The demand for imported beef in China is predicted to be strong. China’s beef imports have grown almost 15 times in the past five years, from 32,858 tonnes in 2010 to 494,946 tonnes in 2015. 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 the domestic 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 and veal consumption have increased to seven million tonnes in 2015 and is expected to upsurge to around eight million tonnes in 2020, according to Euromonitor.

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As of 2021 China is 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 the beef meat exports in 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 the beef market in China :

  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Uruguay
  • Australia

China Imported Beef Market Analysis

With an annual economic growth of around 6% and a population of almost 2 billion, China is still undergoing major transformations in many of its industries, including its agricultural sector.


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 consumers and their love for meat

Meat distribution in China (2020)

China’s Imported Meat Market

In 2020, pork meat remained the most consumed type of meat in China, accounting for more than half of China’s meat consumption. Followed by poultry (23%) and beef (13%). Sheepmeat consumption accounted for a total of 8%.

China’s increasing purchasing power contributing to the rise in consumption of meat.

Rising income, living standards, urbanization development, and food safety concerns have fueled China’s meat imports. As incomes increased, the general Chinese diet changed and now includes more meat, dairy, and processed foods. Between 2000 and 2019, poultry meat consumption increased 32% and was considered as the most popular type of meat however in the past years beef meat has taken the first spot as the most popular meat to be consumed by the Chinese.

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, 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.

An increasing demand for imported beef in China

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. In 2020, China imported about 2 million tons of beef, over 460 thousand tons more than in the previous year.

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. In 2018, the five countries contributed almost 95% of both the import value and import volume of beef in China.

Chinese consumers habits in terms of meat consumption

Chinese consumers’ perception toward plant-based alternatives to meat

An increasing number of the Chinese population is now changing its 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 Europe (75M vegetarians). 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 but did not plan to buy it again.

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 the negative impact of ruining the chinese meat producer’s reputation. 
  • Beef in China, a very competitive market : Local production meets 80% of the demand, and the remaining 20% are 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 meat in China ?

Food Safety and Inspection Service in China

  1. Confirm that China allows imports of the meat product from your country of manufacture : 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.
  2. 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 rapidly and 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. Without a registration number, you won’t be able to pass through the customs. To register your products for exports at AQSIQ, you also need to know what HS codes your products have (HS stands for Harmonized System codes and is used to classify products traded in countries.

    Documents needed to register with the AQSIQ?

    To register at AQSIQ, you need to provide the following documents:

    • Documents about your company
    • The filled-in application form
    • License of the export country
    • Meat Test Reports, Health Certificates, and other documents if required for your specific products

      Keep in mind that regulations change frequently, it’s important that you confirm the latest requirements with your importer.

  3. Getting an Import and Export License : You should obtain a document from MOFCOM, showing that the company is listed as an import/export company.
  4. Register with the Chinese Customs
  5. 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 the products will be sent
  • Net weight
  • Meat Inspection legend
  • Your company name and address
  • Batch number
  • Packaging specification

What are the main channels for selling Imported beef in China ?

  • Selling through hypermarkets and supermarkets
  • Selling through traditional stores
  • Selling meat on you own website

Demand for imported beef in China on E-commerce is the most suitable to reach consumers

In a report by China’s Animal Protein Outlook the analyst, Blake Holgate states that:

“E-commerce is the fastest-growing retail channel in China, with online sales growth forecast to increase by 20 percent out to 2020, compared to just six percent for traditional retail,”.

It is important for international businesses aspiring to roll out businesses in China that they gain the benefit of E-commerce distribution channels in China. E-commerce gives access to reach medium and high-income consumers.

E-commerce is playing a vital role, especially in grocery and food with respect to imported beef meat. The usage and adaptability of e-commerce channels are growing at a rapid pace due to their convenience, trust, and social experience. E-commerce has accounted for around 16% of total retail sales in 2015 and is projected to continue to grow to around 30% in 2018. Since 2011, online retail sales have almost doubled each year. In 2015, around 40% of total online sales were imported goods.

Although opportunities are astounding there are constraints due to cultural barriers, language differences, and strict e-commerce platform policies.

However, there are two vital approaches to enter China’s E-commerce and be successful. Branding and presence of International brands on well-known E-commerce platforms.

Imported Beef in China Sells Well Online, Here is Where to Look

E-commerce platforms hold such 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.

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.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on TMALL or TMALL Global

Australian Imported Beef on Tmall

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.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on is China’s largest online direct sales company. It relatively has less market share than International companies can open individual online stores on JD’s cross-border service enables suppliers to sell directly to Chinese consumers without a local is less expensive than has a zero-tolerance policy for counterfeit products.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on Haitao Web Interface?

There are several cross-border websites that cater to international brands. Chinese consumers prefer buying imported products from Haitao websites. To learn about which Haitao is suitable for your brand please contact a local marketing agency catering to International brands.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on Taobao

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 rule of their trade ethics. Sellers with low budget and low-quality products opt for this platform.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on WeChat app

WeChat is engrained in the lifestyles of Chinese consumers. It is an all-in-one app that integrates social e-commerce seamlessly. Wechat store gives numerous possibilities to International brands to reach Chinese consumers effectively. Possibilities range from Branding to campaigning and easy payment methods.

Swiss Butchery based in Shanghai has fully embraced Wechat Marketing. The butchery that sells imported beef as well as pork and poultry, not only has opened a WeChat store that offers delivery and membership, but also a mini-program full of delicious recipes both in English and Chinese. If that is not enough, check out their WeChat channel for more content. You’ll also post weekly posts on their WeChat official account.

Meeting Demand of Imported Beef in China on WeChat Store

WeChat Service Account is considered the most suitable for business and organization that aspires to access advanced WeChat Official Account. Service accounts allow more APIs (Minisite) and companies are can open their own store. The online store can be used to manage products, take orders, display products, and manage customer complaints. For more information on how to manage Wechat stores, international companies are advised to partner with an expert Digital Marketing Agency, willing to apply for an Official WeChat Account on behalf of the international company.

Branding for Imported Beef Meat in China is the right first step!

Beef Meat is sensitive to quality and safety. Chinese people like to be certain about the quality of the product before buying it. Beef meat is extremely popular in Chinese cuisines and westernized cuisines in China. The company needs to build e-reputation in order to gain popularity among customers.

The marketing campaign must address the need of customers. It is highly important for International companies to understand the local culture and demands before it translates their offerings. Therefore, when approaching China’s E-commerce, it is advisable to partner with a local digital agency as it is equipped with the right set of skills to find a “sweet spot” between the International brand value and the preference of Chinese consumers.

Communicate about your brand on Chinese Social Media

  • WeChat: The Most Popular App in China

With more than 1.2 million monthly active users, 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. Not only you’ll be able to promote directly your brand, but you will also be able to promote your e-commerce shop.

  • 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. 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.

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.

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 following 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 restaurants in China.

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.

KOLs to advertise your Products/Store/”Brands”

If you want to attract Chinese consumers and win their trust, it can interesting to collaborate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) who are moms at the same time. They will be able to try your product and share their experience with their followers. In fact, the best to convince Chinese consumers to buy your product is to let another share their own experiences. It’s kind of like word-of-mouth, which is the best way to attract Chinese consumers.

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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