The China Opportunity
A growing number of British food and drink companies have begun to set their sights on the Chinese market. On top of that, market access is gradually improving for a wider range of UK products. An example which reflects this is in the lifting of China’s 20-year ban on the importation of British beef. This reversal came in June 2018 following UK Prime Minister, Theresa May’s January visit to China.
Growing demand within China for imported food and drink products has also been driven on a consumer-level basis. Chinese shoppers are becoming sophisticated and selective in their consumption of imported products, which are often perceived as being of a higher quality and safer to consume than their Chinese counterparts. In response to this, a wide range of platforms via which consumers can browse and purchase imported food and drink products have sprung up in China.
According to the ‘Quality and Safety of Imported Food in China in 2017’ report published by the General Administration of Customs
in 2018, China imported GBP 45.02 billion (USD 58.52 billion) worth of food and drink products in 2017; a 25% increase from 2016. Steady growth of the market is reflected in a 5.7% compound annual growth rate of food and drink products’ import value into China between 2012 and 2017.
Based on figures released by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in 2017, the top 10 exporters to China were the European Union, the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, and Vietnam. Popular products for import were meats, oil, dairy products, seafood, grain products, alcohol, and confectionary products.
Navigating Relevant Regulations and China’s Legal Framework
In recent years, China has continued to develop and improve its legal framework regarding food safety. Besides the Food Safety Law which was last revised in 2015, all imported food and drink products must be compliant with China’s national food safety GB standards and relevant inspection and quarantine requirements. As of April 2017, China’s National Health Commission
had promulgated 1,060 mandatory food safety standards. CBBC, in cooperation with the China Certification and Inspection Company (CCIC) London
, offers a service whereby companies can order the GB standard(s) relevant to their products to be translated from Chinese into English.
Despite the recent official announcement of the lifting of the ban of the importation of British beef into China, it could still take up to two to three years for British beef exporters to be able to import beef into China. In addition, it is still not possible to export lamb, poultry and processed pork products. Sea fish, shellfish, pork meat, and dairy products require export health certificates, and in some cases factory/plant registration via the China National Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA), now part of the State Administration for market regulation. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
and the Animal and Plant Health Agency issue updates on, and changes to, the export requirements on their website and through Twitter; and support UK companies in submitting data for assessment by their Chinese counterparts on a quarterly basis.
In addition, UK exporters are required to register online with the General Administration of China Customs (GACC)
. CBBC can assist companies in undertaking this registration. Failure to comply with registration requirements will see products rejected at the port of entry. China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) conducts regular checks on shipments into China and may conduct tests to ensure compliance with China’s relevant food standards.
The benefit of working with an experienced distributor or importer in China that already understands the market also cannot be underestimated. CBBC can conduct detailed market research to help UK companies find the right distributor that best fits the unique profile and requirements of their products.
The UK’s Strengths
China’s growing appetite for British food and drink products is underpinned by provenance and premium quality. As Chinese consumers have grown wealthier and ventured further afield to visit new places and explore new cuisines, they have developed new tastes for imported delicacies and remain convinced that a premium price is the right price to pay for produce that bears food safety standards, accreditations, and in many cases, which are synonymous with years of craftsmanship.
The recent rise of cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) has made it increasingly easy for Chinese consumers to purchase imported products. Import procedures and documentations associated with CBEC are simplified in comparison with those for general trade. Chinese customers shopping online can usually receive foreign goods within one week of purchase, creating increased incentive and ease in the purchase of imported food and drink products.
CBBC organises several Great British Brands Festivals (GBBFs)
every year with the goal of showcasing British brands in the retail and food & drink sectors. A GBBF is usually organised across a number of different cities in China (such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, and Chengdu), attracting professional buyers, media representatives, government officials and individual customers who are interested in getting to know more about British culture and products. Attending a GBBF is a great way to build brand awareness the Chinese market, as well as raise awareness of British brands amongst Chinese consumers.