The demand for imported beef in China is predicted to be strong. In 2021, China imported about 2.3 million tons of beef, about 10 percent more than in the previous year. China’s beef imports have grown almost 15 times in the past five years. The increasing strength of beef imports in China is reflecting the growing imbalance between expanding consumption and domestic production that cannot fully be met by China’s demand.
China needs to feed 22% of the world’s population with 7% of its agriculture resources and 6% of its water resources. China’s total beef consumption increased thanks to China’s appetite for beef and is predicted to reach 7.4 million tonnes in 2023. In this blog post, we will examine the imported beef market in China and check the opportunities for foreign brands.
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As of 2022, China is the World’s Largest Imported Beef Market
In recent years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the African Swine Fever (ASF) China has experienced a consequent disruption and a substantial meat shortage, these unplanned events have played a major role in drastically increasing beef exports to China. Over the past ten years, China has continuously been opening its beef market to a growing list of suppliers, especially foreign suppliers.
Key Players in Beef Imports to China
With an annual economic growth of around 6% and a population of almost 1.4 billion, China is still undergoing major transformations in many of its industries, including its agricultural sector.
Chinese imports of beef hit records this year, In July, China imported 274,000 tonnes of beef from around the world, valued at a record $1.8 billion. What is also important to mention is that the price for one pound of beef was higher than ever.
Chinese consumers and their love for meat
As increasingly more Chinese enter the new middle class, meat products are becoming a crucial component of the Chinese diet and food sector. China has a long history of livestock production and meat (such as pork, lamb, beef, and poultry) consumption, however, meat has not always been accessible and affordable for the common population. Once a luxury, today meat is on the daily menu of many Chinese.
China’s affluent urban middle-class consumers have a strong demand for beef and they are able and willing to pay more for safe and quality food in which meat is a priority. This follows many years of food-related safety issues. Chinese demand for beef products is growing, as people seek higher protein and low-fat
alternatives for a healthier lifestyle and diet.
With the development of China’s economy and the improvement of living standards, the demand for beef in China is rising, in response to the growing beef consumption, China is importing more beef. The beef imported to China includes chilled beef and frozen beef. Frozen beef has been the mainstream of China’s beef imports. China’s beef imports mainly come from Brazil, Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand, and Argentina.
The success of imported products in China
At present, China is one of the world’s largest imported food markets; with between 50-60 thousand various imported brands available in the country.
65% of the imported food buyers are between 26 and 35 years old, and most of the buyers have an annual family income of 200,000 RMB. This indicates that the Chinese middle class has higher purchasing power and is interested in buying global products.
Most Chinese consumers are no longer purchasing imported food as gifts. Instead, they are motivated by buying food quality and are looking for safety regarding their products because more and more consumers lack confidence in locally made products. Therefore, as the demand for high-quality, safe food increases, so does the demand for imported food.
Chinese consumers’ perception of plant-based alternatives to meat
An increasing number of the Chinese population is now changing their habits, reducing the amount of meat, or even with many people becoming vegan/vegetarian. Vegetarianism is catching on in China with a population of 50M vegetarians accounting for 4% of the population, the country is steadily catching up with other markets.
However meat remains very popular in China for its taste and flavor, interestingly a recent study found that out of those who tried a plant-based product did not plan to buy it again. Although the interest in plant-based alternatives is growing, so do Chinese imports of beef, especially grain-fed beef, as young Chinese consumers are demanding good quality regardless of the price.
What are the challenges for beef retailers & producers in China?
- Food safety and scandals following the Covid-19 pandemic: In the midst of the pandemic, many media outlets have reported on the health status of farmers, ranchers, and workers at meat processing facilities, which in result have a negative impact of ruining the Chinese meat producers reputation.
- Beef in China is a very competitive market: Local production meets 80% of the demand, and the remaining 20% is satisfied by imports. The new trend for beef suppliers from China toward the consumer market is likely to focus on value creation and brand image, by proposing different pricing range from average to premium products.
How to Sell Beef in China?
Beef manufacturers from many countries are joining the Chinese market, trying to participate in beef exports to China. But there are many steps to follow to gain success in China.
Food Safety and Inspection Service in China
Confirm that China allows imports of the meat product from your country of manufacture (according to the meat export federation)
First of all, you need to confirm that you’re eligible to export food products from the country where your products are manufactured. China banned imports of beef from the US for almost 15 years, due to a case of mad cow disease that occurred in 2003. Your country of manufacture needs to establish a protocol with the Chinese government before exports can take place.
Business Registration with the AQSIQ
As of 2015, you need to register your company with AQSIQ (you can also go through an agency like ours to take care of this step smoothly). When your application is approved, AQSIQ will list your company as eligible to export food products into China.
First, you need to submit an application for Food Exporters, through the AQSIQ’s registration system. You’ll also be required to submit a number of documents. After you’ve submitted the application, you’ll receive a registration number from AQSIQ, so that you can declare your goods at Chinese customs.
To register at AQSIQ, you need to provide the following documents:
- Documents about your company
- The filled-in application form
- The license of the export country
- Meat Test Reports, Health Certificates, and other documents if required for your specific products
Label Information required on the exterior packaging
- Product name
- Country of origin
- Registration number at AQSIQ
- Manufacturing date
- Shelf life
- Instructions about storage (including temperatures)
- To which country will the products be sent
- Net weight
- Meat Inspection Legend
- Your company name and address
- Batch number
- Packaging specification
Imported Beef in China Sells Well Online, Here is Where to Look
E-commerce platforms hold an important place in Chinese netizens’ daily lives. Indeed advertising your meat brand on these platforms can be an outstanding opportunity for you to increase your target consumers. Offline distribution channels are also important and we can help you find the right distributors for your beef, but being present online is something you cannot miss.
Having a Chinese Website: A Must-Have in China
Having a Chinese website should be at the core of your digital strategy. You have to know that the majority of the Chinese population is not fluent in English, so if you don’t have a website written in simplified Chinese, they won’t even look at it.
Moreover, this is also an important key for your ranking on the search engine Baidu. No matter how strong your reputation is in your country, remember that when your company enters China, you are almost invisible. You need to actively promote your company through your website, by giving as much information as possible to visitors.
The importance of branding in China
Beef meat is sensitive to quality and safety. Chinese people like to be certain about the quality of the product before buying it. The company needs to build an e-reputation in order to gain popularity among customers.
Apart from selling through different distribution channels in China, it’s important to let customers know your brand. You can start social media accounts, where you will educate the audience about your products. You can also talk to Chinese consumers through online forums and other platforms, where people share their opinions and discuss different topics.
Communicate about your brand on Chinese Social Media
Chinese Internet users check everything through Chinese social media platforms, just like young people do in the West. Therefore, it is important to have an account on at least one of them, so that you can promote exported meat online.
WeChat: The Most Popular App in China
With more than 1.26 billion monthly active users as of 2022, WeChat is the most popular app in China. Even though it was at first a messaging app, the app released under the giant Tencent in 2011 quickly became a vast ecosystem of services.
Nowadays, WeChat is a must-have for every citizen and business as it became a new player in the e-commerce industry. WeChat allows the promotion of brands through WeChat Official Channels, you can also start your own store on the platform, and promote through groups, video content, and many more.
Weibo: “The Chinese Twitter”
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. It is a good place to promote your imported beef. Indeed, Weibo covers many topics, and companies from every sector share interesting information with their followers on the app.
For you, it could be recipes (like Valentine’s dishes – take advantage of holidays) and beautiful pictures of beef dishes, and collaboration with any traditional restaurant in China (you could also pick a famous restaurant from Beijing or Shanghai to gain more followers and expand your account). You could also engage with your followers through game contests. Invite them for instance to post their best recipes and the one that gets the most likes and votes wins some prizes.
Selling Beef on Chinese E-Commerce Platforms
When you work on your branding and gain a presence on the Chinese internet, you can start thinking of entering Chinese e-commerce platforms. It’s important to start with branding and e-reputation, as Chinese consumers don’t buy from brands they don’t know. E-commerce platforms will give you the biggest visibility, as the majority of shoppers buy products there.
Tmall holds the biggest market share in the e-commerce market of China at 57%. It mainly focuses on premium brands. This characteristic makes Tmall the most expensive e-commerce marketplace in China. It provides an opportunity for international brands to open exclusive online stores and directly sell products to Chinese consumers without being physically present in China.
Tmall has an invitation-only policy where only qualified international brands can either be invited to join or can apply through a local digital marketing agency. For more information on how to sell International products through TMALL check this post.
JD.com is China’s largest online direct sales company. International companies can open individual online stores on JD.com. JD’s cross-border service enables suppliers to sell directly to Chinese consumers without a local presence. JD.com is less expensive than TMALL.com.
Taobao is owned by Alibaba Group. It offers the largest C2C e-commerce marketplace in China. Taobao allows registered or non-registered businesses to sell directly to consumers. Establishing a store on Taobao is virtually free but the online marketplace is ruled by small sole sellers who compete fiercely on price and honesty and authenticity is an unwritten rules of their trade ethics. Sellers with low-budget and low-quality products opt for this platform.
Contact us if you want to start selling Imported Beef in China
Are you interested in selling Imported Beef in China’s E-commerce market, and learning how you can target Chinese consumers digitally? You are welcome to call us for a friendly discussion and learn about your brand’s prospects in the Chinese E-commerce market.
Our Digital Marketing agency provides international brands with tools that are optimal to unlock this enormous market to earn their full potential. If you are interested in exploring Chinese Digital E-Commerce platforms, reach out to us for customized advice.
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I want to export beef cattle to China.I need to get marketing in China.
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