If you’re a chocolate maker looking to break into the Chinese market, this blog post is for you! We’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of how to start selling your chocolates in the China F&b market, from initial inquiries to final delivery. Keep reading for helpful tips and advice on how to make the most of this growing market!
Before you Sell chocolate in China, Understand the Market
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 in the region to satisfy their customers’ needs.
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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 are more inclined to discover 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 to 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.
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 the 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 a 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 showed that foreign chocolate brands are more popular than local brands; 32.1% of the chocolate ” href=”http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-08/06/content_15647117.htm”>consumers prefer foreign brands and 22.2% prefer Chinese brands.
Chinese consumer’s 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, sell on Chinese eCommerce platforms, 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.
How to Sell Chocolate in China
There are a few different ways to sell chocolate in China. One way is to set up a traditional store that sells chocolate and other sweets. Another option is distribution. Alternatively, it’s also possible to sell chocolate online.
They each have their benefits and downsides.
Sell chocolate in china in a brick-and-mortar store:
On the plus side, brick-and-mortar stores can give your brand more exposure since they tend to be located in high-traffic areas. This means that more people will see your products and potentially become customers. Additionally, customers can actually try your product before they buy it, which can help increase sales. And finally, having a physical presence in China can make your brand seem more legitimate and trustworthy to Chinese consumers.
However, there are also some drawbacks to consider. First of all, setting up and running a brick-and-mortar store is generally quite expensive. You’ll need to find the right location, hire and train workers, and get a license for this and that. Definitely a process that is more complicated than distribution and e-commerce.
Sell chocolate in china through wholesales distribution:
On the plus side, selling through wholesalers can help you reach a larger audience than if you were to sell directly to retail outlets or online. Wholesale distributors typically have existing relationships with stores and other retailers, so they can help get your products in front of potential customers that you might not otherwise reach. In addition, working with a wholesaler usually means that you’ll have less paperwork and red tape to deal with than if you were selling direct-to-consumer.
On the downside, selling through a distributor means that you’ll have less control over how your products are presented, your pricing, and even your branding. You also are totally dependent on the goodwill of your Chinese partner.
Sell chocolate in china through e-commerce:
On the pro side, you can reach a large number of consumers who might not have access to your product otherwise. Additionally, you can build a strong relationship with your customers by providing excellent customer service. Plus, if you go for cross-border e-commerce, you can try out the market without investing heavily since you won’t need a Chinese business license.
On the con side, you may experience high competition from other sellers and may not be able to differentiate your product enough from others. Additionally, you will need to invest in marketing and promotion in order to be successful in this market (but that is true for the two other methods!).
PS: you can absolutely go for a mix of the 3 selling channels!
Promote your chocolate brand in china
This step is essential to success in China. It does not matter how you plan to distribute in China, you need branding and promotion. A lot of our readers don’t believe in branding and want to jump right away to find a Chinese distributor. Truth is, without branding or the right network, your chances to find a selling agent in China are extremely low.
Here are a few things you can do to help your chocolate brand gain notoriety in China:
Develop a website in Chinese for your chocolate brand
Maintaining a website that is accessible to Chinese consumers is critical for brands looking to do business in China. Brands need to have a website that is designed for Chinese consumers and can meet their unique needs and preferences. Creating a Chinese website will help you reach this important market and maximize your potential sales in China.
Having a Chinese website also helps brands to better understand the needs and preferences of Chinese consumers. By studying consumer behavior on their localized website, brands can gain valuable insights into what products and services resonate most with Chinese consumers and how they can improve their overall marketing strategy to better appeal to the China market.
Give you Chocolate Brand visibility in the Chinese Market with Baidu SEO & SEM
Finally and most importantly, with Chinese, you can run SEO/SEM campaigns on China search engines, the most popular one being Baidu. This means, that if you want your brand to be seen by Chinese consumers, you need to have a strong presence on Baidu. Baidu has different search engine algorithms than Google and other Western search engines.
This means that if you want your brand to rank well on Baidu, you’ll need to specifically optimize your website and content for the Chinese market. And third, Chinese consumers are more likely to turn to Baidu for product research than they are to use google.
Here are some tips:
- Research your competition and use their keywords in your own campaign.
- Use negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant searches.
- Target long-tail keywords to get more specific traffic that is more likely to convert.
- Make sure your website is optimized for Chinese search engines.
- Monitor your results and make changes as needed to improve performance.
Chinese Social Networking Sites (SNS) to build brand Awareness
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.
There are many social media platforms in China, but the most popular ones for promoting a chocolate brand would be WeChat and Sina Weibo. Both platforms have a huge user base, and they offer businesses a way to reach out to potential customers directly.
- On WeChat, you can create a promotional campaign or start a WeChat Store where people can buy your chocolates online.
- You can also advertise your chocolates on Sina Weibo by creating posts with images and creative text. Hashtags are also a great way to get your chocolates noticed on both platforms.
However, if Wechat and Weibo are your base, you should definitely consider short video marketing on Douyin or Kuaishou, social e-commerce and Kol marketing on Little red book, run native ads on Bilibili and Youku, and build strong users profile for undercover marketing on Chinese forums such as Zhihu and so on.
Here are some musts when doing social media marketing in China
- Establish a social media presence in China early on and make sure to have a Chinese-speaking team to manage your accounts.
- Official accounts are key for credibility but also to access every Chinese social media marketing tools box
- Make sure to comply with China’s censorship laws and regulations.
- Create localized content that resonates with Chinese audiences.
- Use WeChat to nurture your followers base and build loyalty and not as a platform to gain visibility
- Experiment with different marketing strategies to see what works best for you.
- Make full use of user-generated content
Sell Chocolate in China: We can help you
To conclude, it is noticeable that 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!