The meat market in China is the second-largest market sector in the country’s retail food market. And in terms of purchasing habits, Chinese people consume now more and more meat than ever before. They have access to a far wider choice of meat.
In this article, we’ll highlight the main fact concerning the meat retail industry and will explain the process to be followed to sell meat in China.
Meat retail market in China
Good news for the food industry! A new distribution system has been set up.
Indeed, China improved a lot its distribution system, resulting in expanding transportation networks. Some improvements very welcomed in the industry as it led to an important development of regional trade in fresh meat but also processed meats.
Processed meat products are mainly sold in:
Fresh meat products are mainly sold in:
- Open Market
Supermarket & Hypermarket turned out to become the main retailers of processed meats (especially frozen and chilled products). Which suits perfectly the needs of urban consumers as they are getting bigger income, and are therefore more willing to buy expensive cuts of meat, which lead to increase demand for variety and quality product.
While in Occidental countries, governments are more and more questioning the consumption level of meat and its effect on people’s health, emerging countries are consuming more meat than ever.
Which is a great opportunity for food retailers to export their meat products to China!
But what about China and the meat market?
- China represents 50% of the European Union’s pork exportation
- China is the first importer of sheep & pork meat in the world
- China is the second importer of beef meat in the world
- China is the fifth importer of Chicken meat in the world
- China import meat from 14 countries
- Increase in domestic meat production of +1% compared to last year
- Meat importation in May 2019 followed an increase of 45% compared to last year
Moreover, we’ll notice that 98% of meat importation in volume are controlled by a few countries in China:
In terms of consumption:
- In 2026, Chinese people are expected to consume 55kg of meat per year (+10% compared to 2017)
- Meat consumption currently increase of +6% compared to previous years
- In 2018, pork represented 60% of all meat consumption
According to some reports, volumes of meat imported by China should rise in the following months while the ASF (African Swine Fever) outbreaks have reduced the national pig herd by more than 25%. As a consequence, China’s demand for pork has increased the price of pig meat in the global market. In the EU, suppliers even noticed an increase of almost 30% in prices…
To resume the situation in China toward meat market:
- Average meat consumption per inhabitant is increasing
- China needs more meat than before and can’t produce all of it by itself
- The ASF led an important rise of pork meat importation
- Increase of the demand for variety and good quality products
- Improvement of the distribution system makes sales easier
Following this, you’ll understand that there is now a real opportunity for importers in the meat retail industry in China.
But how to get access to the Chinese market?
We’ll detail here for you the different ways to sell meat in China and how to get access to distributors.
Selling Meat in China
To sell meat in China, you’ll have to choose between two options.
Online sales are probably the easiest way to make money in China. And here’s are some reasons why:
- Chinese people are always looking for product to buy online, even food.
- Easy to buy. Your potential clients can buy your products from anywhere. They’ll just need access to a phone or computer.
- If they are satisfied, they’ll buy from you again.
- If you’re turning out to sell a lot of products on E-commerce Platform, offline distributors will contact you by themselves.
To distribute your product online, you’ll get two way to operate:
- Cross-border E-commerce (Tmall Global, JD Global, etc.)
- Chinese E-commerce platforms (Taoboa, Tmall, JD.com, etc.)
Cross-border is about the importation of goods through sellers from foreign countries. Let’s see how to sell your product through this model.
As an online e-commerce business model, you’ll need to have a platform. The main ones in China are currently Tmall Global and JD Global. Once you decide which platform you want to operate with, you’ll just need to set it up. Here’s the process:
- Pay a deposit
- Build a nice store
- Advertise a lot (at the beginning)
- Pay commission per sales
- Pay daily operation management (high cost)
- Need an active marketing campaign
The good part of cross-border e-commerce is that you don’t need to have a Chinese business license or any certification. The main disadvantage is that it’s pretty expensive.
If you have the possibility to establish your business directly into China, and therefore get a Chinese business license and the required certifications, you can use Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Taobao, Tmall, JD.com, etc.
It’s cheaper than cross-border and the time to deliver your product is faster. The main problem is that you’ll need to understand Chinese or to hire someone that can deal with it on your behalf. Because all the stores will be in Chinese. Otherwise, the process to open your store is similar to the one for a cross-border platform.
- Build a store, design pages
- Advertise it
- Participate in special events (double 11, 618, 12/12, etc.)
- Manage daily operations
- Store supported by your branding
Working with distributors is a basic model and a very common channel for companies to expand new markets.
How does it work?
- You give a percentage of your sales revenue (usually around 50%) in exchange for local distributors to handle the sales on your behalf.
- According to your product fame and negotiation process, distributors can eventually purchase your inventory so that you’ll get bottom-line benefits
What does that mean for you?
They do the job for you meaning, less profit margin and surely more concerns about quality control and branding… Distributors usually don’t market your brand. If your product already works, they’ll sell it well. If not, your product will be queuing behind the best sellers.
Be sure that distributors have already signed different companies offering the same type of product as yours. And they only care about the one showing results. If you lack a reputation in China, distributors won’t give you much attention.
What solution do you have using distributors?
The exclusive Distributor
We don’t recommend it. Complicated to deal with. They are your suppliers, not partners, and once they’ll get the certification and authorization to represent your company in China, they may change their way of dealing with you. Keep in mind that they’ll put their interest before yours.
Also, they don’t have the knowledge to build your brand. They can find resellers or more generally distribute your product pretty fast but won’t do any efforts on your branding.
It’s a good strategy. You can control the distribution process and it’ll allow you a good presence in China, your own registration in the country and strong branding.
With this model, you’ll deal directly with distributors, agents and resellers and it will lead your company to a higher conversion rate.
You sell and deliver the product by yourself. You’re in total control of operations. You won’t face the costs for intermediary but will have important upfront cost (shops + warehouse).
From now on, you have some highlights on which distribution channel you can choose to export your products to China. Online or Offline. Two strategies that can be chosen apart from each other or combined for more results, depending on your investment capacities.
However, you need to know that getting access to distributors in China is not easy.
Distributors will only distribute famous brands or brands with a lot of sales. They don’t want to waste time on branding (and most of them don’t know how to do). So, they will distribute first brands that will allow them to make good money.
Even if they agree to work with you, if nobody knows you in China, they won’t make any effort and won’t work on your brand. Therefore, you’ll need to develop a new marketing strategy to sell products to distributors.
- Export in China Guide
- Snack Market in China
- Healthy Trends in China
- Food Market in China overview 2019
You can also read our Strategic Guide to Export Food Brands in China.
Tips to convince Chinese distributors
Mind your E-reputation.
In China, whoever you decide to establish a commercial relationship with, they’ll check on you on social media. Whether it’s distributors, customers, or future partners, they’ll all check your online reputation.
For a long time, China suffered from its bad reputation toward fake products, fake brands, counterfeit and bad quality food. But from now on, China’s economic actors pay real attention to who they deal with. And before doing anything, they’ll want to make sure that a trustful relationship can be established.
How to develop your reputation and make your company trustable toward Chinese distributors?
Step 1. Let them know who you are
- Develop a website in Chinese
- Be present on Baidu
Baidu corresponds to the Chinese Google. Chinese netizens are always looking for information on it. If they have a problem: Baidu. If they’re looking for something: Baidu. If they want to buy your product but don’t know you: Baidu… following this, different actions will be required for you to develop your e-reputation on the Chinese browser.
- Baidu Zhidao & Zhihu: a good way to deliver information and introduce your company
- Baidu Baike: the Chinese Wikipedia. You’ll need to make your own page there. It’s a very important website in China. People trust it a lot.
- PR: you’ll need articles talking about you. They want to see medias talking about how good are your products, how much Chinese love it and how reputed you are at an international level.
- Forums: you need to be present in different online discussions. People have to talk about you.
- Reviews/comments: when Chinese people are happy (or not) of a product, they post an online review/comment. And you’ll need plenty of them. As a result, when distributors will be looking for your brand, they’ll be happy to see that you’re trustworthy and that many people are already satisfied with your product.
- Weibo: The Chinese Twitter
It’s a very popular social media in China. This tool will help you to reach your target audience and engage with potential customers. Due to the high visibility you can get on this platform, we recommend the use of KOL. A perfect way to build up and show your good reputation.
Step 2. Use social media
Once they’ll know you are a real company selling good quality products, they’ll need to be sure that they can sell your products without any problems. And how to be sure of that? By checking how many people follow you, what do they think of you, if you already have people buying your products?
To develop a successful presence on Chinese social media to impress your distributor, you’ll need:
A very famous platform in China. Almost everyone uses it here. It’s a messenger app offering you the possibility to share content with your “friend” such as text/videos/pictures/music/etc. On WeChat you’ll also find group chat. Chinese people love it. It gives them the possibility to organize group discussions, talk about their problems and how to solve it, but also talk about new trends, brands, and products they may love and recommend… Open a WeChat, it’s worth it. It will help you to interact with your community and create engagement.
Here’s what you can do on the app:
- Create a company brochure
- Spread marketing content
- Spread coupons/discounts to your followers
- Work on your community management
It’s a video sharing application. Very popular in China. Through this one, you can create video content and spread it to a wild audience. Moreover, you can also sell your product on the app. Fun & Intuitive, potential customers will love to interact with you there. It’s also a very good way to develop a KOL strategy.
To resume the perfect strategy to convince distributors to work with you:
- Make yourself Visible in China
- Develop your reputation on Chinese Social Media
- Mind the importance of PR
- Start active prospection
If you manage to build your visibility and a strong reputation on Chinese social media, half of the job is done. You’ll get all the key elements to convince any distributors to sell your meat in China.
If you have any questions on how to sell meat in China, feel free to contact us.
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- Digital marketing expert
- Professional in E-commerce retail market
- Deep knowledge of the Chinese market
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