Chocolate market in China

Over the years, Chinese tastes have evolved because of globalization and increasing purchasing power. Chocolate was considered quite rare or for special occasions before, but now it’s ruling on shops’ shelves. From luxury Belgian chocolate made by master chocolatiers to mass distribution of chocolate products, China’s chocolate market is one of the most promising for brands that wish to export their activities overseas.

With almost 1.4 billion Chinese inhabitants and a growing middle-class, it is a wonderful opportunity for brands to conquer and retain a wide audience. The revenue in the chocolate market is projected to reach 340243.54 tons in 2022 and the market is expected to register a CAGR of 5.90% in terms of volume. Therefore, the Chinese chocolate market is an attractive choice for foreign manufacturers trying to introduce chocolate and cocoa products in China.

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Chinese Chocolate Market Overview

Being one of the most consumed and appreciated food products, chocolate is the most popular sweet dessert in the world, with a global industry predicted to reach 160.9 billion dollars until 2027. Even though China is way behind the U.S and Switzerland in terms of chocolate consumption, it has witnessed a growing demand in the past few years, becoming a very promising industry in China, especially for foreign chocolate companies.

The Chocolate Industry in China

Chocolate was introduced in 1705 to the Chinese emperor Kangxi as a gift, but the chocolate market in China has boomed since the 1990s. Considered for a long time as a premium product for special occasions, it progressively became a kitchen cupboard essential for many Chinese. It is important to know that Chinese consumers are not used to eating chocolate, and it was thanks to foreign brands expanding their activities in China that chocolate consumption was democratized.

Chinese people are not used to eating chocolate and desserts, as Chinese culture was never about the sweets. Chinese food usually consists of 5 tastes; salty, spicy, sweet, sour and bitter. But the sweet taste is added to main sour dishes and is not treated as something separate, reserved for dessert like we do it in the West.

It is amazing to see how fast Chinese consumers’ tastes have changed compared to a decade ago when they were still sceptical about products such as coffee, cheese, and chocolate. Today, all of these products are gaining popularity in China and chocolate consumption is rising year by year. Although international chocolate makers like Mars Group, Nestlé or Ferrero are already storming the chocolate market in China, this market is still considered untapped, leaving opportunities for new brands to have a piece of this (chocolate) cake.

China’s Chocolate Consumption

As of 2022, the leading country in chocolate consumption was by far the United States, with the revenue of US$3,721.00 million. As we highlighted before, the revenue in the chocolate market is projected to reach 340243.54 tons in 2022 and the market is expected to register a CAGR of 5.90% in terms of volume. China chocolate market is expected to reach USD $4.05 billion by 2025.

What is important to mention is the fact that most of the chocolate in China is not consumed as such, because Chinese people are still in the process of getting used to consuming chocolate. They prefer to add it to other chocolate products, like cakes with fragrant milky taste enriched by milk chocolate, soft candy with chocolate chips, biscuits and sweet drinks.

China chocolate market is dominated by cocoa and dark chocolate, as Chinese people are more conscious about their health and are aiming for more balanced diet with saccharine desserts instead of real sugar. According to Market Watch research, cocoa beans are projected to reach 64,127.70 tons in 2022 with a CAGR of 6.60% in terms of volume and the cocoa paste will be the faster growing segment.

What are the Biggest Chocolate Companies on the Chinese Market?

Many international chocolate brands were able to enter the Chinese chocolate industry, allowing Chinese consumers to purchase chocolate easily. The following brands are dominating the mass distribution chocolate market in China;

  • Mars: 40% of the market share

Mars is the biggest player on the chocolate market in China, with a lot of products being widely popular among Chinese netizens in recent decades. Here are the main brands of Mars Group company;

  • Ferrero: 28% of the market share
  • Cadbury
  • Hershey’s
  • Nestlé

It is important to know that foreign chocolate brands are taking up to 70% of the Chinese chocolate market. China chocolate market presents an enormous potential for international companies, as Western sweets and other products are increasingly popular among Chinese people, especially in cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong or Beijing.

Chinese chocolate brand Leconte

The other 30% of China chocolate market share is from local brands such as the Chinese chocolate brand Leconte (that has been sold to Hollygee in 2016). However, it is also important to know that in China, the maximum amount of cocoa authorized is about 25%, whereas it is around 35% minimum worldwide. Thus, it is difficult for Chinese brands, for example, to export their chocolate overseas, which gives foreign brands a competitive advantage on the market.

How to Sell your Chocolate in China?

What is important to understand about China chocolate market is that Chinese netizens are new to chocolates and sweets, as it’s something that they didn’t have in their culture before. The capita consumption in China is still very small in comparison to other countries like US or even Japan, where every person eats 1.2kg a year. In China it’s only 0.1kg.

Although there are a lot of business opportunities for foreign brands on China chocolate market, chocolates are gaining popularity rather in big cities like Shanghai, where people are used to Western products and international standards. Therefore, while crafting a marketing strategy for your brand, you need to think of appropriate distribution channels so that your chocolates gain the audience you are looking for.

Supermarkets and grocery stores have the biggest sales of chocolates in China, but when it comes to other distribution channels that cater to chinese standards, the most profitable will be;

Chocolate Stores

Godiva Store in Shanghai
Godiva is one of the fastest-growing chocolate producers in China (© VCG photo)

If you want to expand your activities in China and sell chocolates, you are probably wondering if you should open your store. Even though the majority of Chinese consumers are buying chocolate directly in supermarkets or on e-commerce platforms, the younger generation now wants higher-quality and creative products with high prices, because they consider them more luxurious.

Opening a flagship store of your brand in one of luxury malls or shopping streets in first tier city in the country will make your brand stand out. However, don’t forget that you might also need to use e-commerce platforms to increase your sales and build brand awareness.

Chinese E-commerce Platforms and Online Marketplaces

Following China’s rapid digitalization over the past decade, several e-commerce platforms were able to stand out in the Chinese market, grabbing over 903 million users in the first quarter of 2022, and enabling this enormous spurt in China’s e-commerce sector. Thus, all kinds of chocolate brands need to sell their chocolate online, using e-commerce platforms.

If you want to target a wide audience of consumers, you need to have the best tool to do so. E-commerce platforms allow you to control directly your sales, enabling at the same time consumers all across China to purchase your chocolate and receive it within the day. Let’s check the most popular ones;

Tmall

Founded in 2008 under the famous Alibaba group, Tmall (天猫), is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao (淘宝网). Its target market is primarily B2C (Business-To-Consumer). Tmall allows both local Chinese and international companies to sell their products through the platform in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall stands out from its competitors thanks to its strict standards in terms of quality and reputation.

Results when looking for ‘chocolate’ on Tmall

Over the years, Tmall was able to attract the majority of online shoppers, as well as thousands of international brands selling chocolate.

Nonetheless, platforms like JD.com and Tmall only accept high-quality products and brands that already have a good reputation in China. Chinese consumers are quite cautious when it comes to food, thus, the majority of chocolate brands you’ll find on Tmall are most of the time well-known brands, like Ferrero, Godiva or Barry Callebaut (Swiss chocolate giant).

JD.com

Founded in 1998 by Liu Qiangdong in Beijing, JD (which stands for Jingdong 京东) was at the beginning only a magneto-optical store, which diversified over the years with electronics, computers, mobile phones, etc. In 2004, it opened its online retail platform and quickly became one of the two massive B2C online retailers in China with its competitor the Alibaba-run Tmall. Now, JD.com is partly owned by the giant Tencent, which has 20% of its stake. As of 2021, JD.com has over 470 million active customers.

‘Chocolates’ selection on JD

Even though JD.com is the reference in terms of electronics and new technologies, it also provides a wide variety of food products, including sweets and chocolates. JD also runs a sub-platform called JD Worldwide, which offers a variety of products from foreign brands on the Chinese market.

JD.com has set its standards for online shopping through its commitment to quality, authenticity, and the variety of products it offers. Another asset of JD.com is the delivery time, which is, in general, the same day (or less than 24 hours). People can purchase their chocolate, and be delivered within a few hours.

Taobao

Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is the most popular online shopping platform, specialising in both B2C and C2C transactions, as well as the most popular online entrepreneurship platform, enabling thousands of young entrepreneurs to be successful. It has hundreds of millions of products and service listings, which are appreciated by Chinese consumers. As of 2022, it has 483.4 million monthly active users. Taobao accounts for nearly 60% of the total e-commerce sales in China.

‘Chocolates’ selection on Taobao

Many chocolate brands are using Taobao to sell their products. However, it is also worth mentioning that there are lots of fakes and counterfeiting in China. That’s why Chinese consumers tend to be more cautious when buying food and are turning to cross-border e-commerce platforms like Tmall Global or JD Worlwide, to buy luxury western chocolate boxed assortments instead.

How to promote your chocolate in China?

With China being one of the most competitive markets in the world, it is difficult to attract consumers without an effective marketing strategy. In a country where everything is digitalized at a faster pace, targeting tech-savvy consumers using digital tools has become essential for both Chinese and foreign brands.

Dove Chocolates’ Chinese Ad

The Importance of Branding for Imported Chocolate in China

In China, more than everywhere else in the world, a brand’s image is an important key factor in its success among Chinese consumers. People are willing to buy a branded product ten times more than a non-branded one.

This is partly because China suffered for a long time from a bad-quality reputation following various scandals and counterfeited goods. And since the competition on the market is huge, consumers prefer to rely on brands that they already know or someone recommended to them.

Imported Chocolate Brands Need an Online presence in China

In one of the most digitalized countries in the world, brands need to have an online presence. By this, you’ll be able to target this tech-savvy population as well as increase your brand awareness. There are several aspects to consider;

Having a Chinese Website

For most of the chocolate brands selling their products in China, it is essential for them to create a website in Mandarin Chinese. In general, the first thing consumers will be looking at is your website. Indeed, they will enter your brand’s name on Baidu and check what appears there first. You need to make sure that it will be your website, that will be well optimized for SEO in China.

Hershey’s Chinese Website

Don’t forget that you must adapt your website for smartphones, as the majority of the population uses their smartphone to do online research, on their way to work, or during lunch break.

The Importance of Baidu in China

As the most popular search engine in China by far, Baidu is a step you can’t skip in China. However, increasing your website’s ranking on Baidu requires a slightly different way of thinking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) compared to what you might be used to with Google. Considered the “Chinese Google”, Baidu is the most popular Chinese Search Engine and stands as the 5th most consulted website in the world. As of 2022, it represents 71.9% of the Chinese market share.

Baidu is an opening window to enter the Chinese chocolate market as consumers will do their research on it to discover your brand. If you are not visible through the first pages, you won’t probably get much traffic. That’s why working on Baidu’s SEO is as important as setting up your e-commerce online shop.

To do it successfully without wasting too much time, you can contact specialized experts such as GMA. We have helped many companies increase successfully their rank on Baidu, gaining much traffic, and thus, much more clients.

Chinese Social media

With more than 1.02 billion internet users in China, it has become essential for brands to be on social media. However, due to the Great Firewall, social apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are unavailable. This means that you will need to comply with Chinese social media if you want to target new Chinese consumers.

As you understand, the Chinese population is among the most connected in the world, and with a tech-savvy population, it is considered mandatory to have an official account and be at the core of trending topics. When looking for chocolate brands, Chinese internet users will research your brand online. When hesitating between your brand and another, they will look at reviews, forums, pictures, etc.

WeChat

Created by the Chinese company Tencent and released in 2011, WeChat, also known as Weixin (微信) in China, is the most used social media in China with 1.26 billion users as of 2022, far beyond Weibo, and is expected to grow even more.

WeChat is one of the leading social networks worldwide, ranking sixth in terms of active user number, and becoming a lucrative marketing platform with its plethora of different functionalities. Its success relies on the fact that Wechat was able to integrate almost all the features that made the success of the world’s most popular networks.

Ferrero Rocher on WeChat

One of the powerful and useful ways to take advantage of WeChat is to create an H5 brochure that you’ll be able to share with your followers, and directly on your social media accounts. It is cost-effective and works like a website within the WeChat platform.

Weibo

Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation (新浪), Weibo (微博) is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. As its name indicates (“micro-blog”), Weibo provides micro-blogging services and is often compared to Twitter. However, it has evolved into a microblogging hybrid with Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube over the years.

Milka Official Weibo Account

As of 2021, Weibo has 56.8% of the Chinese microblogging market in terms of active users, and 86.6% in terms of browsing time over Chinese competitors such as Tencent and Baidu. It has more than 511 monthly active users and millions of posts per day, making it the largest Chinese-language mobile portal. Almost all Chinese millennials are using this social app to follow celebrities, KOLs, brands, read news, etc.

With the majority of foreign brands having an official account on Weibo, you will probably have to consider creating an official account on Weibo. To do so, you can contact us and our team will take care of it.

Little Red Book

Little Red Book is one of the most famous social media and e-commerce platforms in China. Also known as Xiaohongshu (Chinese name) or simply RED, this platform has 300 million registered users with the majority being women. They look for shopping recommendations and opinions about products they want to purchase, look for travel, fashion or beauty tips and many more. The app is compared to a mix between Instagram and Pinterest, with its e-commerce platform.

XIAO HONG SHU CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA ECOMMERCE PLATFORM FOR BEAUTY AND LIFESTYLE BRANDS

There are many more platforms worth exploring in China and every brand might be suitable for different ones, depending on your target audience. If you’d like to understand the social media landscape in China, please check more here.

Online and Offline Promotion During Chinese Holidays

Traditional holidays and events in China are extremely important in terms of sales. This is when people gather together to eat, weather it’s home-made food or restaurant treats. They also look for some luxury products to buy as gifts.

For example, during the Mid-Autumn festival that takes place every year in October, it is part of the tradition to offer and eat moon cakes. These moon cakes are pastries usually filled with red beans, egg yolk, or meat and they are round, which represents the full moon. You can see how they look below;

Traditional Chinese moon cake

Although a lot of Chinese netizens will still prefer to eat the traditional version of those cakes, many foreign and Chinese chocolate manufacturers like Godiva (Belgian chocolate brand) have created their chocolate moon cakes variations, attracting curious consumers, especially the younger generation that is already used to all kinds of chocolates and other Western sweets.

Chocolate Moon Cake (© Maxim’s)

But Mid-Autumn festival is not the holiday to generate the biggest sales on the chocolate market. The most lucrative day for the chocolate sales is Valentines day, when people in first tier cities tend to gift each other with chocolate boxes as an addition to flowers. And what is important to mention is that there are a few days in the year that are celebrated as our Valentines Day in China, so there is even more occasions to eat chocolate!

It has become more common to gift chocolates along with flowers during Valentine’s Day

Chocolate Brand Case Study: Ferrero Rocher

Ferrero Rocher started to sell its first products in China in 1994. It first positioned itself as a luxury brand but later changed to something more affordable, which was a move that brought the company great success in the Chinese chocolate market.

Ferrero Rocher is extremely popular in China thanks to its gold packaging. In fact, Ferrero’s golden packaging symbolizes fortune in China. And while hard candy and jellied fruits were distributed during weddings, young newly-weds tend to include chocolate as well in their candy packages. Hence, more than 15% of Ferrero Rochers’ sales in China come from wedding gifts.

Ferrero Rocher in China (© China Daily)

Today Ferrero Rocher and other products from Ferrero company are becoming a daily necessity for many Chinese from big cities like Shanghai or Guangzhou and it’s fair to say that it has established a strong, undeniable reputation on the market.

Contact us to Sell Your Chocolate in China

With China being one of the most promising markets for chocolate brands, many of them are trying to enter the Chinese market in order to conquer a wide audience. The chocolate market is indeed still considered untapped and has a lot of opportunities for brands that are willing to invest themselves in order to adapt to the Chinese market and to Chinese consumers.

Collaborating with an agency specialized in the Chinese market is the best way to achieve your goal and increase your Return On Investment. As all companies are different, the marketing and advertising strategy must be tailored according to their needs and within their financial means.

Proud of the success of the companies we have helped over the years, we know exactly the needs of each company and the strategies that must be tailored to them in order to get the best of the Chinese market.

You can also look at our case studies here

And of course, if you have questions about selling, advertising, exporting, etc. your chocolate in China, contact us directly, and we will reply to you within 24 hours.

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53 Comments

    1. Hi, Elnaz. I have noticed that Sino-Iran trade has increased greatly since 2010. Let me know what business are you interested and I hope I can offer more details.

      1. Thank you for such a fantastic blog. Where else could one get this kind of info wiettrn in such an incite full way? I have a presentation that I am just now working on, and I have been looking for such information.

    2. Dear sir

      Please send us the price quotation with minimum order quantity how can i get in touch with you?

      Faisal
      Pakistan

      1. Dear Sir / Madam,

        We are a Business Service Provider in Iran and ‎ giving the service to manufacturers to develop their export market.
        One of our customers, is CHOCO PARS Co., which is in the market since 50 years ago, and now we are presenting them to international market.
        They are producing/distruting several kind of products such as followings:
        Chocolate
        Jelly Powder
        Cake Powder
        Syrups ( Juice)
        Sweets

        We want to enter the Chinese Market
        We can also supply Private Label products.
        Please feel free to contact us if you need any further information.

        Best Regards
        Hamid Amiri
        Business Development Department Manager

    3. Hello Philip,am running a chocoate company and i would like to enter Chinese market. my major products are dark chocolate renging from 65% to 100% i don’t use flavours and i also make chocolate for lovers .my chocolate is organic. How can i enter the china market. Help me

  1. Chinese women like chocolate and besides this, it’s becoming trendy to receive chocolate gifts on special occasions. It’s a western trend and everything that’s popular in the West is being adopted by chinese people quite fast.
    The only problem is the chinese culture that emphasizes slimness in women…not sure chinese women will ever eat sweets very often.

    1. Hi, Maria. what you said is totally right. and now girls are not so crazy for slimnness and they can always find more reasons to eat chocolate than refuse it.

      1. Hello Philip
        I am a Dutch trained chocolatier who has been making and selling chocolates for 25 years. I am pleased to tell you that it is possible to “lose weight” while eating chocolate. Good quality Dark chocolate – made with cocoa-butter and soy lecithin as the emulsifier & over 52% cocoa content (the higher the cocoa content the better) – will increase your body metabolism by 24% if it is eaten 15 – 30 minutes before a main meal. The amount you can eat is VERY important….40gr is enough per day ( if you exercise a lot you can increase this amount to up to 100gr but ONLY if you are a very active person – otherwise it wont work).
        40gr of Dark chocolate will also increase the serotonin levels in your body which will make you feel happier.
        I am writing a book – soon to be released – of my own recipes which I plan to use as a teaching tool. I am learning the Chinese language for the last 14months and plan to have the book translated into Chinese so that the quest for the right information can be sourced by Chinese who wish to become real chocolatiers and not just ‘buyers’ of chocolate.
        I enjoyed your Blog. Thank you
        Melanie

      2. Dear sir,madam
        I m want to enter china market for choclte ,candy and bubble i have business in pakistan since 2000
        Dear im intrested to export chclate etc from china

    2. Yes, I agree with you that the big problem lies in the cultural mentality of Chinese women.
      To be thin is praised everywhere, from the web to TV and in the families as well.
      The question is : is a Chocolate brand able to combine the two or there is any case of chocolate brands promoting chocolate as “healthy” ?

      1. It’s a very good idea to brand a chocolate as a healthy food because it offers consumers, especailly who care a lot about their body shape, a reason to eat chocolate. What’s more, there’s nobody doing it as big companies have already positioned their brand and small companies are still seeking for their positioning.

        1. Good discussion and view on China. I was wondering where are the Swiss? Known for the Chocolate but not very active in China, I see the Belgians more and more but not the Swiss.

          1. Compared with Swiss chocolate industry, belgium seems to be more suitable for export and also adaptation to Chinese market. Especailly for the taste where you can find huge gap between western taste and Chinese taste.

        2. Hi

          Can you guide me more on how to establish a chocolate store in China?
          I have a high end swiss Belgium chocolate with gift wrap chocolate items.
          Thank you

          1. Hello Tarek,
            We can help you to do that, just contact us and our expert will guide you.

    3. I’m Mr ronald i want to invest in any business in good faith I have equity capital for profitable investment. Get back to me via email with your business proposal or your project plans for review.
      Thanks.
      Mr ronald williams.

  2. What is the most popular Chinese target market for consuming chocolate? In other words which age group in China buys the most chocolate?

  3. please i need a chocolate seller or producer to bring in chocolate to my country Nigeria and sell, i sell vigor chocolate here in my country and the price as gone high and people still want to buy. it boast the libido of men for sexual erection and here in Nigeria is large market for it and i am ready to develop supplier for china chocolate market here in Nigeria
    in case any one is interested email me on erumehtonyaudu yashoo.com or call me on +2348069101090 i will help to register your product here in my country Nigeria under food product NAFDAC national food and drug administration commission then will franchise the business and you can sell like 10 container of chocolate in a month

    1. hi my name is emerson from Angola we are produse very nice chocolate in our factory in Angola maybe we can help you email me sp we talk
      thanks

  4. First of all, invite your basic family, then your godparents and grandparents.
    The initial Adirondack chair was built by Thomas Lee in 1903.
    You have been thinking about every detail, how the itinerary would flow.

  5. Hello – interesting postings. Looking for a list of Chinese manufacturers in Chocolate or Chinese purchasers of semi cocoa finished products. Thanks

  6. We are an Ecuadorian chocolate company called AOG Foods,
    Our organic range is what we would like to begin selling in China. our products currently sell in Ecuador, Canada, and the USA
    We have Inventory ready to be sent out

  7. Hello,
    We are a new Retail Store in China, and would like to buy Chocolate Brands from Europe or Russia. We want famous Brand, already in western Supermarket and with good potential in China.
    We are a Chinese Company contact us for negociation and introduce your brands to us

    1. Hello Johny

      Are you still looking for popular chocolate brand to sell in your store? Where in China are you located?

  8. TRACKERS BD Solution is the company in Bangladesh to track your vehicle in real time, its software is very suitable and comfortable.

  9. Hello,
    Very few brand of chocolate in China are popular, and I guess lotof space for Small Chocolate Brand? I am Right?

  10. Hello,
    We are reselling foreign imported brand of chocolates on Wechat, and we have thousands of Wechat group, and we want to resell your brands.
    Can you contact me

  11. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

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