China is a huge market for tea. The country consumes the most tea in the world, drinking over half of all the tea produced. Tea has been an integral part of Chinese culture for centuries and it seems like there will always be a demand for this refreshing drink. But how does one go about selling their product to such a large audience? Here is our take on the market and our best tips to start promoting your tea in the middle kingdom.
What does the China tea market look like?
Tea is one of the three major beverages in the world. There are more than 60 tea-producing countries and regions in the world, and the tea-drinking population exceeds 2 billion. China is the biggest tea producer in the world, accounting for 44.36% of the total production. In the meanwhile, China is also the world’s biggest consumer of tea. According to statistics from the International Tea Council, in 2018, the total tea consumption in China reached 2.119 million tons.
In 2021, it had reached 2.3 million tonnes. the market sales were up to 273.950 billion yuan, and the average sales price was 135.25 yuan/kg.
Chinese consumption of tea drinks keeps increasing
In recent years, the country’s tea consumption has continued to grow. According to statistics from the China Tea Marketing Association, the Chinese annual tea consumption in 2019 reached 2.025 million tons, an increase of 115 million tons which was an increase of 6.02% from 2018; the market sales were up to 273.950 billion yuan, and the average sales price was 135.25 yuan/kg
There are several main reasons for this continuous increase:
- The upgrade of consumption with high-end brands getting popular
- Bigger focus on health leading Chinese consumers to look for health benefits in their tea drink
- Rising affluence
- The continuous promotion of tea culture
- consumer tastes evolving (fruit teas) & New-style tea consumers (bubble & milk tea consumers)
- Rise of outdoor consumption – getting a milk tea on the go is a luxury many 1st and 2nd tier city consumers offer themselves.
characteristics of tea consumers
In 2021, Millenials accounted for the majority of hot tea consumers in China, representing almost 35% of the market, shortly followed by the 35-44 age group with 29%.
- The bulk of tea drinker consumers earns between 4000RMB/10000RMB monthly.
- Peoples living in 3 tiers cities (and lower) tends to look at prices as the main criteria.
- Milk tea consumers are mostly urban consumers living in Chinese 1st tiers cities and are usually female consumers under 40YO;
- Urban consumers also have a stronger health awareness and are looking for the health benefits of tea drinks and will for instance add fruit pieces or fruit granules.
Does imported tea have a market in China?
As has been presented, China is a huge market for tea, not only in consumption but also in production. In this case, does imported tea has a chance to share the market? The answer is yes.
The main reason is that domestic tea brands are more focused on elderly people/middle-aged people than they are on the youth. But the youth represents a massive market where many consumption trends are getting born.
China tea drink: a two-faced market
Tea actually has two markets in China. One is the traditional raw leaf tea market in 6 major tea categories, and the other is Lipton-style teabags, substitute teas, and herbal teas. Although both markets are about tea, they treat two completely different types of consumers.
People who drink traditional raw leaf tea are generally more aged people, and most of them are consumers over 35 years old. Those who drink raw leaf tea normally pay attention to quality, origin, season, grade, aroma, color, taste, etc., with higher requirements. This group of people will normally not drink teabags.
Read also: Guide to China f&b market
As for teabags, especially fruity aromatic teabags, other alternative teas, and herbal teas, as well as the imported tea brands, whether it’s Twinings or TWG, these consumers are generally relatively young petty-bourgeois, this group of consumers belongs to the same group as consumers of coffee, milk tea, and beverage products. They relatively have less exigence on the tea quality, but higher requirements for the brand and experience.
Case study of how an English tea company is winning the Chinese tea market
Richard Tea is an English tea company based in London, and they propose a collection of black, green, and herbal teas from plantations all over the world. All their tea blends are made in the traditional English style, but each with a dainty touch: combining various teas, aromatic herbs, and spices helps a tea blend to deliver all the shades of taste.
GMA has been responsible for Richard Tea’s China integrated digital marketing in banding and product promotions toward China’s potential consumers. We have made the best strategy and great results.
Our Solutions for Richard’s entry strategies include:
- WeChat management
- Weibo Management
- Online Reputation Management
- Baidu SEO
Through our strategies, great results have been made to boost Richard’s sales and promote its brand awareness and reputation in China.
What are China Tea Drinks Trends
Self-drinking and tea gifts are two bid classics in the Chinese tea market. Besides self-drinking, Chinese people liked to give tea as gifts since ancient times, and tea is also one of the most unlimited gifts /popular gifts regardless of age or gender, tea is very suitable as a gift.
At the same time, tea implies connotation, calmness, and elegance, thus it is a cultural extension and inheritance as well in China.
Many brands have realized this market potential and launched gift-packaged tea (high-end gift box) and peripheral products, as the picture shows.
Diversified consumer demand in the Chinese tea market
With the improvement of Chinese living standards and the continuous promotion of tea culture, tea has been accepted by more and more consumers due to its natural and healthy characteristics, and more and more tea consumers are young Chinese. The new tea lovers are not satisfied with traditional classical tea types and are looking for more fancy and different tea types, leading to a diversified tea market.
At the same time, tea consumption has been continuously extended and refined from the original “gift” and “self-drinking” concepts, deriving diversified new demands and new models. In recent years, with the rise of the value of tea collections, the consumer demand for high-end collections and the demand for customization have increased significantly.
With the diversification of consumer demand, tea companies with full or multiple categories and diversified product positioning will be favored by more consumers.
High-quality and branded teas are in demand
As people pay more and more attention to food safety and health, consumers’ requirements for tea products are also increasing. In addition to paying attention to the taste of tea products, more and more consumers pay more attention to the quality of tea products.
To some extent, the brand is an external manifestation of the internal quality of the product. Therefore, branded tea companies with a good reputation are more likely to be trusted by consumers. As people pay more and more attention to the choice of branded products, “brand” has become a key factor when consumers buy tea.
E-commerce has become an important sales channel for tea in China
With the development of Internet e-commerce platforms, in recent years, traditional tea companies have gradually realized the importance of channel diversification, and have continuously increased their investment in e-commerce channels.
Establishing flagship stores on Taobao, JD.com, and other platforms or selling on the Chinese cross-border platforms without a physical entity in China are good choices for foreign tea companies, as they can save costs and reach more audiences.
E-commerce is influencing almost every sector in China. According to the latest data, 35.3% of Chinese retail sales occur online and Chinese e-commerce represents 50% of the global market.
Branding and brand awareness are the key to selling tea in China
No matter what kind of tea you are going to sell, and no matter where your tea comes from, branding is the must thing before all. Let me explain to you why.
Chinese consumers are very wary of unknown brands due to quality scandals that happened in China. Before making a purchase, they will search for enough information about the brand before buying it. If they can not find your presentation and reviews online about your tea, they probably will not buy it.
Therefore, being present on Chinese social media and Baidu search engine results can help you to boost your brand awareness in China. However, keep in mind that the Chinese social ecosystem is not like the one in the West. They don’t use Google, Facebook, or Twitter because they are all blocked in China. Chinese people use WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Baidu, etc.
Want to make it in the Chinese tea market?
GMA is an expert in Chinese digital marketing since 2012. Contact us, and let us help you to increase your tea competitivity and expand your market share, as we have done for Richard.