Western yogurt brands have had a hard time cracking the Chinese yogurt market. But with the right strategy, it’s possible to break through and build a successful brand in China. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key things to consider when selling your yogurt in China. We’ll also discuss the different types of yogurt that are popular in China, as well as some of the popular flavors.
By understanding what makes Chinese consumers tick, you can put together a marketing plan that will resonate with them and help your brand succeed!
The Burgeoning Yogurt Market in China
China has become a major player in the global yogurt market with sales reaching $41,12 billion in 2023. The Chinese yogurt growth rate is expected to be at 9.05% for the period 2023-2028. When it comes to per-person consumption, in 2023 it reached 6.5kg.
Yogurt consumption has significantly increased in China, by the appropriation of Western cultures and their eating habits. The craze of Chinese for yogurt is not a simple matter of taste: often in China, food consumption will be justified by its supposed health virtues.
Are imported dairy products preferred by Chinese consumers?
The majority of people in China prefer to buy imported foreign dairy products. This preference is not surprising, as nearly half the country’s population believes that their domestic milk isn’t reliable compared to imported one and thus go for imported products.
It is wrongly thought that the Chinese did not consume dairy products until they were influenced by the West. While the sales of yogurts have boomed since the opening of China in the 1980s, honey yogurt in China was already a Beijing tradition.
These yogurts are easily found in North China but also in Shanghai, where they are sold in well-established street shops. They are recognizable by the shape of small craft pots whose lid is held by a string, like the below ones:
Domestic milk production has to hold high quotas but still suffers from the distrust of Chinese consumers, scalded by the resounding scandal of melamine milk in 2008. Co-operatives abroad – even led by Chinese investors – enjoy a boost of greater credibility.
Chinese consumers, between lactose intolerance and dietary deficiency
While much of the Chinese population still suffers from lactose intolerance, yogurt presents the advantage of being fermented, which makes it digestible.
Chinese people usually eat soy milk or even coconut milk. To succeed in the Chinese yogurt segment, the brand Danone has chosen to highlight the calcium deficiency among the Chinese population, arguing in favor of cow’s milk. Funny anecdote if you compare the current movement in Europe, which tends to back down to sheep milk yogurt and soy milk beverages to counter the Europeans’ new intolerance to lactose!
Plant-based yogurts are popular with Chinese consumers
With an increasing number of people who suffer from dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, non-dairy vegan yogurt is becoming more popular in China. In addition to providing these allergy sufferers with a tasty alternative that they can enjoy without compromising their diets
The health virtues attributed to yogurt boost the Chinese yogurt market
The eating habits of the Chinese have evolved in contact with the West. The main argument in favor of yogurt is it contains probiotics, which strengthen the immune system and make it a health ally against stomach problems and female hormonal discomforts.
There is no doubt that Chinese parents, always very concerned about the health of their only child, are particularly sensitive to a product long known in Europe to strengthen the bones of growing children.
Chinese sports coaches and health professionals are now even recommending the consumption of cow’s milk yogurt to strengthen the body in sports practice and even to develop muscle mass faster in fitness, just like eggs and meat.
How dairy products are consumed in China?
For Chinese consumers, yogurt is a product that gets carried away: if it does not come in the form of a bottle to drink from, the yogurt solo will be sold with a straw or a plastic spoon, which allows one to eat it while walking in the street. With a real boom in the market, high-sugar milk drinks are increasingly marketed in China.
The tastes that please the most? Strawberry and nature first, then tropical fruits like coconut, kiwi, mango, or pineapple. We then find blackberry and peach. Tapioca pearls are trendy and added to milk drinks as does the famous brand Yi Dian Dian. Bubble tea is now the most popular street food in China. You can easily see people walking in the street, with a bottle of bubble tea in their hand.
Goat or sheep milk yogurt may be trendy in China in a few years
Foreign products are judged by Chinese consumers as better quality products than domestic products. This quality image actually defines the strict hygiene controls that surround milk production in Europe; this is why Chinese consumers place greater reliance on imported products.
Being a foreign brand is a more significant way to highlight your products in the Chinese market. Be careful, however: it would be wise to anticipate the wave coming from Europe which decries cow’s milk as a product harmful to health, largely due to lactose intolerance.
If currently, China has cow milk in high esteem for its calcium intake and its food supplement action to the sport, the boomerang will return the other way. More and more Europeans are favoring goat or sheep milk for yogurt, and this turning point will inevitably reach China within a few years.
The best strategy to adopt? Export yogurt made of goat’s milk and bet on the communication of prevention to lactose intolerance. China is not closed to a new niche market. Consumers are always fond of new trends and willing to test any mystical method for better health and beautiful skin.
Donkey milk in exported cosmetics is already in the beauty department of Chinese supermarkets, right next to… snail beauty care!
How to Promote and Sell Yogurt in China?
The majority of yogurt is sold in supermarkets and shops, which is no surprise, as it’s a typical grocery item. Therefore, the first thing you should think of in terms of sales is distribution.
How to export dairy to China?
Before exporting dairy products to China, ensure the country of manufacture is approved by Chinese authorities. The process involves navigating specific regulations for dairy, in addition to general food export rules.
In China, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) oversees quality controls and inspections in collaboration with China Inspection and Quarantine Services (CQI). For U.S. exporters, AQSIQ has an agreement with the FDA. The CIQ issues a quarantine test report, essential for selling in China.
Key Steps for Exporting Dairy to China:
- Sanitary Certificate: Obtain this mandatory certification.
- Manufacturer Registration: Register online and adhere to AQSIQ protocols for dairy products.
- Importer and Exporter Registration: Register with Chinese Customs.
- H5 Codes: Understand and use the correct codes (e.g., 04.03.10 for yogurt).
- Chinese Product Labeling: Ensure labels meet local requirements.
Once certified and registered, consider these distribution channels:
- E-Commerce Platforms: Utilize Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, and others for online sales.
- Retail and Distribution Networks: Explore supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets. In China, convenience stores often have greater reach than supermarkets. In 2020, they accounted for a significant share of the yogurt market, and online retail is also expanding.
E-commerce is the most popular shopping channel in China
While e-commerce is timidly taking off in Europe, the Chinese are hyper-connected consumers who pay for their purchases by mobile payment and carry out their shopping on Taobao via their smartphones.
It has become essential for a brand to be visible on Chinese social networks and traditional e-commerce platforms. Tmall, Taobao, and JD are leading e-commerce platforms, and selling your products on those platforms can help your brand reach more Chinese consumers.
However, the Chinese are very suspicious, that is to say, they won’t buy yogurts of which the name is unknown in China. Therefore, a marketing campaign on China’s social networks is very important if you want to enter the market.
Use Chinese social media platforms for branding
There are several reasons why you should promote your brand on Chinese social media in China.
First of all, Chinese social media platforms have a massive user base. For example, WeChat has over 1,3 billion active users. This gives brands a large audience to reach and communicate with.
Chinese social media platforms are also popular among Chinese consumers. Brands that advertise on these platforms are more likely to attract Chinese consumers’ attention and generate sales in China. Social media platforms in China are great channels for marketing campaigns. Brands can use them to launch new products, run contests and promotions, and build relationships with customers.
Best tips to promote your yogurt brand on Chinese social media:
- Use Chinese social media platforms that are most popular in your target market. We suggest that you go for WeChat and Weibo to get started and extend to other platforms such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu depending on the goals you are trying to achieve.
- Official accounts are key: You need an official account to access an app marketing tools set and to be seen as legit by consumers
- Tailor your content specifically for Chinese users. This means using localized keywords and adapting your tone of voice to be more relevant and engaging for Chinese readers.
- Make use of interactive features such as quizzes, contests and polls to capture attention and encourage user engagement.
WeChat is a powerful tool for your marketing campaign
WeChat, with its 1.3 billion users, has become the best way for you to start your marketing campaign and for viewers to be aware of promotions and brand launches; it is a digital fumble where to find new and used products, good deals, and sales of all kinds.
Especially with the integration of the mini-program feature, WeChat is becoming a center of Chinese social networks and e-platforms. Users can use for example JD or Weibo (micro-blog) directly on WeChat without downloading.
KOL marketing to promote your yogurt brand in the Chinese market
There are a number of ways that KOL marketing can benefit your brand in the Chinese market.
First, KOLs have a large and engaged following on social media. By tapping into their influencer power, you can reach a wider audience and create more brand awareness.
Second, KOLs can help to improve your conversion rates. Their recommendations and reviews carry a lot of weight with Chinese consumers, who are known to be very discerning shoppers. If a KOL recommends your product or service, it can go a long way in helping to boost sales.
Third, working with KOLs can help to build trust with Chinese consumers. In China’s crowded and competitive marketplace, brands that build a strong reputation have an advantage.
Organize pop-ups and tasting events
In order for consumers to purchase your products, you need to make them trust your brand and remember it next time when they are in a supermarket. To do so, apart from strong digital marketing presence, you should organize some offline events.
Think about pop-up stores, where people will be able to test your products. You can also participate in trade fairs and exhibitions centered around food, or organize street give aways and happenings, so that you arouse interest around your brand.
Sell Yogurt in China With Gentlemen Marketing Agency!
The transition to digital is essential for your business. Fortunately, we can guide you to the best choices for your business plan.
Chinese city-dwellers aspire to a healthy lifestyle combining sports and balanced food. In this, agri-food in China is a market that has the advantage of being able to develop jointly with the sports market.
To fully understand the Chinese market in which you want to make your brand known, many companies like yours choose to join our Gentlemen Marketing Agency, which brings them the most innovative digital strategies. We help companies on a daily basis to develop their business in China by optimizing their digital communication on Chinese social networks.
Want to know more? Do not hesitate to contact one of our experts. We offer free consultation so that you can introduce us to your project and learn about the next steps of your journey in China.