Anthony Johnson from ADN Imports explains what food products that are in demand in China, how you can find distributors?, the process when working with distributors, about packaging and labeling requirements, and more.
What kind of food products are in demand in China?
China’s huge population means many niche markets can do well if you find the right routes, most likely through eCommerce platforms.
With that said, there are several categories and types of products in high demand, including the following:
1. Gifting with beautiful packaging
China has a strong gifting culture and it’s common to give more luxury and indulgent foods, drinks, and alcohol in gift sets. Gifting season in China is from mid-autumn festival (around mid-September) to Chinese New Year (in February).
2. Health food
In line with global health trends, we see a great demand for health food, which is consumed by China’s youngest and oldest population.
3. Products with a strong heritage and provenance
These attract buyers in abundance and if packaged correctly are also fantastic for gifting.
4. Unique products with a strong point of difference
China is a competitive market and having a strong point of difference is helpful to gain traction. This is especially true if you are looking to enter first-tier cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
5. Kids and Baby products
This ties in with the product being healthy, but goes beyond that to incorporate the general environmental conditions and food safety standards.
Following several food safety scandals in China it’s strongly perceived that foreign countries have fantastic food safety standards and a food supply chain that is safer than those domestically in China.
This is especially important for products for China’s infants.
6. Large volume categories
Products that are especially fast-moving are attractive to buyers, as for the right products sales volumes can be huge.
Examples of these kinds of products include soft drinks, sweet, and savory snacks.
7. Products where consumers collectively buy large volumes of imported food
An Example of this would be females in 1st and 2nd tier cities that are aged between 18-35.
This group is responsible for a huge amount of imported food and drink sales and being positioned to target a specific group such as this will help set you up to be successful.
8.Visually unique products
An example of this is Pepsi Blue, which in the last few years sold in massive volumes across China. Anything that is unique and aesthetically interesting to be share-worthy across China’s social media and has the potential to go viral.
What are the benefits of selling via distributors compared to cross-border eCommerce?
Strong distributors will give your brand much more exposure in the market, putting you on the shelves across China and on local eCommerce platforms.
These have much higher traffic than the cross border alternatives, like Tmall Global. This will get you discovered and is where the majority of all volumes goes into the market.
However, cross border routes are very beneficial for brands who have high barriers legislatively to enter China, for example, supplements, organic products, or those that don’t have a recognized food standard.
How can foreign companies find food distributors in China?
You may have to take steps to be discovered by Chinese buyers.
This also can be done through trade shows, visit buyer events, or digitally. We have a bespoke, China hosted, Chinese language, B2B platform for buyers to discover international brands like Shanghai Paper Food Competition.
Shanghai Awards is a competition focused on Sales and Distribution: our mission is to help Distributors to order Awarded Quality products, which will be appreciated by their customers. Join now here:
For brands that list with us, we then hold sample stock in our China office and can send samples to interested and qualified buyers to arrive within 24 hours of receiving their interest.
This is a good place to start as you can instantly leverage our network.
How is the process when working with food distributors?
Distributors that want to work with you will expect a contract that offers them some protection, which is fair enough.
It’s not easy or cheap for that matter to grow a brand properly in China and for them to invest behind a new brand entering the market they will need written guarantees that there is a benefit for them in the long run.
This is best done through exclusivity tied to increasing volumes.