Top Mistakes When You Sell To Chinese Food Distributors

This Article is for all Food Firms that target the Chinese market, and want to distribute their products to China via Distributors

What do we know about China food market?

China is the world’s second-largest economy with still a lot of loopholes in various markets. The food market is one of those markets which have a lot of room for growth. The truth is that Chinese culture used to be completely independent in the very recent past, and it absolutely impervious to any habits from abroad.

It was quite tough to make Chinese welcome at least some of the specific foreign food products. However, now, with the advent of more diverse traveling experiences, more insight into the foreign eating culture, with more openness to food exploration, taste, and product experiences, they finally can accept more and more foreign food produce.

Read: Guide to Exporting Food to China

Foreign food is still often taken as a luxury in China. It plays its particular role during some important occasions or events. Also, it stands out once a Chinese has a special demand. Together with that, they are not only willing to get acquainted with unconventional products, nut also open to accepting foreign brands when it comes to well-known products.

Why is it good to use food distributors in China?

Distributors are locals. They are trusted, they normally exist for a long time on the market, they are dealing with wholesalers, they have the right channels to sell your food. Of course, this relates to the Right distributors.

Companies are normally looking for distributors when they don’t want to manage their sales on their own and are ready to pay someone for doing that for them. In China, this is helpful but not plain sailing at all.

Distributors are also a good option if they are capable of importing food products. That they can facilitate the process for you as you have to undergo a lot of examinations and government checks. Food import regulations are not easy to follow in China.

Food certification is for no obscure reason rigorous in China. There are plenty of licenses and permits you will have to obtain, and a distributor might sometimes help with that. 

Top Mistakes with Chinese Distributors

  1. You think they will help you to promote your product;
  2. You call them and ask them to be your distributor;
  3. You tell them you are well-known abroad and now you want to be well-known in China;
  4. You think they only need you or they need you a lot;
  5. You focus on one big distributor.


Why they don’t aim to promote your Products?

  1. Chinese food distributors don’t promote anything – they only sell products that can be sold well.
  2. They don’t want to waste their time when they could sell something that has already been promoted.
  3. They are not friends who help – they use your product to earn.

Why not call them?

  1. Chinese food distributors mostly have their client base – if they need more they will search on their own.
  2. It is highly likely that if they don’t search for anything they just don’t have time for that and they would not bother to check who you are.
  3. If they still didn’t contact you, you might probably have a poor reputation for them or none at all, rather.
  4. You have to make them call you.

Why not ask them to make you well-known?

  1. They already need you to be well-known to work with you.
  2. They have to be sure you will earn a lot.
  3. They have to be sure you won’t spoil their reputation.
  4. They don’t want to make any special effort.

Why they don’t need you?

  1. If you are doing well in your country, it might not be the same here.
  2. They have many food merchants the same as you or even better if they have a reputation in China.
  3. They can give up on you at any moment if your sales are not growing.

Why is it wrong to work with one distributor only?

  1. With more distributors, you get access to more audiences obviously. One big distributor can barely have nationwide coverage.
  2. Even if they claim to have nationwide coverage, they are superficial in dealing with other regions. A regional distributor has far more tight connections there.
  3. China is really large, sometimes a northern Chinese and a southern Chinese can barely understand each other – you can rarely expect the distributor to be performing perfectly well in any part of this versatile country.
  4. One distributor is a risk of getting Everything gone if something goes wrong. Plenty of distributors, in this case, lower the risks.
  5. There’s no guarantee you choose the best distributor when you have only one. Simple mathematical probability says you have to get at least a few.
  6. One distributor can also focus more on another product if he suddenly sees it sells better, while you have no other options.
  7. You might lose control over the situation if you only have one distributor responsible for your product.
  8. It might also happen that your product is copied by the exclusive distributor and then made redundant.

How to avoid these mistakes?

Generally speaking, to avoid all these mistakes with Chinese food distributors you have to make a lot of preparations to start your business here. This will both make it possible for you to attract distributors, feel interested in you and build a solid base for you to operate on your own if you want.

Your self-built marketing strategy is an absolute must if you want to be here. With distributors or not.

Once you develop a strategy and implement it with great precision, you will generate more distributors around you.

Let’s look at what you can do to get fully prepared to be contacted by food distributors in China.

  1. Start with a website and WeChat/Weibo accounts

Why is that necessary?

When food distributors want to find a new product to spread over the country and earn money on that, they go and search on Baidu. They have to find you there and get redirected to your website to see who you are and that you are worth it.

So, the website. There are a few basic, easy, though crucial rules you have to obey when constructing your website for Chinese food distributors, namely:

  • Keep it in Mandarin – they won’t read it if it’s even in English;
  • Make Chinese or Hongkongnese hosting because others might not be fast or might not load at all;
  • Put a Click-to-Chat option there to contact you in a pinch;
  • Put as much nice visual and verbal content there;
  • Place necessary licenses to ensure the safety of your product;
  • Place your WeChat/Weibo account’s QR codes there to be reachable.

More about the last point now.

More information about WeChat here

WeChat and Weibo are the most popular Chinese social platforms. Altogether they have up to a million users – a large audience indeed. So if you want to have access to that audience, get your official accounts there. You can have a WeChat e-brochure to introduce yourself effectively. You might use these platforms for newsletters, promotions, later even for opening a store on WeChat maybe.

WeChat Ebrochure new way to connect to Chinese Distributors

See more here

  1. Proceed to work on your reputation.

This is the most important part. If you don’t have a good reputation in Chinese eyes, there are no chances to enter the market and also become attractive to the food distributors. Just as I said before, they don’t want to risk their business, they don’t want to care about you getting your reputation with them. They need you to have everything done. You can be highly reputable in your country, but they really don’t know. You will anyway be a complete newbie for them here. If you are not reputable here, they will never try your food.

What can you do about it?

  • Get a top rank on Baidu.

Baidu is Chinese Google and it is used all the time by everyone for any queries. If you are on top they will see it and check the website that you have already done perfectly well and they will continue searching for more information.

  • Get a page on Baike

Baike is a Chinese wiki, also powered by Baidu. This will give an impression that you are legal, everything is okay with you, and you are not a scam at least.

  • Get more reviews, and comments to make it seem as if everyone is talking good about your product and it is worth a try.

Here at this stage what you can also do is open a store on Tmall, JD, Pinduoduo, and other popular Chinese e-commerce platforms.

  1. Take control of branding

Branding, again, involves your image – this is something that you have already worked on before you got to this stage. You have people talking about you, voicing all the good opinions, that’s good.

But there are 1,5 billion people in the country. It is a large audience, it cannot be vastly influenced only if you have a few good reviews and a few comments on forums.

What you have to do next is to work well on their awareness. This is about how many of them are talking to you. This is something that influencers can help you to do.

You get a Chinese influencer or KOL – a key opinion leader, who demonstrates your product to large audiences. Or even to larger audiences if you get in touch with a few of them – not only one.

They place you on their accounts in WeChat or Weibo, they can work on Tmall directly, and it will be super-efficient if they post videos with your food on Douyin – it now has over 500 million Chinese active users, every day!

This all is rather time-consuming but it’s a necessary evil.

  1. Chinese Distributors

After this, believe me, the distributors will find you.

There’s also another strategy, however.

Remember we have been talking about Tmall?

Tmall has now introduced a new part of it. Tmall B2B offers a chance to:

  • connect brands and 85000 distributors through product synchronization;
  • manage service and logistics through automatic synchronization;
  • manage distributor;
  • conduct secure payments.

If you want to receive Tmall B2D intro, send us an email

  1. With all that done, you will start selling big.

How do we know this?

  • We are more than 70 experts in GMA
  • Each with his/her own expertise in the Chinese market
  • We work on that for 7 years already
  • We feel like half-locals with a broad understanding of Chinese mentality
  • We have all the tools to pull you into the market and make you look attractive to the distributors
  • We have a lot of successful stories on our list – check here
  • We have an office in Shanghai and coffee to make you feel comfortable

We are the GMA – Gentlemen Marketing Agency- We are waiting for you

Our Case studies in F&B in China


  • Great article. Top distributor in China are struggling to find western new potential Brand.

  • Angryjoker

    Great information and knowledge about China market given by author in blog. Thanks for sharing such a useful post

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    It’s perfect with the chapters, when I need to revisit, or look up a specific subject.
    keep it up!!!

  • Great article,
    It is very readable blog thanks for sharing us.

  • Great article,
    It is very readable blog thanks for sharing us.

  • Great guide,
    Very well researched and simply put, making it an easy read.

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