A growing number of British food and drink companies have set their sights on exporting to the Chinese market. In addition, market access is gradually improving for an increasingly wide range of UK exports. An example which reflects this is in the lifting of China’s 20-year ban on the importation of British beef following then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May’s visit to China in January 2018.

Growing demand within China for imported British food and drink products has also been driven from a consumer-level. Chinese shoppers are sophisticated and selective in their consumption of imported British 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 through which consumers can browse and purchase imported food and drink products have sprung up in China: providing a powerful showcase for UK brands and businesses to leverage.


CBBC’s team of specialists in the Agriculture, Food and Drink sector provide UK exporters with detailed market knowledge and insights, sector guides, cross cultural communication and understanding, and guidance around consumer regulations, customs and regulations surrounding the export and import of goods. Our quarterly “China Hot Pot” newsletter shares key news and updates from the sector, as well as interpretations on key regulatory changes from our active business community. There are also opportunities for you to engage directly with us through our China Business Clinics and Masterclasses.

We offer direct access to the market through a comprehensive programme of events and activities including free exhibition booths for Food & Drink Members every year on Huai’an International Food Expo, as well as through our livestreaming initiatives with KOLs and KOCs.

Our key partners and stakeholders include the Department for International Trade, DEFRA, AHDB, Scottish Development International and Invest Northern Ireland – and we complement this with our access to key government departments at both a national and regional level, as well as via an extensive network of trade associations and bodies throughout China.


To learn more about our bespoke and tailored practical solutions to fast-track business entry into China and market expansion, please contact us.

An Overview of China’s Agriculture, Food & Drink

  • Revenue in the Food & Drink sector in China is projected to reach USD 176,857 million in 2021. It is expected to show an annual growth rate of 8.4% resulting in a projected market value of USD 244,055 million by 2025.

  • As of the end of 2019, China’s imported Food & Drink market stood at USD 90.81 billion, marking a 23.4% YOY growth compared with 2018.

  • From across 17 categories of food imported into China: meat, dairy, and seafood were the three most popular food sub-sectors among Chinese consumers. Imports of meat, dairy, and seafood reached USD 11.1 billion, USD 10.6 billion, and USD 12.2 billion respectively, and together accounted for approximately 46% of the total imported food goods.

  • As disposable income amongst Chinese consumers continues to grow, the market size of imported food and drink products will increase steadily. Due to this increase and the accompanying increase in living standards, Chinese consumers are spending more money on food and exhibiting higher expected standards of food consumption than ever before.

  • The main driving force behind this growth comes from the upward trend in consumption among Chinese consumers, as well as consumers paying more attention to food safety and their health.

  • Health concerns, an ageing population, and the expanding Chinese middle-class cohort will continue to drive the future growth of the health Food & Drink market. 18% of Chinese consumers are already consuming meat alternatives, which may come to impact China’s demand for pork and beef in the future.

  • KFC and Starbucks have begun testing the Chinese market preference for plant-based meat with new menu offerings; in May 2020, Nestlé announced it was investing USD 100 million to build a new plant-based food facility in China. 

  • Spurred on by COVID-19, the demand for dietary supplements, immune-boosting foods, and energy drinks are also expected to climb. Looking ahead, the functional food market in China has been estimated to be worth RMB 600 billion (GBP 69.8 billion) in 2022.

  • The development of cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) is gaining momentum despite COVID-19 and is further opening up China’s Food & Drink market to foreign exporters.

  • According to iiMedia Research, in the first quarter of 2020, Chinese CBEC users were more likely to purchase Food & Drink, toiletries, and healthcare products through CBEC platforms.

  • In 2019, China expanded the CBEC Retail Import List to allow more foreign Food & Drink products to be retailed through CBEC. From 1st January 2020, China’s List of CBEC Retail Imports (2019 Edition) officially took effect. Compared with the 2018 Edition, the new list added 92 items, including frozen seafood like frozen oysters, scallops, and squid, and alcoholic drinks (including gin and vodka).

  • Foreign Food & Drink exporters and enterprises can make use of the CBEC channel to tap into China’s market, establish a mechanism to obtain consumer and sales data from CBEC platforms, and develop market expansion strategies as well as explore offline channels.

  • Daily new users of major fresh food e-commerce platforms increased by 50% to 200%, and YOY growth in transaction volume on these platforms rose by three to four times.

  • According to the 2019 Taobao Food Live Streaming Trend Report, fresh fruits, dietary supplements, pastries, dried meat, fish and seafood, instant food, biscuit puffs, dried candies, nuts, and bird’s nest supplements are the most popular foods in live shows in China. More than 70% of the audience watching these live shows are in their 20s and 40s, and 65% of them are women.

Useful Resources



Produced in conjunction with the EU SME Center, serves as an introduction to the food and beverage market in China. It aims to help EU SMEs gain an understanding of the market and to identify opportunities that they could consider exploring.


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