The Chinese economy faced significant challenges in 2011 and 2012. While the food processing industry experienced record sales in 2011, final 2012 numbers are likely to reflect a slowdown.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number:
China - Peoples Republic of
Post: Beijing ATO
China Food Manufacturing Annual Report
Food Processing Ingredients
Dairy and Products
Wang Jun, Cristal Tang, Jericho Li, Susan Zhang, Joann Shen,
The Chinese economy faced significant challenges in 2011 and 2012. While the food processing
industry experienced record sales in 2011, final 2012 numbers are likely to reflect a slowdown, which is
expected to continue into 2013. In addition, frequent reports of food adulteration problems continued to
erode consumer confidence. In response, food manufacturers are launching new efforts to improve
ingredient quality, make use of newer technologies, and generally push greater innovation in their
product offerings. This trend bodes well for imported food ingredients.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SECTION I: MARKET SUMMARY
1.1 Market Overview
1. Market Growth
2. Driving Forces
3. Impeding Factors
1.2 Snapshot of Selected Food Sectors
1.2.1 Frozen Food
1.2.2 Prepared Meat Food
1.2.3 Snack Food and Chocolate Candy
1.2.5 Healthy Food
1.2.6 Baby Food
1.2.7 Tree Nuts and Dried Fruit
1.3 Advantages and Challenges
1.4 Regional Development
SECTION II: MARKET ENTRY
2.1 Entry Strategy
2.2 Market Structure
2.2.1 Distribution Patterns
2.2.2 Distribution Channels
2.2.3 Distribution Flow
2.2.4 Cold Chain
SECTION III: BEST PRODUCTS PROSPECTS
3.1 Prospects Categories
3.2 Example Products Analysis
3.3 Growth and Prospects for Specific Food Sectors
SECTION IV: POST CONTACTS AND FURTHER INFORMATION
This annual report reviews the development of China’s food industry in 2011 and the first half of 2012,
and examines trends and prospects of the industry from the second half of 2012.
Fueled by various measures following the outbreak of the global financial crisis, including the Four
Trillion Stimulus Plan ($588 billion), China’s economy move back to GDP growth rates above 10
percent in 2010, but slipped back below this level in 2011 as the government refocused their efforts to
fight inflation. In 2012, early signs indicated a potential downturn, but this was to some extent offset by
the release of a number of major public investment projects.
In 2011, China’s food industry continued past rapid growth, but while sales increased, the total number
of food operations dropped, signaling both a difficult economy and ongoing consolidation of the
industry. By 2012, conditions worsened, with a number of food manufacturers reporting growth rates in
the range of 10 percent, as compared to an average rate of 30 percent over the past ten years. The
decline in growth and continued consolidation is the result of a combination of factors, including high
rising food ingredients prices, soaring labor costs, rising entry costs for new companies and tightened
bank loan requirements for small sized enterprises. At the same time, rising prices generally, and
specifically for food, are leading consumers to economize more than in the past.
In response to these difficulties, many food manufacturers have launched new strategies, including
employing high quality ingredients, introducing new technologies, and diversifying product lines, and
so on. One quick frozen food market leader for example, has achieved remarkable growth by
producing traditional Chinese foods such as dumplings and sticky rice balls. Facing the challenges
ahead, it has decided to prioritize new product innovations by exploring western style frozen foods,
including frozen cakes and frozen sweets. It is expected this trend of introducing newer technologies,
better food ingredients and more creative food innovations will improve the long-term prospects for
China’s food industry, with increased scale, innovation and profitability, which are likely to also boost
the use of imported food ingredients.
Import demand prospects for U.S. food ingredients can be roughly categorized as follows:
High demand: Products that are either not largely produced in China or largely produced in
China but the U.S. boasts apparent price advantages;
Good prospect: Ingredients that are showing or to show price advantages with price gaps
between China and the U.S. keeping narrowing;
Future prospect: Products which are shrinking in production but increasing in demand in
Conditional prospect: Products that needs heavy marketing supports in China or efforts in
closing price gaps between the two countries.
In general, China is a huge market and able to accommodate more imported food ingredients. Products
either not largely produced in China or enjoying potential price advantages are more than welcome and
opportunities could emerge at any time; and for products of the last two categories, if suppliers could
strengthen their marketing efforts in China and/or focus on narrowing price gaps with China, they
should be able to grab their market shares in the not too far away future.
Note: RMB is converted into U.S. dollars at prevailing rates in effect during data collection periods. In
2009, $1 =RMB6.83; in 2010, $1 = RMB6.77; and in 2011, $1 = RMB6.46.
SECTION I MARKET SUMMARY
1.1 Market Overview
China’s food manufacturing industry, although facing challenges, remains strong, as it has been over the
past ten years.
Food industry 2011 at a glance:
Gross sales value*: RMB6.9 trillion, or $1.1trillion
% increase than 2011: 28
% of gross industry output value: 8.2
Number of sized firms**: 32,639
Total number of firms: 400,000
Food exports value***: $50.5 billion
% increase than 2011: 22.9
Food imports value***: $28.8 billion
% increase than 2011: 33.3
Number of employee: 6,740,000
*. Not Sales Value, but Gross Industry Output Value, is discussed in the China Statistical Yearbook.
Sales Value here equals 98 percent of Gross Industry Output Value based on the indicator of
Proportion of Products Sold. All Sales Values hereafter are calculated in this way.
** Firms with annual sales revenue of more than RMB5 million ($740,000).
*** Food and live animals used mainly for food, excluding beverages and tobacco.
1.1.1 Market Growth
Development status of the industry is best illustrated by four indicators, including number of firms,
gross sales value, output value growth of food industry versus agriculture, and growth of manufacturing
sectors versus processing sector.
Number of firms
Figure 1: Growth of Number of Firms in Food Sectors 2005 – 2011
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2006-2012
* Statistics are only available for firms with annual sales revenue in excess of RMB 5 million
The Food Ingredients and Food Processing Report 2012 predicted that the rapid growth in the number
of food firms “is likely to slow down in the coming years.” This statement proved both right and
wrong: rapid growth came to an end, but even more sharply than forecast. The number of food firms
declined to 32,000 from the peak number of 41,000 in 2010, not only ending the steep growth over the
past ten years, but also slipping back to the pre-global-financial-crisis levels before 2008.
Reasons for this are multiple. On one hand, higher the government has raised the bar to entry for food
companies in order to improve food safety and security. On the other hand, tougher loan policies made
it impossible to raise capital, and they subsequently went out of business. Compounding these
problems, raw materials prices and labor costs have continued to climb. Smaller food companies have
borne the brunt of these problems, causing the number of firms to decline, even as overall sales have
grown. This is moving forward the long-expected process of consolidation. In the long term, these
developments will help in the Chinese government’s efforts to improve food safety and quality by
making it easier to monitor industry activity and creating large companies with standardized practices
and brand names to protect. This trend will also support increased imports of ingredients, as larger
companies seek to distinguish themselves and are able to invest more in product development.
Gross sales value
Figure 2: Growth of Sales Value in Food Sectors 2005- 2011 (RMB100 million)
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2006-2012
*Sales value equals to 98 percent (Proportion of Products Sold) of Gross Industry Output Value
In contrast to the number of food operations, food industry sales values continued to increase sharply.
2011 sales values climbed to RMB6.9 trillion, or close to $1.1 trillion, representing a growth of 28
percent over 2010. This RMB6.9 trillion in sales, it should be noted, does not include firms with annual
sales revenue of less than RMB5 million ($775,000). The contrast between growing sales values and
the declining number of firms gives some indication of the true pace of consolidation. This trend is
expected to continue in the near future.
It is important to note, however, that record sales values are somewhat deceptive, as a significant
portion of this increase is the result of a sharp spike in food prices, rather than in increased sale of
products. A rapid rise in the CPI was a key feature of China’s economy in 2011, and the food sector
CPI exceeded 12 percent. Controlling for the rapid increase in food prices, overall industry sales may
With the factor of high rising food prices taken into consideration, the growth in sales values may
actually have been closer to 20 percent.
Growth of food industry versus that of agriculture*
*. Agriculture here refers to agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery
Figure 3: Growth Rates Comparison between Agriculture and Food Industry 2005- 2011 (RMB100 million)
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2006-2012
Dating back to 2004, food industry was only about one third of agriculture in total output value. While
agriculture has been growing steadily over the past years, food industry has grown even more rapidly,
closing the gap between the two. In 2011, food industry generated an output value of RMB6.9 trillion,
representing over 80 percent of that of agriculture. Owing to rapidly rising global prices for agricultural
products, agriculture generated big output values over the past years, which has slowed the pace at
which food industry is catching up, however, given the great potential of food industry in China, the
industry is expected to pass the value of agriculture output in the coming two to three years.
Manufacturing sectors versus processing sector
Official Chinese statistics separate its industrial food production into three categories, including:
Food processing, including primary processing activities such as rice milling, flour milling, oil
refining, sugar refining, slaughtering, salt processing, feed processing, and aquatic product
Food manufacturing, consisting of packaged food, pastries and confections, dairy products,
canned foods, fermented products, and condiments; and
Beverage manufacturing, which is the production of alcoholic beverages (i.e., distilled spirits,
beer and wine), soft drinks and tea.
Figure 4: Proportions of Three Sub Sectors of Food Industry in Sales Value 2005- 2011
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2006-2012
Despite its huge size and rapid growth, China’s food industry has yet to achieve a balanced
development. The food processing sector, which is supposed to decline in overall importance with
development of the industry, as has happened in developed countries, remains dominant in size
compared with the other sectors. The graph above shows output value of manufacturing sectors versus
that of processing sector remains 2:3, far behind the average ratio of 3:1 in developed countries.
Of the various causes, the attitude of the central government has played a big role in the continued
dominance of food processing. Its emphasis on food security and the strategy of size first have
channeled more investments to agricultural production and food processing, rather than to food
manufacturing. For instance, over the past two years, plenty of investments from such sectors as coal
mining industry and the high technology industry have flowed to swine farming. This has to some
degree favored agricultural production and processing and restrained the development of food industry
as a whole.
1.1.2 Driving forces
Among all the forces that contribute to the robust development of China’s food industry, diposable
income and urbanization are the most powerful two. In addition, food safety is playing an ever greater
role in building demand for higher for high quality food ingredients and manufactured foods. Changes
in the retail environment, and a growing trend toward overseas acquisitions by Chinese food processors
are also important factors.
Disposable income is the locomotive pushing the food industry ahead. Thanks to robust economic
development in China, disposable income has increased rapidly over the past 30 plus years, in turn
fueling expansion of the food industry.
Figure 5: Per Capita Income and Food Expenditure in China 2005-2011 (RMB)
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2006-2012
It has been noted that food expenditures have continued to climb along with disposable income, and this
trend is expected to continue in coming years.
Disposable income growth is also contributing to a middle-income consumer boom in urban areas. This
group is starting to seek high quality food, and is a critical market for the expansion of demand for
imported food products. The number of urban households earning more than US$5,000 a year is
estimated to grow annually by 24 percent, creating tens of millions of new consumers for high-value
and imported food. This income group is also facing greater demand on its time, and turning to more
heavily processed foods to save time on food preparation. In November 2011, Xi Jinping, the newly
elected Secretary General of the Communist Party, proposed doubling average incomes by 2020.
Should that be achieved, expenditure on food is expected to increase hugely.
However, the ability of rising incomes to generate ever-higher food expenditures faces some limiting
factors. On one hand, high rising consumer prices over the past two years have effectively reduced the
growth of purchasing power to one third of the income growth rate. For instance, actual disposable
income in 2010 was pulled down to 8 percent from 11 percent when the increase in the CPI was
factored in, and that of 2011 down to 10 percent from 15 percent. Price increases have affected food
more than other products: for instance, in 2011, food CPI is as high as 12 percent. Continued runups in
food prices are likely to cause consumers to seek more ways to economize in the future.
Urbanization, a long term driving force
The Chinese government has pressed for urbanization for years, in hopes of generating more jobs to
absorb surplus rural labor. As a result, the rural population has been declining relative to the urban
Figure 6: Urbanization Trends 2005-2011
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, 2012
2011 is symbolic for China as it marks the first time that China’s population passed the 50%
urbanization mark. Over the past seven years, the rural population has been shrunk by 1.3 percent or by
about 10 million a year; meanwhile, the urban population soared by 3 percent or around 15 to 20 million
persons a year.
Li Keqiang, the Vice Premier, who is also expected to become Premier in March 2013, has reiterated the
importance of urbanization at the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Nov 2012 and
on other occasions. Therefore, it is believed urbanization will continue to be the policy in the
With urbanization deepening, the traditional preference for fresh food and wet markets will keep giving
way to processed foods and supermarkets, and this has had profound implications for China’s demand
for processed foods.
Increasing demand for safer and healthier food
Since the Sanlu melamine scandal in 2008, food safety issues have made daily headlines in China’s
media outlets. To combat this, the Chinese government has taken all efforts, including establishing the
highest level central coordination agency, enacting and strengthening relevant laws and regulations, and
setting higher standards to ensure that only qualified food operations remain in business. Despite all of
these measures, a safe food environment has not been realized yet, and consumer confidence continues
to slide. Particularly distressing has been the involvement of major domestic companies in some of the
scandals in 2011 and 2012: Shineway, the biggest meat processor and number one food processor in
China; Bright Dairy, one of the top three dairy food manufacturers in China; and Jiugui Liquor, one of
the big listed spirits brewers. All were in one way or another implicated.
Over the past years, various surveys made across China, either by survey companies or by portal
websites, reveal that Chinese consumers are extremely concerned about food safety and are willing to
pay more for safer food when affordable. A good example testifying this is explosion in high-end food
retail stores across China, such as BHG and Ole. These stores sell only or mostly imported products,
and are becoming the first options for high income urban consumers. Although prices are relatively
high, these chains offer guarantees not available elsewhere. Similarly, food products of foreign brands,
even though they can be produced within China, are more favored than domestic brands by consumers.
Propelled by increasing income and awareness of health and nutrition, Chinese are pursuing not only
safer food, but also healthier food. Some specific age groups are seeking functional foods. Key
demographics include infants, students preparing for their higher education exams, white collar workers,
young women, the elderly, and so on. It is worth noting that many of these products are purchased as
gifts to be given to people in these demographics, as Chinese consumers will routinely spend more on
food to be given to others than they will on themselves. It is reported that functional food alone in 2011
generated a sales value of over RMB260 billion, equivalent to $40 billion.
Interest in natural foods and ingredients is becoming a trend that powers innovation in Better-for-you
(BFY) food and beverages. Affluent consumers are willing to pay premium prices for branded products,
and they are receptive to new flavors from overseas. A growing percentage of that amount is spent on
imported products and products with imported ingredients, such as dairy products, snack foods, tree nut
products and confectionary items. More and more consumers carefully check nutrition labels on
packages to find signs to convince them to buy. The wording “no food additives”, “no fragrance”, “no
preservatives”, “organic”, “green”, “no trans-fat acid”, “0 cholesterol”, “whole-grain” are seen more and
more frequently in packages,– low-sugar or sugar-free, low-salt are favored.
Changes in food retail and marketing
Most shelf stable processed food products and beverages are distributed through hypermarkets/
supermarkets and convenience stores. The availability of national-level retailers in a growing number
of cities has increased both the channels for sale of manufactured foods, and added some degree of
consumer confidence. The major international retail giants, including RT-Mart, Metro, Carrefour, Wal-
Mart, Lotus, are present in most of China’s first, second and even third-tier cities. Chinese retailers
such as Lianhua and Nonggongshang have continued to grow and develop, and regional chains such as
Suguo (Nanjing), Hongqi (Chengdu) and voluntary chains such as SPAR and IGA, have all seen
substantial growth. Convenience stores such as Kedi, 7-11, and Family Mart have emerged as a strong
platform targeting the younger generation with small-packaged snack foods and beverages, whether
they are made locally or imported.
Food adulteration scandals have, however, battered many of these chains, as stories of retailers who
hold products beyond their best-by dates or who sell counterfeits, receive broad press coverage. A lack
of trust has led many Chinese food manufacturers to open their own, branded stores, or to reserve their
own space in hypermarkets, in which products are stocked and monitored by their own employees. This
is part of the broader trend in which food manufacturers seek to avoid quality issues through vertical
China has the largest internet population in the world. According to the China Internet Network
Information Center (CNNIC), internet users in China exceeded 538 million at the end of June 2012. E-
commerce users amounted to 193 million by end of 2011, and are forecasted to reach 300 million by
2015-- with sales value of up to USD 350 billion. Of the top 100 retail chains operating in China, 59 had
online stores at the end of 2011. E-commerce has emerged as an important channel that cannot be
Outward investment by Chinese food processors
Many large-scale Chinese food groups are actively looking for acquisitions overseas to boost its profile
and cater to a rapidly growing domestic market. Bright Dairy secured a 51% stake in Synlait Milk, the
No.4 largest dairy in New Zealand, and in 2012 launched the infant formula brand Pure Canterbury that
is 100% manufactured and packaged in New Zealand, targeting at China’s high-end infant formula
market. Bright Food Group bought a 75% stake of an Australian branded food business-- Manassen
Foods from CHAMP Private Equity in 2012. Manassen Foods, which was acquired by CHAMP in
2006, owns Sunbeam and Angus Park dried fruits and Margaret River Dairy, and an array of brands in
the bakery, biscuits, grocery and confectionery segments. In addition, Bright Food has been reportedly
in negotiations with private British equity firm Lion Capital, owner of Weetabix, about a possible
purchase that would value the maker of ready breakfast cereals at around $1.61 billion.
Leading Chinese dairy companies have started manufacturing their own branded products in plants
overseas, aiming to cater to consumer’s strong confidence in imported dairy products, and take
advantage of the lower-cost of raw milk in Europe and Oceania. For example, Wahaha has its Edison
brand baby formula manufactured in the Netherlands and packaged in Switzerland.
In general, given the huge market that is to feed a population of 1.3 billion and the increasing demand
for quicker, safer and healthier food, the food industry is likely to see continued growth in the future.
1.1.3 Impeding Factors
China’s overall economic development, which is experiencing difficulty at present, is the paramount
factor limiting the development of its food industry. In addition, the following factors may slow
industry growth as well:
Rising prices for ingredients
Although rising prices for agricultural and food products is not an issue for China alone, the problem in
China appears to be worse. Starting from mung beans, followed by ginger, apple, peanut, pork, and so
on, a whole list of agricultural products have experienced price fluctuations ranging from 20 - 30
percent to as high as doubling or even more over the past few years. This has caused serious problems
for food manufacturers, particularly the smaller ones that have limited bargaining power with
commodity producers or brokers. This has caused some manufacturers to begin investing in their own
production facilities in order to secure supplies and reduce the impact of price fluctuations on their
manufacturing businesses. The trend toward purchasing supply sources is also being reinforced by food
safety concerns. Chinese markets for ingredients tend to be under regulated and it is difficult for a
manufacturer to guarantee the quality of ingredients purchased on the market. A large number of the
recent food quality scandals have been traced to ingredients that were adulterated by middlemen.
Soaring labor costs
With the gradual decline of China’s demographic dividend, labor costs are rising rapidly. The “labor
shortage” experienced each year after the Chinese New Year years ago in Guangdong province (a major
manufacturing center) has spread now throughout China. Laborers across the country are demanding
higher pay, and voting with their feet. Alternatively, many are finding employment closer to home,
causing many manufacturers to locate new facilities further inland to traditionally more rural areas. A
key limit cited by food manufacturers is the availability of labor.
Rising food safety costs
Over the past years, food safety scandals had made daily headlines in media across China. To reverse
this situation, the relevant government agencies have introduced various measures that are driving
production costs higher. For instance, the new dairy food sector policy effective from April 1st 2011 has
greatly lifted the entry bar. This drove about half of dairy food makers out of the market, and left the
survivors bearing an additional RMB1 million per month for costs for quality checks and improvements
to inspection equipment. For other food sectors, manufacturers have to be extremely cautious in
selecting raw materials, in most cases, purchasing more expensive ingredients than strictly necessary, to
make sure their products are safety risk free.
A sharp spike in the CPI was the most noticeable feature of China’s economy in 2011, and among all
sectors that contribute to the overall CPI, food took the lead. Rising food prices, propelled by
increasing food ingredients costs, labor costs and other costs, rather than by newer technology and
higher standards, may slow down the robust growth of food industry that has lasted for three decades.
1.2 Snapshot of Selected Food Sectors
Food sectors that may affect export of U.S. agricultural products would involve frozen food, prepared
meats, snack food, bakery and dairy products.
1.2.1 Frozen food
Frozen food is potentially a very broad category. Although the category could encompass frozen flour-
based foods, prepared meats, ice cream and other diary products, and so on, consumers’ first reaction is
quick frozen flour-based foods such as dumplings, which is what this report will focus on.
In ten years China’s frozen food industry has grown from a small-scale industry dominated by mom-
and-pop stores into a massive, highly modern industry accounting for well over RMB60 billion (over
$10 billion) in annual sales. The industry is centered around the city of Zhengzhou, home to China’s
two largest frozen food manufacturers, San Quan and Synear. Each company commands close to ¼ of
the market, with roughly 500,000 metric tons in current manufacturing capacity and gross sales of
RMB3 billion. Both are adding new manufacturing capacity, and San Quan expects to triple its output
within the next five years.
These manufacturers are a far cry from their homespun antecedents. They are large corporations whose
products are a household name across China, and who have brand names and reputations to protect. San
Quan currently exports to twenty different countries, and could easily export more if domestic markets
didn’t demand their full attention. With famous names and large investments in their product lines,
these companies have a powerful interest in guaranteeing the quality of their products – including the
ingredients they use to manufacture them. Laboratory facilities are extensive and include the latest gas
chromatography and other equipment. This need to ensure quality and safety, along with the need to
innovate in order to stay ahead of me-too manufacturers, is driving a keen interest in new ingredients,
China’s frozen food industry revolves around several traditional foodstuffs: vegetable and meat
dumplings that are boiled, and sweet rice flour balls traditionally stuffed with black sesame sauce.
Other products include hun dun (won ton) and noodles. The principal ingredients are simple: wheat
flour, pork, fresh vegetables. However, as competition grows, manufacturers are seeking ways to
distinguish themselves by offering new tastes and varieties. San Quan is already producing a line of
fruit-flavored tangyuan (which traditionally use sweet sesame fillings), including one that uses
blueberry fillings imported from the United States.
The economic difficulties of the first half of 2012 affected quick frozen food sector. Over the past ten
years, frozen food manufacturers had been used to annual growth in excess of 30 percent; however, in
June 2012, seeing sales growth suddenly dropped to 10 percent or so, even for sector leaders like San
Quan. San Quan has been striving to expand its production capacities in the past years, but is currently
limiting its expansion. Like other leading manufacturers, San Quan is re-thinking its strategy. The
company has decided to diversify its product lines by heavily exploring western-style frozen foods, such
as frozen cakes and frozen sweets. Innovations along these lines are likely to boost demand for
imported ingredients that do not have ready equivalents in China.
1.2.2 Prepared meat
Prepared meat is one of the fastest growth sectors for food manufacturing. It is also the sector that is
being most heavily impacted by rising ingredient prices and food safety concerns. Like quick frozen
food, it is built on consumers’ demand for quick and convenient food and greatly fueled by the fast
tempo of modern life. Prepared meats can be categorized into three sub sectors, depending on
production and preservation, including: fresh prepared meats; prepared meats in vacuum packages; and
frozen prepared meats.
Fresh prepared meats have been in existence for hundreds of years. The advantage is freshness. Some
foods are still warm when they reach shelf, but the disadvantage is extremely short shelf life, which will
restrain products being transported far and thus limit production volume. This industry is generally
local in scale, as logistics and short shelf life do not permit broad distribution.
Prepared meat foods in vacuum packages have been in market for about twenty years, with the main
products lines being different kinds of sausages. Many of China’s largest and most recognizable food
manufacturers, such as Shineway (Shuanghui), Topin and Yurun, began with sausage manufacturing,
and now boast annual sales of RMB 30 – 50 billion. However, these companies are generally poor
prospects for large volumes of imported ingredients, as most have built their own swine farming and
internal supply chains and have little demand for imported meat products. Niche opportunities exist in
areas such as flavorings and additives, but are small relative to overall production value.
The third sub sector, frozen prepared meat foods, which holds the best potential for imported
ingredients. This sub sector has only been in existence for roughly ten years, but reached RMB12
billion in sales by 2010. The average growth rate of this sector is 35 percent over the past decade, about
10 percent higher than food industry’s average rate during that time, and is expected to maintain this
growth in the coming years. The main product type is meat ball or fish ball, for use in hot pot or daily
cooking, with some variations in ingredients, sizes, and flavors etc.
The largest production center for frozen prepared meat foods is in Shandong province, which hosts
sector leaders like Longda, Huifa and Jiashibo. Huifa, for example, is a company with a history of only
11 years, but reached RMB 1 billion in sales by 2011, boasting an annual increase of 200 percent
growth per year over the last 6 years. Jiashibo, Huifa’s competitor in the same city, has a similar history
of astonishing growth.
This sector is a particularly good prospect for two reasons. First, unlike the major players in the
vacuum packed meat sector, these manufacturers have spent their short history focused on building
market share and expanding nationwide. As a result, they lack integrated links into the animal farming
and processing sectors, instead sourcing ingredients from the market. Their rapid growth, however,
leaves them vulnerable to price spikes. In addition, outside of the captive supply chains of major
processors noted above, markets for meat remain largely unorganized, leaving large-scale buyers
vulnerable to the highly variable quality of products on market.
Second, the meat/fish ball sub sector is specialized in its input requirements, demanding high fat parts
like pork collars and bellies, chicken feet, organ meats, etc. These parts are widely used in China, and
so tend to be more scarce on the market than in places like the U.S., where such products are not so
widely used and tend to sell at a discount. This creates a good match between manufacturers’ demand
and U.S. supply.
1.2.3 Snack food and chocolate candy
Snack food is a top three sector in terms of growth rate among all food industry sectors, only after
frozen food and health food. There are no official statistics on the size of the market, but it is estimated
that the market is as large as RMB100 billion, and the annual growth rate is over 25 percent.
The snack food sector is a sector with relatively easy entry, but with a high failure rate, where
competition is high, innovation vital, and profit margins thin. Manufacturers try to innovate in shape,
color, taste, mouth feel and packaging, but have little desire for imported food ingredients due to high
costs relative to their low profit margins. Exceptions exist, however, for snack foods that fit into the
healthy foods category, which is less price sensitive.
Generally speaking, the base ingredients for the snack food sector are quite common: wheat flour, rice,
seafood, flavorings and seasonings, colorings, fruit, nuts, and other regular agricultural products, most
of them domestically supplied. The only major exceptions are foreign nuts and fruits that are hard to
source domestically, such as almonds. The sub-sector that makes the greatest use of nuts and dried
fruit, besides the nut roasting sector, is the chocolate candy sector. Rather than high-end chocolate
candy (which is dominated by multinationals), this sector is dominated by the mid and low-end
manufacturers. This group is presently facing a difficult situation, and will need new ideas and products
if it is to survive.
Mid to low end chocolate candy manufacturing is largely clustered in Tianjin. Back to about 50 years
ago, Tianjin was one of the main production centers of chocolate candy in China, together with Beijing
and Shanghai. This didn’t change until 1980s. Since then, Beijing and Shanghai, moved toward more
high-technological and services industries. Tianjin, viewing this as an opportunity, took over
equipment and talent shed by Beijing to become China’s largest chocolate candy manufacturer by
volume. The entry of international brands like Mars, Hershey and Nestle, however, have driven these
manufacturers out of the key first and second tier markets.
Currently, there are still about 70 chocolate candy producers in Tianjin, producing about 80 percent of
chocolate in volume in China. They are mostly small to medium in size, and the bigger ones have a
sales volume of ranging from RMB20-50 million a year, with the largest reaching about RMB100
million a year. The surviving manufacturers, with limited resources, are seeking new ways to
differentiate their products, both from each other and from the international brands. They have
indicated a strong interest in sourcing new types of ingredients to help in this effort.
Market size and status
According to industry statistics, total dairy sales in China reached RMB 204 billion (USD 32 billion) in
2011, a 16.4% increase from 2010. The dairy industry has continued to enjoy strong growth in 2012.
Figure 7: Retail value of dairy markets (million RMB)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Dairy Products 137,705.5 143,821.4 157,944.1 175,235.6 203,904.0
Drinking milk products 112,946.3 116,639.8 126,621.6 139,559.5 162,305.5
Cheese 559.6 668.7 779.8 916.4 1,104.7
Yoghurt & sour milk drinks 22,962.9 25,195.5 29,143.2 33,280.0 38,876.2
Baby milk formula 25,675.1 32,515.7 41,351.6 50,942.9 61,952.4
Other dairy products 1,236.7 1,371.4 1,399.5 1,479.7 1,617.6
Source: Euromonitor (Exchange rate between USD and RMB: 1USD to 6.35RMB)
*Drinking milk products include fluid milk, flavored milk drinks and milk powder etc.
Per capita annual consumption of dairy products is around 28 kg in urban areas, but is only around 12
kg in rural areas. There is a large gap between China’s rate of consumption and average per capita
consumption rates of around 300 kg in developed countries.
Dairy product imports continued to grow rapidly in 2012. China Customs statistics showed that the
import of dairy products in Jan-July 2012 amounted to 777,000 metric tons, an increase of 23.3% over
the same period in 2011. New Zealand is the biggest exporter of dairy products to China; its share of
total imports reached 45.6% during the first half of 2012. New Zealand was followed by France, the
Netherlands and the United States.
In an effort to improve the structure of the dairy industry in early 2011, the number of manufacturers
issued production permits was slashed to 675 from about 3,000. By early 2012, the number of
permitted manufactures rose to 716. Yili, Mengniu and Bright Dairy are the top three manufacturers in
terms of annual output. They collectively control more than 50% of the national market. Sanyuan from
Beijing, Wonder Sun from Heilongjiang Province, Want Want Group, Jiabao from Shandong Province,
and Huishan from Liaoning Province are also among the top ten dairy manufacturers.
Consumer confidence in milk is still recovering from the 2008 tainted formula scandal and quality
problems still plague the Chinese dairy industry from time to time. In mid 2012, aflatoxin, a cancer-
causing toxin produced by fungus was found in Guangzhou in five batches of Nanshan Bywise brand
formula. It was made by Hunan Ava Dairy Industry Co. in Nanshan. Aflatoxin can appear in the milk
of animals that eat mildewed feed. It previously has been detected in milk from Mengniu and another
Around 80% of dairy products reach consumers via retailers - which have experienced significant
consolidation over the past five years. For cheese products, yogurt, and take-home ice cream, the
supermarkets’ role is even more important.
Major manufacturers of yoghurt and yoghurt drinks also compete in the food service channel with
specially designed brands. Although the profit in the food service channel may be higher than that
achieved from retail channels, manufacturers face high entrance fees determined by hotels and
restaurants and delayed payment in China. Hotels and restaurants normally pay after they sell the
products. This has constrained the sales volume of dairy products through food service channels.
It is estimated that there were over 6,000 pizza restaurants in China by mid 2012. The emerging pizza
restaurants and western food restaurants have been driving the growth of cheese consumption in HRI
sector. According to industry insiders, cheese consumption in the HRI sector is growing at a rate of
around 30%, while it is only about 10% in the retail sector.
Yogurt bars are a new restaurant format emerging in first tier cities and popular among the younger
consumers. Competing with juice bars and ice-cream bars, yogurt bars offer frozen yogurt and yogurt
drinks in various flavors. These bars are generally located in Central Business Districts.
Online stores are emerging as an important distribution channel for dairy products, especially non-
temperature-sensitive dairy products, such as UHT milk and infant formula milk powder. Most of them
are foreign brands that enjoy higher confidence in Chinese consumers. It is estimated that 10% of infant
formula is distributed via online stores, and in 1st tier cities, this percentage is as high as 40%. There
were 193 million E-commerce users at the end of 2011, and the number is forecast to reach 300 million
In the first tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, some consumers still prefer direct delivery of
milk to their home every early morning. Milk directly delivered by producers is regarded as a guarantee
of freshness and quality although costs can be quite high.
Dairy product trends by category
Fluid Milk: Fluid milk is the largest product segment in this industry, and is sold mainly in cardboard
containers and plastic packages. Fierce competition has cut the profitability of fluid milk production to
low levels. At the national level, UHT milk has about 80 per cent of the market by volume, thanks to its
availability in markets far from the manufacturing site and comparatively lower retail price. In big
cities where the cold chain infrastructure is better established, pasteurized milk occupies more than 70
percent of the market.
Consumer attention to product safety and quality will continue to grow, and manufacturers are
competing by introducing “Better-For-You” dairy products. These include calcium-fortified, iron-
fortified, low-fat or fat-free drinking milk products, organic dairy products, as well as products added
with functional ingredients beneficial for certain consumer groups.
Imported UHT milk is an important category. In 2011, China imported 25,800 metric tons of UHT milk.
Currently the most available import UHT milk brands are Country Goodness, Anchor and Dairy Hill
from New Zealand, Lactel from France, Pauls and Living Planet Organic Dairy from Australia, Suki
(with milk sourced from Germany) Borden from United States, and Emmi from Switzerland. The shelf
life is normally eight months to one year, and the unit prices per liter are between RMB 20-32. This
price scale is only about 10-30% higher than that of their Chinese competitors, making it affordable for
local food safety conscious consumers. Online stores are an important distribution channel for import
Flavored milk drinks with fruit juice will continue to register the most dynamic value growth in 2012
and 2013. Thanks to its tasty flavor and nutritional claims, younger generations of Chinese consumers
are willing to choose flavored milk drinks with fruit juice as a fashionable and healthy option. Apart
from the leading players such as Wahaha Group in this area, new players such as Suntory and Ten Wow
are actively developing their portfolio in this line.
Cheese: Continuing its robust growth in 2011, cheese is a star in China’s dairy market, with
approximate 21% value growth in retail channels and almost 13% volume growth in the foodservice
channel, according to Euromonitor.
Not a traditional food in China, Chinese consumers’ knowledge regarding cheese’s benefits remains
low, and, at the retail level, many consumers still have difficulty accepting the taste and smell of
cheese. Awareness has increased, however, as a result of TV advertisements, internet, and other
promotions. The cheese market is still small, but one with great growth potential. White-collar workers
with higher levels of disposable income are the key consumer demographic for cheese, and many
parents tend to choose suitable cheese products for their children in an attempt to increase calcium
intake and improve nutritional balance. Cheese is widely marketed as a health conscious product to
high-income consumers. At the HRI level, demand has grown quickly: Chinese consumers’ love of
pizza contributes to the consumption of cheese, mostly mozzarella, in pizza restaurant chains and hotels.
Leading domestic dairy companies Bright Dairy, Sanyuan, and Yili have all launched cheese processing
lines. They have also run very successful consumer education programs. In 2011, Bright Dairy led
cheese sales with 53% of the market, followed by Anchor (20.2%), Pikifou (6.9%), Sanyuan (4.6%) and
Suki (3.4%). The top five brands occupy nearly 90% of the cheese market. (Suki is imported, and
sources from different countries: currently cream cheese from Australia and Chedder and Monterey
Jack from the United States).
Unspreadable processed cheese registered the highest value growth in 2011. The consumption volume
ratio between spreadable and unspreadable processed cheese was about 35-65 percent in 2011 in China
market, with unspreadable processed cheese slightly outperforming spreadable cheese and slowly
increasing its share of the market. Cream cheese dominated the spreadable processed cheese market. For
unspreadable cheese the most frequently available products are Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Cheddar,
and Parmesan cheese. Slice and stick cheese are the most commonly seen unspreadable cheese at retail
Many foreign brands are available in supermarkets in China. Currently there are over 10 U.S. cheese
brands in China market such as Leprino, Sargento, Borden and AmeriDairy. Other major import cheese
brands are Kraft made in Australia, Mainland from New Zealand, President and Cantorel from France,
Suki from the United States, Bega and Laughing Cow from Australia, Emmi from Switzerland, Feta
from Germany, Arla from Denmark, and Kerry Gold from Ireland.
Cheese manufacturers launched more innovative flavors including chocolate, tree nuts, strawberry, and
banana flavors for children, and cheese products fortified with vitamins and minerals that appeal to
Chinese consumers. Many promotions and price discounts were also offered to attract consumers,
which lowered the unit price of cheese, and greatly contributed to the sales growth of cheese products.
One value-added ingredient increasingly being used in the production of baked and processed foods is
cheese powder. This input adds nutritional value (increased protein content) and enhances the flavors
of finished products. U.S. cheese powder’s low moisture content makes this product affordable to the
local bakery chains as there is no need to refrigerate the product before they are cooked. Typical uses of
cheese powder includes the production of biscuits, savory snacks, baked products, sauces, dips and
dressings, ready meals, and even reconstituted cheese.
Most cheeses found in the retail market are imported from the United States, France, Demark, New
Zealand and Australia. A small amount of domestic cheese products are processed cheese slices
manufactured locally by Kraft and Shanghai Bright. Some domestic brands either source ingredients
from aboard or contract out foreign dairy factories to produce private label cheeses for the Chinese
market. This is the case of the Suki brand which is a private label Land O’Lakes product produced for
the Shanghai Gaofu Foods Company. Domestic dairy companies are eying private label cheese
production from the United States and this is an opportunity for U.S. dairies to engage China’s dairy
China’s cheese market will continue to grow rapidly in the next five years, and that growth will spread
from first tier city markets to second and third tier markets. Ongoing economic development will
increase Chinese consumers’ purchasing power, and make high-priced cheese products more acceptable
for mass consumers.
Yogurt: The yogurt market maintained its consistently strong growth in China in 2011. Yogurt sales
increased by 16 percent in 2011 to exceed RMB 38.7 billion (USD 6.1 billion). The average retail unit
price of yogurt products continued increasing in 2011 thanks to ongoing launches of relatively high-end
products of fruit-flavored and functional yogurt by key players.
While traditionally yogurt has a very positive image in China, dairy manufacturers are working to
transform yogurt into a Super Food with function to improve digestion and control weight. Functional
yogurts are frequently further fortified with fiber such as whole grain and fruits, additional levels of
calcium or antioxidants to increase their health benefits, so that they can gain more popularity among
Imported yogurt enjoys a stable but small growth rate, as its loyal consumers are mainly expatriates or
returned overseas Chinese. Emmi from Switzerland, Elle & Vive and Milkana from France, Yoplait
from Australia and FAGE from Greece are frequently available brands on the shelves of import food
Hangzhou Wahaha Group from Zhejiang Province, Mengniu from Inner Mongolia, Bright Dairy from
Shanghai, Yili from Inner Mongolia and Junlebao owned by Sanyuan from Beijing were the top five
players in this sector in 2011, taking 50% of the market shares.
Milk Powder: Milk powder remains the biggest import item in 2011-2012, and is still growing.
According to China’s Customs statistics, import volume during the first eight months in 2012 increased
by 20% over same period in 2011, reaching 413,800 metric tons; its import value also increased
14.7%. New Zealand, taking over 80% of the market, is the biggest milk powder exporter to China,
followed by United States, Australia and EU. Low consumer confidence in domestic products, coupled
with a high level of concern over children’s health and nutrition, have helped to boost imports.
Infant formula milk powder sales have grown steadily. Baby milk formula sales continued to climb
with dynamic value growth of 23% in 2011, reached RMB 62,140.84 million according to Euromonitor
With on-going growth of disposal incomes, and the one-child-policy within one family in China, parents
are willing to pay a premium for high-quality products. China imported 57,919 metric tons of baby
formula milk during the first eight months of 2012, up 17.4% year on year. Netherlands (22.5%), New
Zealand (18.6%), France (16.1%) and Singapore (17.2%) are the top four baby/toddler formula milk
powder exporters to China in first half of 2012.
The high end infant formula milk powder market is nearly monopolized by multinational giants from
Europe, the United States, and Australia and New Zealand, thanks to the high consumer confidence, and
the branding and channel management they enjoy in China. Top international players include
International Nutrition (Dumex), Mead Johnson (Enfamil, Enfagrow, Enfapro, Enfachild, Enfaschool),
Abbott Nutrition International (Gain, Similac), Nestle (Lactogen, Neslac), and Wyeth (Promise, S-26,
There were 119 domestic manufacturers of baby formula milk powder in China by end of 2011.
Beingmate (9.9%) from Zhejiang Province, Yili (7.9%) from Inner Mongolia, Yashili (4.1%) from
Guangdong Province, Shengyuan (2.7%) from Shandong Province, and Wonder Sun(1.8%) from
Heilongjiang Province are the top performing domestic brands in terms of market share.
Whey: Whey’s advantage as an efficient protein source positions it for increased use in China’s fitness
and health care industries. Whey as a nutritional supplement is increasingly sold in gyms and boutique
health food stores in first-tier Chinese cities. Meanwhile, whey and lactose ingredients are used in a
growing array of baby formulas, functional beverages and yogurt products.
The U.S. is the dominant leading whey and lactose exporter to China. In 2011, the collective value of
U.S. whey and lactose exports to China amounted to USD 273.5 million, increased by 81% over 2010
according to USDA statistics. Such products include sweet whey powder, whey protein concentrate
(WPC) of 34% and 80% protein contents, and whey protein isolate (WPI).
1.2.5 Healthy food
Chinese consumers are more willing to choose nutritional and healthy food to maintain general health
and reduce the risk of chronic health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Increased disposable
income is making health and nutritional food more affordable. Improved distribution channels,
education and marketing campaigns have also contributed to the fast growth of the health and nutrition
China’s State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) notes two categories of nutrition and health
food products – “Health Food” and “Dietary Supplement”. Both must register with SFDA and be
evaluated by its authorized facilities before they are launched.
“Health Food” (Bao Jian Shi Pin) refers to a food claiming that it has certain health-improving functions
or is able to supply vitamins and minerals. It is good for a particular group of people and able to adjust
body functions, but is not used to cure diseases. It will not cause any form of harm whether it is acute or
sub-acute or chronic. Currently there are 27 functional claims permitted to be printed on the labels of
these products. “Health Food” must register with SFDA so that they can print the logo of “Bao Jian Shi
Pin”, or the so-called “blue cap” on the label, together with the functional claims.
“Dietary Supplements” refer to products that supply vitamins and minerals instead of energy. Its
function is to supplement the routine diet to prevent the deficiency of certain nutrients and lower the risk
of certain chronic and degenerative diseases. Dietary Supplements cannot make any functional claims
on their labels.
Growing at an average annual rate of 15%, the total sales value of nutrition and health food in China
reached an estimated RMB 200 billion (USD 32 billion) in 2011. There are over 16,000 manufacturers
of nutrition and health food in China. About 1,300 have the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
certification to produce Health Foods defined by SFDA. They have registered products with SFDA, so
that they can print the so called “blue cap” with “health food” wording on the label. At the same time,
there are around 15,000 manufacturers producing “Better for You” (BFY) food products in China.
According to the statistics from the official website of SFDA, the number of registered domestic health
foods with the “blue cap” is 11,653, and registered import health food items were 665 at the end of
August 2012. It is estimated that the number of food products with fortified nutrition but without the
“blue cap” was around 30,000 in mid 2012.
Apart from health food and dietary supplements, there is a third category of products, the so called
“Better for You” (BFY) products. BFY products are manufactured as ordinary food with Quality Safety
(QS) certifications, and they claim that the products are “low in”, “high in”, “fortified” or “free from”
on the label. They include lower sugar beverages, vitamin-enhanced fruit juices, probiotics drinks,
infant formula, foods for diabetics, organic products, Vitamin A-fortified wheat flour, herbal tea, herbal
liquor, and donkey-hide gelatin.
Major players in the market
Domestic nutrition and health food manufacturers are mainly located in east China; 50% of them
operate in the top six production bases of Beijing, Guangdong Province, Shandong Province, Zhejiang
Province, Shanghai and Jiangsu Province. The rest are spread throughout central China, such as Hubei
province and Jiangxi province, and north China, such as Liaoning province and Heilongjiang province.
Real Nutriceutical, By-Health Biotech Co., Ltd., Shandong Dongeejiao Group and Bishengyuan Tea
Group are the major health food manufacturers that produce branded products in China. Some large-
scale health food and dietary supplement manufacturers have focused on OEM manufacturing for
Leading international players entered China in the 1990s. Amway broke ground for its first plant in
Guangdong Province in 1992, and brought the dietary supplement concept into China. Their Nutrilife
health food products portfolio has gained high popularity among Chinese consumers. In 2010, Amway
China’s sales exceeded USD 3.5 billion, making China Amway Group’s biggest market. Wyeth
introduced Centrum multi-vitamins into China as early as 1993. Since then, its health food products,
including infant formula, have achieved huge success and became one of the leading brands in health
food and baby food in China. Wyeth has invested over USD 530 million and established state-of-the-art
plants to manufacture health food in China.
NBTY landed in China officially in 2006, and established the NBTY China Trading Company which
introduced the Nature’s Bounty, MET-Rx Engineered Nutrition and American Health portfolios to the
China market. GNC entered China and established a trading company in Shanghai in 2011. So far 77
SKUs in 13 categories of GNC health food products, including herbal supplements, vitamins, collagens,
proteins, dietary fibers are being imported as ordinary food products, and are available at pharmacies,
chained retailers and online food stores. In addition, RICHLIFE from Singapore and DHC from Japan
are also expanding aggressively in China.
Consumption trends for nutritional and health food in china
More and more Chinese consumers are regularly consuming nutritious and healthy food. The most
important factors that influence the decision-making of Chinese consumers when purchasing health
food products are effectiveness and safety, a trustworthy brand, convenience for intake, and pricing.
While a large portion is for self use, many buy these products as gifts for their family members, friends
and business customers. Therefore packaging is also important to consumers.
Food Safety Concerns Steer Consumers towards Safe Products: A series of food contamination
scandals in China have fueled demand for safe processed food and beverages. Imported foods from
developed countries have enjoyed robust growth thanks to Chinese consumers’ confidence in them. An
import food label indicating the products are made in U.S, Europe and Japan sells itself to high-end
consumers - especially in first-tier cities. Famous brands and large manufacturers with a long history are
regarded as a guarantee of the food safety.
More Consumers Read Labels before They Buy: Although most people learn about health food from
media advertisements in television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, food labels are still
considered the most useful source of health and nutrition information for better educated consumers.
Interest in natural foods and ingredients is becoming a trend that powers innovation in BFY food and
beverages. The wording “no food additives”, “no fragrance”, “no preservatives”, “organic”, “green”,
“no trans-fatty acids”, “0 cholesterol”, “whole-grain” are seen more and more frequently on packages,
more and more consumers carefully check nutrition labels on packages to find signs to convince them to
buy – low-sugar or sugar-free, low-salt are favored.
Senior Nutrition – the Key Driver in Health Food: According to a survey conducted by the China
Health Care Association in 2009, the group aged 56 and higher almost all consume health food
regularly. This group of consumers normally pays more attention to their health than other expenditure
items such as housing, clothing and dining out. A large portion of their health and wellness food is
given by their family members as gifts.
China’s population of citizens over the age of 60 exceeded 185 million at the end of 2011, accounting
for 13.7% of the total population. It is estimated that the aged population will continue grow and amount
to 400 million by 2033. Demand for products that protect the heart, help with high cholesterol, improve
bone and joint health, and improve sleep will remain high.
Children’s Nutrition – Huge Potential: Children’s nutrition is a major growth area – please refer to the
following section on Baby Food for analysis.
There are four main distribution channels for health products in China, and the growth rates of these
channels varies. In China, the traditional mass market channel that includes mass merchandisers, drug
store chains, supermarkets, convenience stores and club stores still dominates the distribution of Health
Foods with the “blue cap” and dietary supplements.
The growth of the direct sales industry (multi-level marketing), which uses the person-to-person mode
of communication for elaborating the benefits of supplements, is also driving the growth of nutritional
supplement market. The Chinese government issues licenses very cautiously to companies focusing on
this distribution channel, but once they procure such licenses, these enterprises can develop rapidly.
Chinese consumers are beginning to seek nutritional advice from professional nutritionists at hospitals.
This is driving the development of the health practitioner channel as a new channel for nutritional
1.2.6 Baby food
Although overlapping with the baby formula section of the dairy market profile, baby food merits
special attention. Baby food products are the fastest growing product category in China’s supermarket
retail sector. The country’s emerging urban middle-class consumers are willing to pay a premium for
high quality imported baby food and nutrient products and are especially leery of domestically produced
baby food products even when these have foreign brand names. With a post-2008 melamine tainted
milk scandal still lingering in the minds of consumers, global infant product manufacturers are