China is not only one of the fastest growing F&B markets in Asia, but has recently become the world’s largest consumer market for food and beverage. With a population of over 1.3 billion, consumer expenditure for F&B products in 2020 has surpassed US$1 trillion.

With the sharp rise in living standard, greater exposure to diversity of products and easier access to local and imported goods, consumption patterns in China have changed significantly. Chinese consumers are extremely discerning, and pay increasing attention to food safety, country of origin, nutritional value, variety, convenience and freshness.


While numbers and trends are good reasons to look at China as an ideal export destination for F&B products and related technology, many of the opportunities offered by the Chinese market entail considerable risks.

The growth of disposable income is occurring not only in big cities or coastal areas, but also in second tier markets and inner provinces. China’s large population and vast area mean differing palates and consumption habits from region to region. The mere size of the country also affects distribution, monitoring and managing the sales channels.

New stringent food safety laws have come into force recently. While these regulations go in the right direction and aim at creating a safer market for consumers, they also make market access more complicated, and increase the risks of product recall and fines.

With the market becoming more and more appetizing for foreign companies, competition is now fierce in certain sectors. Defining the right market entry strategy in the short-term, committing energy and resources in the medium-term and ensuring a fruitful cooperation with local partners in the long-term have become harder and harder.

China’s opening up and its integration into the world’s economy have created somehow the illusion that applying the universal rules of good business sense is enough to conduct business in China. In fact, cultural differences remain and run deep in the economy and the society, affecting every aspect of the business, from daily operations to strategy.


Any serious player in the F&B industry cannot neglect the great potential of the Chinese market. The F&B industry as a whole, both in China and abroad, from products to services, from equipment to technologies, cannot but gain from China’s growth. As foreign companies enter the Chinese market and Chinese investors look overseas for expansion, expert advice and targeted support can often ensure that market opportunities are turned into profit for businesses and into value for consumers.