China has seen a significant rise in the popularity of high-end chocolate in recent years. As the country’s middle class continues to grow and consumer preferences evolve, there has been a surge in demand for premium and luxury chocolate products.
High-end chocolate in China is characterized by its exquisite craftsmanship, exceptional quality, and unique flavors. Many international brands, as well as Chinese chocolate manufacturers, have entered China’s chocolate market to cater to this growing demand. These chocolates are often made with high-quality ingredients sourced from around the world, ensuring a delightful and indulgent experience for chocolate lovers.
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So, whether you are a chocolate connoisseur or simply looking to indulge in a luxurious treat, the world of high-end chocolate in China has something to offer everyone. Don’t hesitate to explore and discover the delightful flavors and experiences that await you!
Chinese Chocolate Market Overview
Chocolate is a highly consumed and beloved food product worldwide, with a global industry projected to reach $160.9 billion by 2027. While China’s chocolate consumption lags behind the United States and Switzerland, it has experienced a significant increase in demand in recent years.
This growth has made the chocolate industry in China very promising, particularly for foreign chocolate companies.
The Chocolate Industry in China
Chocolate was introduced to the Chinese emperor Kangxi in 1705, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the chocolate market in China started to boom. Initially seen as a luxury item for special occasions, chocolate gradually became a staple in many Chinese households.
It’s important to note that Chinese consumers were not accustomed to eating chocolate and desserts, as their culture traditionally focused on savory flavors.
However, thanks to foreign brands entering the Chinese market, chocolate consumption became more widespread. Chinese consumers’ tastes have changed rapidly in the past decade, with products like coffee, cheese, and chocolate gaining popularity.
While international chocolate makers like Mars Group, Nestlé, and Ferrero have already made their mark in China, the market is still considered untapped, presenting opportunities for new brands to enter.
China’s Chocolate Consumption
In 2022, the United States was the leading country in chocolate consumption, generating a revenue of US$3,721.00 million. The chocolate market is projected to reach 340,243.54 tons in 2022, with a predicted volume growth rate of 5.90% per year.
Looking ahead, the China chocolate market is expected to reach USD $4.05 billion by 2025. However, it’s important to note that chocolate consumption in China is still relatively low compared to other countries. Chinese people are not as used to consuming chocolate as the West is.
Many Chinese people prefer to incorporate chocolate into other products such as cakes, candy, biscuits, and sweet drinks. The Chinese chocolate market is mainly dominated by cocoa and dark chocolate, as people in China are more health-conscious and prefer desserts with less sugar.
Market research suggests that cocoa beans are expected to reach 64,127.70 tons in 2022, with the cocoa paste segment experiencing the fastest growth rate.
The Major Players in the Chinese Chocolate Market
Here are some of the major players in imported chocolate in the Chinese chocolate industry:
- Mars, Incorporated: Mars is an American company known worldwide for their chocolate products. They’re also a big player in China, with popular products including Snickers, Mars, and M&M’s.
- Ferrero Group: Ferrero is an Italian manufacturer known for products like Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, and Kinder, all of which have substantial presence in the Chinese market.
- Mondelez International: This American multinational owns Cadbury, Milka, and Toblerone, which are popular brands in many international markets, including China.
- Nestle: Swiss company Nestle sells KitKat and other products in China. Nestle is one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies and has a significant presence in China.
- Hershey’s: This American company has been working to increase its presence in China and sells a variety of products there, including its classic Hershey’s chocolate bars.
- Dove Chocolate: Known as Galaxy in some markets, Dove is another brand owned by Mars, Inc. that’s very popular in China.
In addition, there are also some local Chinese companies producing chocolate, such as:
- LeConte: LeConte is a domestic brand owned by COFCO, one of China’s state-owned food processing holding companies. LeConte is widely recognized in the Chinese market.
- Golden Monkey: Golden Monkey is another domestic brand, known for a variety of snack products including chocolate.
Foreign chocolate brands have a strong presence in the Chinese chocolate market, holding around 70% of the market share. This presents a great opportunity for international companies, as Western sweets and products are becoming increasingly popular among Chinese consumers, especially in major cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing.
Local Chinese brands, on the other hand, only make up about 30% of the market share. It’s important to note that Chinese chocolate brands face difficulties in exporting their products due to China’s lower maximum authorized cocoa content compared to international standards. This gives foreign brands a competitive advantage in the market.
Popular occasions to offer Chocolate in China
In China, marriage has become a significant social pressure, and chocolate is considered a popular gift for wedding guests.
Additionally, the Chinese also like to offer chocolates during Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated on three different occasions: the traditional Feast of Love Qixi on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Western celebration on February 14th, and a commercial day invented on November 11th targeting singles who may want to treat themselves or exchange gifts with friends.
This trend reflects the increasing popularity of mass consumption, with customers in China particularly fond of girly boxes of chocolate with red and pink colors and heart-shaped decorations.
While the demand for such chocolates is not as high in France, it is remarkably popular in China, and businesses simply follow market trends accordingly.
How to Sell Your Chocolate Products in China?
The Chinese chocolate market is still relatively new to Chinese consumers, as it was not traditionally a part of their culture. Compared to countries like the US and Japan, the per capita consumption of chocolate in China is still quite low, at only 0.1kg per person per year, compared to 1.2kg in the US and Japan.
However, there are opportunities for foreign brands to enter the Chinese market, especially in larger cities like Shanghai where there is a greater familiarity with Western products and international standards.
When developing a marketing strategy for your brand in China, it is important to consider the appropriate distribution channels to reach your target audience. Supermarkets and grocery stores have the highest sales of chocolates in China, but for distribution channels that cater to Chinese standards, chocolate stores are the most profitable option.
It is important to understand the preferences and shopping habits of Chinese consumers in order to successfully promote and sell your chocolates in the Chinese market.
To expand your activities in China and sell chocolates, you might be considering opening a store.
While many Chinese consumers currently purchase chocolate from supermarkets or e-commerce platforms, the younger generation is increasingly seeking higher-quality and creative products at higher price points, as they perceive them as more luxurious.
Opening a flagship store in a luxury mall or on a popular shopping street in a first-tier city can help your brand stand out. However, it’s important to also leverage e-commerce platforms to boost sales and build brand awareness.
Chinese E-commerce Platforms and Online Marketplaces
Over the past decade, China has experienced rapid digitalization, leading to the rise of several e-commerce platforms. These platforms have gained a massive user base of over 903 million users in the first quarter of 2022, contributing to the growth of China’s e-commerce sector.
As a result, it is crucial for chocolate brands to sell their products online through these platforms. By utilizing e-commerce platforms, brands can reach a wide audience of consumers and have direct control over their sales.
Additionally, these platforms enable consumers from all across China to purchase chocolate and receive it within the same day. Let’s explore some of the most popular e-commerce platforms in China.
Tmall, founded in 2008 under the Alibaba group, is a subsidiary of Taobao and focuses on B2C e-commerce. It allows both local and international companies to sell their products in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall is known for its strict standards regarding quality and reputation.
It has attracted a large number of online shoppers and many international chocolate brands. However, Tmall, along with JD.com, only accepts high-quality products and reputable brands.
As Chinese consumers are cautious about food, most of the chocolate brands on Tmall are well-known, such as Ferrero, Godiva, and Barry Callebaut.
Founded in 1998 by Liu Qiangdong, JD (Jingdong) started as a magneto-optical store in Beijing. Over the years, it expanded its offerings to include electronics, computers, mobile phones, and more.
In 2004, JD.com launched its online retail platform and became one of China’s leading B2C online retailers, alongside Tmall. Tencent now owns a 20% stake in JD.com. With over 470 million active customers, JD.com is known for its wide range of products, including food items like sweets and chocolates.
JD Worldwide is a sub-platform that offers foreign brands to the Chinese market. JD.com is renowned for its commitment to quality, authenticity, and fast delivery, often within the same day or less than 24 hours.
Launched in 2003 by Alibaba, Taobao is a popular online shopping platform in China. It offers a wide range of products and services and is used by millions of Chinese consumers.
Taobao is known for its B2C and C2C transactions, as well as its support for online entrepreneurship. It has become a successful platform for young entrepreneurs. As of 2022, Taobao has 483.4 million monthly active users and accounts for nearly 60% of e-commerce sales in China.
While many chocolate brands use Taobao to sell their products, some Chinese consumers prefer to buy luxury Western chocolate assortments from cross-border e-commerce platforms like Tmall Global or JD Worldwide due to concerns about fakes and counterfeiting in China.
Chocolate Brands Need an Online Presence in China
In a highly digitalized country, it is crucial for brands to establish an online presence. This allows them to effectively reach the tech-savvy population and boost brand awareness. However, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration when developing an online strategy.
Having a Chinese Website
Creating a Mandarin Chinese website is crucial for chocolate brands selling in China. Consumers often start their search by entering the brand’s name on Baidu, so it’s important to have a well-optimized website that appears in the search results.
Additionally, it’s essential to adapt the website for smartphones, as many people in China use their smartphones for online research while commuting or during lunch breaks.
The Importance of Baidu in China
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China and is often referred to as the “Chinese Google.” It holds a significant market share in China and is a crucial platform for businesses looking to enter the Chinese market. Improving your website’s ranking on Baidu requires a different approach to SEO compared to Google.
Baidu’s search algorithm and ranking factors are unique, so it’s essential to understand and optimize for them. If your website doesn’t appear on the first pages of Baidu’s search results, you may not receive much traffic.
Therefore, investing in Baidu SEO is as important as setting up your online shop. To save time and achieve successful results, you can consider contacting specialized experts like GMA who have experience in helping companies improve their Baidu rankings and attract more clients.
Chinese Social media
In China, having a strong presence on Chinese social media platforms is crucial for brands due to the large number of internet users in the country.
Popular social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are not accessible in China due to the Great Firewall. Therefore, if you want to target Chinese consumers, it is important to comply with Chinese social media regulations.
The Chinese population is highly connected and tech-savvy, making it essential for brands to have an official account and actively engage in trending topics.
When Chinese internet users are searching for chocolate brands, they will research your brand online. They will look at reviews, forums, pictures, and other sources of information to compare your brand with others before making a decision.
WeChat, created by Chinese company Tencent in 2011, is a highly popular social media platform in China with more than 1.26 billion users as of 2022.
It surpasses other platforms like Weibo and is expected to continue growing. WeChat is also a prominent social network globally, ranking sixth in terms of active users. It has become a lucrative marketing platform due to its wide range of functionalities. WeChat’s success stems from its ability to incorporate features from various popular networks.
One useful feature is the creation of H5 brochures, which can be shared with followers and on social media accounts within the WeChat platform. This cost-effective option functions like a website within WeChat.
Weibo, launched in 2009 by Sina Corporation, is a popular social media platform in China. It offers micro-blogging services and is often compared to Twitter. Over the years, it has incorporated features from platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube.
Weibo currently holds a significant share of the Chinese microblogging market, with a large number of active users and daily posts.
Many Chinese millennials use Weibo to follow celebrities, KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), brands, and read news. If you are a foreign brand, it is recommended to have an official account on Weibo. To create one, you can contact our team for assistance.
Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book)
Little Red Book, also known as Xiaohongshu or RED, is a popular social media and e-commerce platform in China. It has a user base of more than 300 million registered users, with a majority of them being women.
Users on this platform seek shopping recommendations, product opinions, travel tips, fashion advice, beauty tips, and more. The app is often compared to a combination of Instagram and Pinterest, due to its e-commerce features.
It’s worth exploring other platforms in China as well, as each brand may find different ones suitable for their target audience.
Chocolate Brand Case Study: Ferrero Rocher
Ferrero Rocher entered the Chinese market in 1994 and initially positioned itself as a luxury brand. However, it later shifted to a more affordable pricing strategy, which proved to be a successful move in the Chinese chocolate market.
The brand’s popularity in China is largely attributed to its gold packaging, which symbolizes fortune in Chinese culture. Ferrero Rocher has also gained traction as a popular choice for wedding gifts, with over 15% of its sales in China coming from this segment.
Today, Ferrero Rocher and other Ferrero products have become a daily necessity for many Chinese consumers, particularly in big cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou. The brand has established a strong and undeniable reputation in the Chinese market.
Contact us to Sell Your Chocolate in China!
The market for high-end chocolate and cocoa products in China is experiencing significant growth. With the increasing disposable income and changing consumer preferences, there is a growing demand for premium and luxury chocolate products.
International brands have been successful in capturing the Chinese market by offering high-quality chocolates with unique flavors and exquisite packaging.
Additionally, the rising popularity of gifting culture and the influence of Western lifestyles have further fueled the demand for high-end chocolate in China. However, it is important for companies to understand the local market and adapt their products and marketing strategies accordingly to succeed in this competitive industry.
We are a China-based marketing agency offering cost-effective solutions to foreign brands interested in tapping into the Chinese eCommerce market. Our team of Chinese and foreign experts has the experience and know-how needed to succeed in this lucrative, yet complicated market.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency offers many digital marketing and e-commerce solutions, such as web design, e-commerce and social media marketing strategies, localization, market research, KOL marketing, and more.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us, so that we can schedule a free consultation with one of our experts, that will learn about your brand and present you the best solutions for your China market strategy.