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SIAL|China Becomes the Largest Food Importer with More Personalized and Diversified Demand

2024.02.29

How many kinds of imported food can be found on the shelves of a supermarket? ow many imported ingredients may be needed by the average urban family from three meals a day to fruits and snacks? SIAL believes the answer may be more than expected.

Today, with a richer market supply, it is common for consumers to buy imported food. For example, according to Chinese retailer Freshippo, its consumers ate 2 million imported Boston lobsters from Canada and nearly 20 million Thai coconut greens in just one year. With positive market feedback, Freshippo added 50% new imported goods in that year. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), China has become the world's largest food importer.

On the one hand, the total demand for imported food has increased; on the other hand, the demand is more personalized and diversified. In the words of industry insiders, Chinese consumers are "becoming more professional", constantly putting forward new requirements for the supply of imported food.

As imported food goes deeper in the Chinese market, more and more customized flavors are created to meet the new needs of Chinese consumers.

Take Thai coconut green as an example, mature coconut green is transported from the tree to the factory, dock, and then through the shipment, all the way non-stop until its arrival in China. This is followed by a process of careful customization. On the retail end, for example, in Freshippo stores, there are opened chilled coconuts in summer, base for coconut chicken hot pot in winter, and specialty items such as coconut water, coconut milk, and raw coconut lattes available in all seasons.

Through the analysis of more than 300 million Tmall Supermarket customers, SIAL found that Chinese consumers do present different characteristics from the past, they are more health-seeking, valuing the nutrition and functionality of food, favoring the changes brought by cutting-edge technology, appreciating the original flavour of the food, and at the same time more environmentally friendly.

For example, today's consumers are more concerned about whether the food production formula is clean, and tend to choose additive-free, low-sugar, low-fat and low-calorie products. They value the intake of natural nutrients and ingredients; at the same time, consumers are more inclusive of diversified tastes, and commodities that can show 100% of the unique local flavors are more popular among consumers.

Policy support is continuously boosting imports. As China continues to open up, import "list" of food types continue to lengthen; with a series of measures such as appointment clearance and instant inspection, the "waiting" time of foods continues to be compressed. According to industry insiders, for imported food to arrive the country from its country of origin, it takes three or four months of preparation in the past. Now the time is basically shortened by half, and can be more flexible to respond to a variety of business needs.

SIAL believes that the scale of food imports to China will further expand and the list of trade partners will continue to increase, not only to meet the escalating food demand of Chinese consumers, but also to inject impetus to the dynamic development of the trade into the global agricultural market.

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