The Chinese chocolate market is growing rapidly, with a staggering increase in demand from China’s population. The country’s consumption of chocolate grew by 34% in 2014 and it has increased by 500% since 2007. This rapid growth has not gone unnoticed by the major brands such as Nestlé and Mars who have been investing heavily into the region to satisfy their customers’ needs. To take advantage of this lucrative opportunity and sell chocolate in China, you need to be aware of the unique challenges that come with marketing your product in the country.
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Before you Sell chocolate in China, Understand the Market
In the late 1970s, Hershey’s and Nestlé noted the business opportunities to be exploited in China, a country of almost 1 billion people, most of whom had never tasted chocolate before. But even after all this time and with the country incredible development’s, Chinese consumers have not yet come around to consuming chocolate. This is mainly related to China’s traditional food culture where desserts are not a thing although this is also changing.
The chocolate market in China is expected to reach USD 4.05 billion by 2025 and over the past decade, Chinese consumers have been more than doubling their spending on this tasty treat!. The amount of chocolate sold in China is still relatively small compared to its huge population, accounting only for 3 percent of the total global consumption in 2020.
The rise of interest in chocolate in China is mainly driven by millennials (people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and younger Chinese consumers who are more open to international tastes and interests, and they are more inclined to discovering new flavors and foreign food and are also more educated on chocolate which is often wrongly associated with an overly sugary and fattening treat. Definitely, something to keep in mind for brands that want to sell chocolate in China.
The Chinese chocolate market is segmented into six categories :
- Boxed Assortments
- Chocolate with Toys
- Moulded Chocolate
- Other Chocolate Confectionery;
Main brands of Chocolate in China
Nowadays China’s chocolate market remains dominated by the global companies that entered the market back in the 1980s :
- Ferrero Rocher.
The biggest companies in China chocolate market are :
- Ferrero Rocher
These companies have held the high-class market and have taken over 70% of the market. Then, other brands, such as UHA or Meiji, take the medium-to-high class of the chocolate market and the rest of the market is taken by local companies. It’s interesting to note that more than 80% of the chocolate imported in China in 2019, comes from just 10 countries with Italy and Russia exporting the most.
China only has a chocolate manufacturing history of fewer than 60 years. Therefore, the competition between foreign and local brands is very intense. Consequently, local companies have to adapt their products to match the international quality that Chinese customers prefer and still need time to catch up, according to a recent survey, the top 20 chocolate makers are present in the market and among the 70 brands of chocolates that you can find in Shanghai, most of them are foreign brands. Actually, almost 90% of the Chinese market is dominated by foreign brands of chocolates.
It is explained by the fact that Chinese consumers prefer to buy high-end foreign chocolate and are attracted by the idea of buying western products because, in their minds, western products hold an image of luxury and of excellent quality. An interesting example is an Italian brand Ferrero Rocher, which is particularly popular among Chinese consumers because of its taste (of course) but also because of its high-end packaging that reminds consumers of gold nuggets, which again ties into the idea of a luxury product.
How do Chinese people consume chocolate?
Taste is one of the key factors to sell high-end chocolate in China. Indeed, it plays the top role for consumers to choose their chocolate, and in the future, Chinese consumers will more and more pay attention to the variety and different tastes.
The brand also became important for Chinese buyers. A large part of imported chocolate is purchased to be offered as a gift or for ceremonial use like wedding candy. For example, half of the top 10 items sold online for Chinese Valentine’s Day are chocolates. Moreover, Chinese consumers are more and more paying attention to health, and foreign chocolate is trusted for containing better ingredients. Therefore, imported chocolates are sold as high-end food products.
Even if some brands still have a high price, high-end chocolate is now a product that most Chinese buyers can afford, and they often choose a product according to its price because it is an important tool to show the product’s value.
A study on the consumption habit of Chinese consumers shown that foreign chocolate brands are more popular than local brands; 32.1% of the chocolate consumers prefer foreign brands and 22.2% prefer Chinese brands.
Chinese consumers favorite chocolate flavors (2019):
- Milk chocolate: 35.8%
- Sandwich chocolate: 22.4%
- Black chocolate: 22.1%
- Original taste chocolate: 11.6%
- Liqueur chocolate: 2.1%
- Other tastes: 4.2%
How to conquer the chocolate market in China?
China has cultural fundamental values about food, this is why you need to adapt to the market.
Given that one of the most efficient strategies to sell a product in China is by using online marketing and branding, you have two ways to promote your chocolate: have a website in Chinese and use Social Networking Sites (SNS). This strategy will allow you to reduce costs, have more precise marketing, have feedback from the market, and have easy reputation control.
Have a website in Chinese
A website in Chinese is necessary to enter a market and realize branding. This is an efficient solution to increase the popularity of your chocolate, influence consumers with content and design, and develop the image of your company in the country. Finally, the promotion of your company’s website by SEO or SEM is essential.
Use Chinese Social Networking Sites (SNS)
Social networks, such as WeChat or Weibo, are used by a large part of the Chinese population. Consequently, the promotion of your chocolate on SNS is important for your company to be known.
With SNS you can build a community, reach your target more precisely, create a friendly company image and get feedback about the brand.
To conclude, it is noticeable that the imported chocolate in the Chinese market has a strong demand and will increase in the future. A large part of consumers buys chocolate for the brand name and its taste. Therefore, it is necessary to adapt your strategy in order to develop your business in China.
If you need help with your implementation of the chocolate market in China, we can offer you professional digital marketing communication and help you to communicate on chine social networks. Do not hesitate to contact us!