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Organic Food Exhibition|How Popular Are Organic Products In China?

2024.06.14

Organic Food Exhibition illustrates that the perception of terms like ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘bio’ is different in China. People in the West are already used to natural ingredients and have a clear understanding of what is considered organic. Those products are also well defined and described, with organic certification always added to the label.

 

In general, Chinese consumers are more pragmatic in using the term ‘natural’ because the concept is wider; basically, whatever is naturally grown is perceived to be healthy and organic, without the need for special labels or government regulations.

 

Regardless of naming or certification, the desire for these products is growing as a part of a wider trend of better awareness of healthy diets and concerns about food safety. According to a report released by the State Administration for Market Regulation, in 2021, sales of organic products in China reached US$ 14.2 billion, an increase of 18.3% over 2020, ranking it fourth in the world.

 

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of people buying organic food at Hema Fresh (a brick-and-mortar grocery outlet owned by Internet giant Alibaba) quadrupled, with a penetration rate of nearly 30%. Many customers start by buying organic vegetables and gradually expand to various organic foods and products, among which female consumers with children are the main buying group.

 

Looking at the evolution of the market, organic food in China has huge potential in international and domestic markets according to Organic Food Exhibition.

 

Organic agriculture in China:

China is one of the world’s largest agriculture producers and consumers of agricultural products. Agriculture is one of the country’s most important economic sectors, employing over 295 million farm workers.

 

China is the world’s biggest producer of rice and an important source of wheat, corn, tobacco, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, dairy, millet, barley, oilseed, pork and fish, which provide the country with a small portion of its foreign trade revenue.

 

More than 2.95 million hectares of land were farmed organically by the end of 2022 in China. Organic crops are usually cultivated naturally with manure or compost and treated only with natural pesticides and insecticides.

 

There are three main organic food production models in China. In the first, a big company leases land from a farmer and pays them. The second model is that under the permission of local governments, big companies sign an organic food production contract with farmers. The third one is organic producer associations. Farmers set up an association by themselves to conduct large-scale organic food production.

 

What kinds of organic food products are popular in China?

Organic formula and other baby food products are increasingly in demand. Several food scandals have had an impact on this change in buying habits, including melamine-contaminated milk in 2008, which sickened 300,000 children. Online retail platform JD – China’s second largest e-commerce platform behind Alibaba – reports that sales of organic infant food supplements grew 6.6% in 2019 and 11.2% in 2020.

 

For foreign brands, there is a real opportunity to import their products and establish themselves in China by meeting the specific expectations of this market, especially as they are seen as exemplary from a health point of view.

 

Similarly, the organic dairy industry in China has been growing steadily in recent years, driven by increasing demand for healthy and safe food products. The increasing demand for organic dairy products in China can be attributed to several factors, including rising awareness of the use of fertilisers, pesticides, and bovine growth hormones in conventional dairy farming practices, which has led consumers to opt for healthier options.

 

Organic dairy products are thought to have higher levels of beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

 

Dairy aside, organic fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood have all experienced significant growth in recent years due to increasing demand for healthy and safe food. There is also a rising awareness of environmental sustainability and animal welfare concerns among consumers. Organic fruits and vegetables are particularly popular, accounting for over 70% of the market share.

 

In general, Organic Food Exhibition points out that consumers are willing to pay a premium for organic products that are free from harmful pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilisers. The Chinese government has been promoting the industry’s development by providing subsidies for organic farming and encouraging sustainable agriculture practices.

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