We’d love to introduce you to the fascinating world of yogurt in the Chinese market. Yogurt has gained immense popularity in China over the past decade, becoming a staple in many households.
Yogurt is known for its probiotic properties, which promote a healthy digestive system and boost the immune system. This has resonated well among the Chinese population who are increasingly concerned about maintaining good health and well-being.
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To do so, here are some data to understand this market as well as some important tips on how you can sell your product and promote your yogurt company’s presence in China.
China Yogurt Market Overview
Revenue in the Yogurt segment amounts to US$41.12 billion in 2023. The Chinese yogurt growth rate is expected to be annually at 9.05% (CAGR 2023-2028). Also, the average consumption of yogurt per person is predicted to be 6.55kg in 2023. Foreign brands and new products have potential in China. Meeting Chinese needs and tendencies is the core of product development.
Marketing can help small brands stand out from three local leading brands. In this article, we will lead you to discover marketing strategies adapted from some large and small enterprises and help you understand the purchase consideration of Chinese consumers and a few export regulations.
China, when doing a worldwide comparison, is the country with the most generated revenue for Yogurt Market in 2023. This is simply explained by the sheer size of the population and the growing middle class. The yogurt industry in China is not mature yet and still has a lot of room for growth.
Yogurt Category Preference in China
Factors that attract Chinese customers to procure yogurt over milk are the believed benefit of digestion from probiotics and better immunity, rich in nutrition, and good taste. Due to lactose intolerance from some Chinese, they purchase yogurt more than milk.
Nutrition, strengthening the immune system, children and the elderly are the main considerations for the family. Young white-collar workers consider one-time consumption and few bottles for each purchase.
Diverse flavors and convenient packages are not the main priority when Chinese customers purchase yogurt. Only one-third of customers take these into consideration.
Also, there is an increasing demand for yogurt made from soy milk, coconut milk, cow’s milk and sheep milk among Chinese consumers. It’s really popular in China.
According to AC Nielsen, room-temperature yogurt has a high market concentration rate and fewer products enter this category. This category is dominated by three leading brands: Yili (49%), Mengniu Dairy (25%), and Bright Dairy (17%).
They even designed specific gift box options. Moreover, low-temperature yogurt has a 65% concentration rate, giving more space for new brand entry, and nearly half of the market share is composed of others.
Imported brand preference
Nearly half of the Chinese assume that domestic milk origin is not reliable compared to one-third of believers. Thus, about half of them prefer imported dairy products.
32% of whom purchase domestic products show their preference for imported foreign dairy products. About 60% of them like brands from nationwide large enterprises.
Chinese Consumers’ Considerations When Buying Yogurt
Clean-labeled, less artificial ingredients and more natural composition bring more trust and reliability when choosing yogurt products. Showcasing the origins of milk brings transparency which works well in Lepur’s case. Clear and natural ingredients will be the choices for customers to pay attention to healthy diet and fitness.
Yogurt in China: Innovations & Trends
Healthy, functional, premium ingredients
Young people are becoming the main consumer group and are willing to pay more for luxury dairy with new ingredients and tastes.
Protein-rich yogurt with low sugar is becoming one of the favored energy supplements and snacks for fitness. For instance, the Thai brand, Dutch Mil, launched two lines of protein yogurt in the market.
Outside of the bodybuilding consumer group, nutrition for other groups such as women’s health and calcium-rich products for children’s growth has also been showing signs of growth, especially when looking at what brands selling in China are doing. For instance:
- Jian’ai launched a sugar-free yogurt to appeal to this population segment.
- Another example would be Bright Dairy which upgraded its B+100 yogurt;
- The brand, Mengniu added extra nutrition by launching BB-12 functional yogurt with a convenient TT package.
In short, customers are looking for healthy products that can answer nutritional needs and brands are quick to answer the demands.
Yogurt/granola/acai bowls are now pretty mainstream in China’s tier-one cities. Fruits and nuts are added to yogurts.
Franchises and restaurants offering this type of product targeting the fitness and health crowd have been popping up in the country. Nuts are one of the most popular snacks in China as well.
Non-dairy vegan yogurt provides lactose-intolerant Chinese choices to enjoy yogurt. Even in the milk category, the plant-based milk market grows fast in China.
Nongfu Spring launched the leading plant-based yogurt in 2019. Since then, Vitasoy, Yangyuan, and Dali Food release soy-based and walnut-based yogurts.
Also, Marvelous Foods launches their Yeyo coconut yogurt with zero added sugar and artificial flavors on Tmall. Yeyo dairy-free yogurt achieved number 4 on Tmall’s “fastest-growing chilled dairy products” list for 3 weeks.
We are witnessing a rise in Yogurt Drinks in China, with an expected doubling of revenue from 2014 to 2025. This can be explained by a change in consumption habits. Consumers are switching from sugary drinks to more healthy yogurts drinks.
These yogurt drinks are promoted as a healthy alternative to soda, good for the guts. For instance, we observe a preference for probiotics yogurts (especially when it comes to kids’ and infant’s snacks). As of 2015, 50+% of yogurt consumers in China were choosing probiotics yogurt.
Drinking yogurt is also a trend you can observe while walking in Chinese streets with taking away. For many Chinese people, yogurt is consumed in a way that allows them to eat it on the street.
The Greek yogurt sector in China is currently underdeveloped, with only a few brands available in the market. LePur and yoGreek, produced by Bright Dairy, are among the brands that are present.
However, despite being the most successful Greek yogurt brand in China, LePur and yoGreek only generate sales volumes of tens of millions RMB each month, which is a small portion of the overall yogurt market.
The development of Greek yogurt in China has been hindered by 3 main issues :
- Price: due to the high protein content of Greek yogurt (usually over 6%), its price is nearly three times than that of regular yogurt (4-6 RMB), reaching over 12 RMB. This high price affects demand.
- Perception: Greek yogurt is still relatively unknown amongst Chinese consumers
- Taste & flavor: Greek yogurt offers a distinct sensory experience compared to regular yogurt. It is known for its rough texture, higher thickness, and grainy mouthfeel. Additionally, Greek yogurt is low in fat and sugar, which can result in a somewhat plain taste. These characteristics create a unique sensory experience that Chinese taste buds are not accustomed to, which may contribute to the slower growth of Greek yogurt in China.
How to Export Yogurt to China
After confirming China accepts your export based on the country of manufacturing, there are a few points you will need to pay attention to. On top of the regulation of exporting food to China, there is another specific regulation for dairy products.
For quality controls and inspections, there is an institution called AQSIQ (Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine) in China that collaborates operation with national CQI(China Inspection and Quarantine Services) and sign an agreement with the FDA for the US exporters. CIQ will issue a quarantine test report to enable you to sell products to China.
- Sanitary Certificate
- Manufacture: register online and sign a protocol in charge by AQSIQ related to dairy products (food & drinks)
- Importer & Exporter: Registration with Chinese Customs
- H5 Codes (04.03.10 for yogurt)
- Chinese label of Products
After receiving the certification and registration process, choose your distribution as followed.
- Selling on Tmall Global, JD Worldwide & other platforms
- Finding retailers and distributors for selling in supermarkets, convenience stores, or other channels
In China, convenience stores have higher penetration compared to supermarkets. Also, as the daily consumption factor, Chinese customers tend to procure it with convenience. Nearly half of the yogurt market share was credited to convenience stores in 2020, and online retail channels gain their opportunities as well.
How Local Key Players do Their Marketing in China
TV Show Placement and Free Tasting Campaign
One of the three leading Chinese yogurt brands, Yili’s Ambrosia, did their successful placement marketing on famous TV shows Go Fridge and The Voice China first. These two TV shows invite top and famous celebrities and artists and host by famous celebrities which bring huge visibility for the brand’s marketing placement.
After building a successful reputation and brand awareness, Ambrosia launches a national free-tasting campaign in cities. Yili’s 每益添 and another brand Gemice (yogurt ice cream) adapted this placement strategy as well.
Endorsement with local celebrities
Two of the hosts of a famous TV show, Running Man, are endorser of the brand Ambrosia which not only bring benefits from the endorser but also the reputation and visibility of this TV show. During the campaign, Ambrosia’s Weibo page reached 15675 visits in a day, the Baidu index increased from 1500 to 7000, and the hashtag search achieved 11,000,000 views.
Ambrosia even creates a hashtag relates to the Running Man show: #奔跑吧安慕希. Two other leading brands such as Bright Dairy and Mengniuir all collaborate with popular Chinese celebrities.
E-reputation and Giveaways
Lepur goes viral with their famous online article attracting 10w+ clicks. They used storytelling to deliver a transparent formula plus the process of producing and inviting viewers to engage in price setting for the pre-order. Their articles were shared by some celebrities and KOLs.
There is another sharing on WeChat Moment that achieved 100000+ shares in 24 hours: a free box of yogurt gives away shared by QR code online. In 2017, they reached over a billion sales per month.
E-reputation brings huge visibility at first, it is their differentiation strategy on a niche and potential market that let them keep those people. Firstly, they focus on clean and natural ingredients without sugar, cream, and formula powder.
Secondly, they focus on nutrition which provides three times milk and probiotics. The freshness and density are their selling points. Later, they launch low-fate yogurt targetting customers with high awareness of health and fitness, and a niche and successful new flavor-Durian yogurt. They are now on the 100 top best sellers on the Tmall V list.
Social Media – Weibo
Not only seen from the previous Lepus case, Yili’s brand 每益添 has Chinese famous celebrities endorsement and Go Fridge TV show placement but also has their own Weibo page linked with their Taobao store.
On their own Weibo official page, they engage with customers and link with the products purchase page in posts.
WeChat Mini Program and WeChat Ads
WeChat has over 1.2 million users and highly active users in its mini programs. Also, WeChat has over 1 million mini-programs across 200 industries. On average, consumers use the mini-program four times per day, and 72% of WeChat users use it.
It provides a wide range of marketing options such as group buying, live streams, games, and social sharing to friends and moments.
Xiaohongshu, also known as RED, is a popular social e-commerce platform in China. It was launched in 2013 and has gained immense popularity among young Chinese consumers. The Chinese lifestyle app Xiaohongshu has achieved about 174 million monthly active users in China in March 2023.
Xiaohongshu combines social media and e-commerce, allowing users to discover and share product recommendations, travel experiences, and lifestyle tips.
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.
54% of eCommerce customers purchase snacks and nuts. Group buying, live streaming, and discounts are all the marketing campaigns you can do on eCommerce. You can choose to sell your products on eCommerce such as Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, or Pinduoduo.
However, in two massive markets: Tmall has more reputation for clothes, cosmetics, and F&B; JD has an electronic devices reputation.
On eCommerce, you can have your own-operated flagship store such as what Yili did on their flagship store providing discount coupons for products, membership discounts, and all series products displayed on their own commerce page.
On Tmall, there is Tmall Global and an Imported food section on Tmall Super Market for foreign brands selling products.
In the Imported food section on Tmall Super Market, there is a specific section for imported dairy products and imported yogurt among this section.
Danone, a French multinational food-products corporation, has had a significant presence in China for many years. The company entered the Chinese market in the early 1990s and has since become one of the leading dairy product manufacturers in the country.
One of the key challenges Danone faced in China was building consumer trust in its products. In the early 2000s, there were several food safety scandals in China, which led to a decrease in consumer confidence. To address this, the company focused on improving the quality and safety of its products, implementing strict quality control measures, and establishing strong relationships with local suppliers.
They also recognized the importance of understanding the local market and tailoring its products to Chinese consumers’ preferences.
The company introduced a range of products specifically designed for the Chinese market, such as flavored yogurts and probiotic drinks. This strategy paid off, as Chinese consumers embraced these products, leading to increased market share for Danone.
Overall, Danone’s success in China can be attributed to its commitment to product quality, understanding of the local market, innovative distribution strategies, and emphasis on sustainability. By adapting to the unique needs and preferences of Chinese consumers, Danone has been able to establish a strong presence and achieve growth in the Chinese market.
We Can Help You To Promote and Sell Your Dairy Products in China!
To compete in the yogurt market in China, it is crucial to understand and address the needs of your target customers. This will ensure long-term success for your product. For smaller brands, implementing interesting marketing campaigns can help increase visibility and attract customers who are curious about new products.
It is important to note that customers in China tend to trust larger and imported enterprises. However, there is still room for other products to succeed. Building trust by emphasizing the origins, functions, and innovation of your products can help differentiate them from existing offerings.
One of the best strategies to adopt is to export yogurt made of goat’s milk and bet on the communication of prevention to lactose intolerance.
Additionally, establishing a strong digital presence on popular social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, or eCommerce platforms can help strengthen your brand image and facilitate the sale of your products.
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.