions shared on forums have a big influence on the decisions that a Chinese person makes. They can spend hours and days checking the forums to decide which product is better to buy.
There are many designated forums in China and all of them are Chinese forums in the Mandarin language. The most useful forums are Zhihu and Baidu Zhidao.
Zhihu has an array of features that can be used to create and manage a community around a topic related to your brand. Use these tools to engage with your audience and exchange information with them but also to build your author authority.
Here are some of the tools:
- Zhihu column;
- Zhihu Roundtable;
- Zhihu live;
- Zhihu tip service
Baidu Zhidao & Baidu Tieba
Baidu Zhidao is a service of questions and answers supplied by the Baidu platform, where only registered users can interact with questions and providing answers. It is very influential in terms of positioning.
Baidu Tieba is the Baidu “Social Network” that allows you to have a diary or company social page, where you can go to share status, photos, and videos. It is possible to comment and follow public profiles.
Your honey brand must be present also in Chinese social media
WeChat is a super-app, similar to Whatsapp. It has 1,08 billion active users every month, more than 1,5 million active brands, more than 17 million official accounts, and it is used for 86% by people of 18-40 years old for food companies can be seen as an email & community management marketing tool.WeChat was created by the Chinese giant, Tencent. At its core, it is a messaging app, but it has so much more to offer. No other app in the West is comparable to WeChat. It would rather be a mix of Facebook, Skype, Slack, Amazon, and Paypal.
Recently WeChat added the mini-programs.
This new feature can be described as a kind of “sub-application”. An app inside another. Mini-programs can, therefore, be compared to “mini-apps” built into the WeChat app itself. As a result, users will no longer have to use or download new apps because they may already be in WeChat!
The mini-programs concern all types of services: sales, e-commerce, and government services.
WeChat Brochure to help you with finding a Chinese Honey Distributor
Show off your product in a beautifully designed H5. Light and easy to share they are ideal for your products listing and to reach out to distributors. When joining Food Fair, having a QR code that allows people to access your Wechat Brochure is a must and tells much about your understanding of China to a potential partner.
WeChat Community Management:
Wechat is a closed platform and in the early days, you will really need to heavily promote your account and your content. It may sound simple, but 95% of companies in lead generation fail to promote and share their content in groups, forums websites, and other media platforms. Some companies also forget to share their QR code for their Wechat account on their website and with emails to clients. By not doing this, your company is potentially missing out on a lot of followers. Big companies will benefit from having a community manager; somebody that will integrate themselves into targeted groups will interact with your target audience regularly share your content in groups and on their moments.
WeChat SERVICE ACCOUNT:
The service account appears in the contacts list of the user and it is blue. It allows you to send 4 push notifications every month. It is more complete because it offers extra services like:
- Automatic, template messaging.
- WeChat Menu’s
- Customer Service Messages
- E-commerce payments
- Multiple QR codes for tracking traffic
- Geolocation services
A service account allows you to communicate with your final consumers but also with distributors.
Chinese E-commerce Platforms
E-Commerce in China is very incredible, it’s a powerful weapon if you really want to sell some products. There are some important e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD.com, Taobao, and so on.
If you want to increase your chance to engage more customers and increase your sales, you must set up a Tmall store or Wechat store, it depends on your target. It’s very important.
DO YOU WANT TO EXPORT TO CHINA AND WISH TO EXCHANGE WITH OUR CONSULTANTS?
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Gma can help up with:
- Baidu SEO&SEM
- Social Media
- KOL & Influencers
- E-commerce and cross-border e-commerce
We can help you with your distribution in China.
You can also read our Strategic Guide to Export Food Brands in China