Statistics have shown that the rising rate of nut consumption in China is much faster than in other snacks. The snacks market in China is growing and nuts are a big part of it, accounting for around 80% of total salty snack consumption. What is more, Chinese people favor imported brands in the nut industry, which creates an amazing opportunity for nut manufacturers from other countries to leverage this growing market.
In this blog post, we will take look at the nuts market in China and examine market trends and possibilities in this competitive landscape, offering some ideas on how to export nut brands to the Chinese market.
Overview of the nut consumption in China (2022)
According to Statista, the revenue in the nuts market in China amounts to $7.39 billion dollars in 2022 and the market is expected to grow annually by 10.20% between 2022 and 2027. Nuts and seeds compromise more than 3/4 of the total salty snacks consumption in the country, making it a very profitable segment of the food and beverage industry to invest in.
Domestic consumption of nuts is expected to increase in tandem with income growth and increased awareness of healthy foods. The average volume of per capita consumption in the nuts market in China is expected to amount to 0.5kg in 2022.
Why do Chinese consumers love healthy snacks?
Chinese Consumers are looking for diverse nut flavors and products. The consumption of shelled nuts is increasing much faster than its in-shell counterparts. Younger consumers (ages 19 to 35), especially female professionals, have become the major force driving nut consumption. These young consumers prefer to shop online resulting in increasing volumes of sales generated online. But why consumer demand is growing in the daily nuts sector?
A healthy lifestyle is driving the demand for healthy snacks
Sales in the nut industry have seen significant growth because people consider nuts as healthy snacks, and at the same time, nut snacks that are original in flavor, organic, or packaged in small portions with mixed nuts (so-called daily nuts) are increasingly popular. Chinese consumers have become more aware of the health benefits of nuts and seeds.
Now, it seems that eating nuts, dried fruits and seeds is no longer something to do to kill time while chatting with friends, but part of the overall pursuit of a healthy and trendy lifestyle. Chinese consumers have rising awareness of their sugar and fat intake and they are trying to change their eating habits to be more healthy.
The growth rates of traditional sweet snacks, such as sugar confectionery, ice cream, and biscuits, are relatively slow. Therefore, more consumers are switching to fresh and dried fruits and vegetables or precisely the whole family of walnuts and other nuts for snacking. This suggests a growing opportunity for food and drinks brands that enjoy a healthy perception to tap into the snacking occasion by developing snack format products.
Chinese people are living fast lives, not having time for proper meals
As Chinese people, especially young generations, spend most of their days out of home, they are growing demand for snacks. Although chocolate bars, chips, and other rather unhealthy options are still on the rise, more and more people are turning to daily nuts and dried fruit choices, growing the market share of those products in China.
Their growing purchasing power and changing eating preferences work in favor of the nuts and dried fruits market in China and the trend will continue for at least the next five years. Chinese consumers are used to buying packaged mixed nuts or fruits, called daily nuts, and every package is one portion, suitable for a little meal in between meetings or sports activities.
Nuts are widely used in Chinese cuisine for centuries
What is also important to mention is that nuts are being used in Chinese cuisine for centuries. They have not considered luxury food as we think in many countries in the West. Nuts are not as expensive as they are in European countries and Chinese people don’t consume them only as snacks, but rather add them to many traditional dishes from their cuisine.
There are many recipes that use cashew (for example Cashew Chicken), walnuts (widely added to many dumplings), or peanuts (the famous Gongbao Chicken). Chinese cuisine is very diverse and there is a place for nuts and seeds in many dishes (sesame seeds are used as a seasoning and decoration for many dishes in China).
Which are the most favorite types of nuts in China?
China is the world’s leader in the global production of walnuts, and walnuts have long had a place in the Chinese diet. Walnuts are used as daily nuts or as a part of traditional dishes, in addition to dairy products and many more.
In recent years, the consumption of fresh walnut kernels has become popular in China. Market research indicates that walnuts consumed fresh account for nearly 10 percent of the total walnut consumption. Fresh walnut kernels are also a popular cooking ingredient in restaurants and at home. In addition, newly developed snack foods, such as Chinese dates stuffed with walnut kernels, have also effectively increased the consumption of walnuts.
Other popular nuts in China are pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and almonds, all of them being imported from other markets. Pistachios and almonds have been the leaders among nut imports, but the market share of macadamia nuts is quickly catching up.
Who are the major players in the Chinese nuts market?
When it comes to the Chinese nuts industry, there are four main players on the market; Qiaqia Foods, Three Squirrels, Baicaowei and Wolong. According to the survey data of the Prospective Industry Research Institute, the biggest market share belongs to Qiaqia Foods, accounting for 9.7%, followed by Three Squirrels with 9.1%, and Wolong with 7.2%.
How Wolong Foods stormed the market with its new product category
In 2015, Wolong Foods decided to introduce a new category of snacks on the market, so-called daily nuts, which are small packages of mixed tree nuts, seeds, and dried fruits that are supposed to encourage healthy eating habits. Daily nuts had a great marketing concept, promoting a slogan of “one package a day for a healthier life” and this category of snacks quickly became very popular. Today, more than 100 manufacturers have daily nuts on their offer and you probably also noticed this type of snack in shops in the US or Europe.
The introduction of daily nuts has been a great success, boosting the sales of the whole nut market. Wolong Foods came up with the idea when the government started promoting a healthy diet and encouraging people to eat between 25-35g of nuts every day. The idea was so successful, all the major players on the market started offering their own daily nuts, with even international brands like Hershey’s and Oreo adding daily nuts to their offer in China.
Chinese people are getting interested in imported nut brands
Imported snacks are gaining popularity among urban Chinese, stealing some of the market size from domestic brands. According to Mintel research, as many as four in 10 urban Chinese are interested in buying imported products they’ve never tried before across a variety of purchase channels that specialize in selling imported snacks.
There are many brands in the tree nuts industry in China that already have an established presence and significant share of the market size, such as Select Harvests, Australia’s largest integrated nut and health food company. In 2016 PepsiCo in China signed a contract with the company to get their trademark and distribution rights.
Other foreign companies, like Hershey’s or Oreo, are trying to stay up to date with the market dynamics in China, introducing their unique daily nuts offers, that are mixed with companies’ products, such as Hershey’s chocolates or mini Oreos. Thanks to this type of approach, the total imports of nuts are constantly growing in China.
This is your moment to sell nuts in China
As consumers continue to look for new and different flavor experiences, international snacks have become a sector that many consumers are gravitating towards. E-commerce is an especially important channel for international snacks. There are many export opportunities for foreign brands in China’s food market, but there are many things to consider before entering this competitive environment.
One of the most important things is that marketing in China differs from the one we are used to in the West. Here are some of our tips for any international brand willing to start selling its food in China;
Create a Chinese Website optimized for the Baidu search engine
Nowadays in China, most of the sites for the sales of nuts are created by distributors. While this solution saves work for manufacturers, it hurts the building of the brand image in the long run, because sellers will focus primarily on sales while the company must spread its brand.
With a site in Chinese you can:
- Increase the popularity of a brand and build e-reputation and branding in China
- Influence consumers through content and design
- Create the image of a company
After creating a website for your brand you have to think about the promotion. A good site without visitors is useless. To promote the site the most widespread and effective solutions are SEO and SEM techniques that should be designed for Baidu not for Google. And when it comes to Baidu, a Chinese website is a must, as this search engine favors native websites above foreign ones.
Use social media platforms to build brand awareness and a good reputation
Chinese people are a very technology-oriented nation, therefore they use their mobile phones or computer to look up everything that interests them online. Most of them, especially young generations, use social media platforms, with WeChat being the biggest of them with a 1.26 billion monthly active user base.
Social media are the go-to platforms for checking information, looking for product reviews, recommendations, and more. If you want to target a Chinese audience, you can’t miss out on having accounts on at least the biggest of them, which are WeChat, Weibo, and Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu).
There, you will be able to attract your customers with special offers, mini-stores, official information, coupons, live-streaming sessions, and many more, enlargening your followers base.
The advantages of using social networks to sell nuts in China are:
- Building a community around your company
- Reaching a specific consumer target
- Quickly get feedback from these consumers
- Create a better company image
Focus on your e-reputation and branding
Building a good reputation is the key to success in China and this is also one of the first steps you should take. Chinese people are known for buying only from brands that they know or that have a good reputation in China. If you want Chinese shoppers to buy your daily nuts, when they have many other options to choose from, you need to present yourself as a healthy foreign company.
Take care of good branding, and focus on showing the health benefits of your products. You can also work with Chinese influencers, so-called KOLs and KOCs, to promote your daily nuts and tree nuts on Chinese social media platforms. Chinese society relies heavily on recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing, so it will be easier for you to gain your consumers’ trust through an influencer, than any other way.
Enter Chinese e-commerce platforms
China is the largest e-commerce market in the world and the food industry is booming there, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, when people started ordering all food they needed online. The rapid development of smartphones and tablets in China quickly enabled 76% of connected Chinese to make purchases via their mobile.
There are several things to know if you want to reach the expectations of Chinese consumers: Before thinking offline, you have to be present online on e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD, Taobao… Chinese people buy everything online; food, clothes, appliances, beverages…In fact, China is the most connected country in the world. So before starting your business in China, you have to truly understand your target and how to reach them.
Hire a trusted agency to help you sell tree nuts to the Chinese audience
The Chinese market is one of the best profits in the world and it’s not a surprise that many foreign companies want to have a piece of that cake too. But as you can already see, entering this competitive environment is not an easy task and requires a lot of know-how to succeed.
If you’re interested in exporting your tree nuts to China, contact us and we will help you come up with the best marketing strategy for your brand. We are a China digital agency with more than 10 years of experience and more than 70 professionals in the field, both Chinese and foreign.
We have big experience in working with food and beverage brands, introducing their product to the Chinese audience with great success.
Here are some of our F&B case studies:
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us to discuss your next steps in China!