Reaching out to China food importers can be a daunting task. But with the right information and resources, it can be a lot easier than you think. In this blog post, we will outline some of the best ways to reach out to these importers, as well as give you some tips on how to make your business stand out from the competition in the Chinese F&B industry.
So if you’re looking to do business with Chinese food importers, read on for more information!
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What Does a Classic Distribution Plan in China Look Like?
With the risk of losing an operational license, counterfeits, and other issues, Chinese distributors are starting to be more careful in choosing who they want to work with. They are pretty much aware of the Chinese consumers’ buying habits.
Chinese consumers don’t buy unknown brands. That being said, when looking for a partner, Chinese distributors will often choose companies that are already established in China or have a good reputation.
With this in mind, if you are a foreign business that wants to export products to China, you should be ready for a long and difficult process.
As a foreign company, you should avoid distributors that move your products across their regions. The main reason for this action is that they want to maximize the price differentiation since cities in China have different prices.
You should also be aware of the risks of outsourcing distribution, especially for Chinese distributors. Why? China does not offer any kind of protection for international trademarks. The rules for the registration of goods are also different in the country. Make sure to do your research regarding your industry’s regulations and other legalities before working with a Chinese distributor.
Setting Goals and Targets: Knowing the Basics of Food Imports in China
As with everything, it’s best to start from the basics. In this case, it will give you the edge you need to grow in the industry and stand out compared to other foreigners. Here are some answered common questions about food imports in China:
How Much of China’s Food Supply Is Imported?
Being one of the largest countries in the world, China has an enormous population to feed. They have been self-sufficient for many years but looking at today’s statistics, it is evident that they are starting to import more food. According to the article posted by ChinaPower, China’s food import total value reached $104.6 billion in 2017, which is a significant increase from $14 billion in 2003.
What Meat Is Imported from China?
According to Reuters, more than 50% of the meat imported by China is pork. While this is an obvious number since pork is the favorite protein in the country, beef, and chicken imports are growing at a rapid pace as well.
What Countries Import China?
China is one of the most significant importers in the world. So it is not surprising that a lot of countries are trying to get their products into the Chinese market. However, according to the statistics from Statista, the major import partners of the country are the ASEAN countries, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Is China the Largest Importer of Food?
With over 1.4 billion mouths to feed, it’s not difficult to imagine that China is one of the biggest food importers in the world. China was and still is the largest importer of food in 2020 according to China Macro Economy. Meat, dairy, and seafood are the three largest food items that China imports. Putting into perspective, in 2017, meat was valued at 9.5 billion dollars, dairy at 9.3 billion, and seafood at 8.5 billion dollars.
Overall, the food import industry in the country is growing rapidly, giving foreign suppliers a prime opportunity to grow in China.
Finding Quality Chinese Distributors
Going to the very point of the matter, you will need to look for quality Chinese distributors. Here are five tips that might give your company a head start:
1. Find Your Product Selling Point
China’s market and consumers have different tastes when it comes to food. It would be best if you found a selling point that would attract Chinese customers to your product. Focus on the quality, quantity, or even the packaging of your food.
This is a big deal when it comes to selling in China. As mentioned above, Chinese consumers will not buy from unknown brands, and distributors are not an exemption. Make this your priority and focus on building a good reputation in China.
3. Establish a Digital Presence
Create a quality website that is optimized for Baidu and partner with an SEO company that can help you be visible on the first page of Baidu. Publishing quality articles on your website can also help build a good reputation for your company. Take as an example Zhihu and Baidu Tieba. These two companies rank high on search engine results pages and are popular for their accurate and quality information.
4. Lead Generation
B2B or business-to-business lead generation can be done by exhibiting in China food fairs or setting up a booth at popular Chinese food industry events. You can also utilize pay-per-click ads on popular Chinese platforms if you are fairly new in the market. With this, China distributors can easily find you. Using WeChat as your communication tool can also help as it is the most popular messaging app in China.
5. Offline Events, Trade Fairs, and Exhibitions
Establishing communication with Chinese consumers and distributors alike is the lifeblood of every business in the country. By attending fairs and exhibitions, you are giving yourself a chance to expose your products and gain attention from possible distributors and customers.
Include a digital strategy such as having a QR code in your booth that directs the consumers or distributors to your website. Communication is the key to B2B, so make sure to use what’s convenient for your Chinese target market.
6. Establish Online Reputation
Being overly dependent on Chinese distributors might not be a good idea. Remember that Chinese distributors are known to only take brands and products that they see profitable. They can end their relationship with any supplier that they deem not necessary.
The solution we see is to establish an online reputation and provide evidence that your product is in demand. By creating demand for your products, distributors are the ones that will look for you.
7. Straight to the Market
As mentioned in number 6, online reputation is key. By going straight to the market and online sales platforms such as Taobao, Tmall, Pinduoduo, and so on, you can validate the demand for your product. Then, by testing how the market reacts and respond to your products, you will have the data to back you up when looking for China food importers or Chinese distributors.
It is also a good idea to invest in digital marketing and communication or sales support. Having your products online, you can see the real potential of your product in the Chinese market.
Chinese Import Regulations for Food Products
Now that you have an idea of how to find China food importers and Chinese distributors, it’s time to start thinking about how to actually import food into China. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Register Alongside the CAA
CAA or the Certification and Accreditation Administration in the country where you’re looking to distribute your product is the first place you need to go. Registration is necessary for any business looking to import food into China.
Foods such as meat and other health food products are submitted to special conditions that require complementary registration with the validity of 4years.
2. Licence of Pre- Importation and the List of the Necessary Documents To Provide
While it is not necessary to possess a pre-importation license in China, there are some exceptions, especially for dairy products or poultry, for which you have to obtain the Automatic Import License delivered by the Department of Commerce.
This is to ensure that products being imported into China meet the safety and quality standards. Before sending your products, preparing the following documents is essential:
- Commercial invoice
- A detailed list of packaging
- Bill of Lading
- Health and sanitary certificate
Find the full list of documents here.
3. Product Labeling Should Be in Compliance With Chinese Standards
China is very specific to its regulations when it comes to imported food products. All food products must be labeled in Chinese characters to simplify the process of customs clearance and comprehension. The label should also include:
- The name of the product
- List of ingredients in percentage
- The name and address of the manufacturers, distributors, and local agents
- The country where the product originates
- Category of quality
- Special contents, if any (additives, genetically modified organisms, etc.)
- The industrial norm for the production
4. CIQ Clearance – Hygiene Inspection
The hygiene certificate CQI, which is a document that ensures that the product meets Chinese quality, safety, and hygiene standards, is required for all imported food products. This is critical due to all food products are controlled by custom clearance agents who verify shipment documents if they comply.
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