China Imported Food Tracker - Wave 2
Evelyn Chang, Insights Specialist China
The most recent results from Bord Bia’s China Imported Food Tracker shows that Chinese consumers may be slowly restoring their appetite for imported foods, an improvement compared to 2020.
The demand for imported foods, particularly those related to cold-chain, took a strong hit in the second half of 2020, as the Chinese authorities reported a series of incidents where the trace of the coronavirus was found on the outer package or environment related to imported foods. The first case emerged in June when a local cluster of Covid-19 in Beijing was reportedly linked to cutting boards used to process imported Norwegian salmon. According to the local media, Chinese authorities reported more than 30 incidents in about 16 provinces and regions in the second half of 2020, and the contaminated food samples include seafood, meat, dairy, poultry, and fruits. While health experts from both local and overseas reiterate the likelihood of infecting Covid-19 from handling food packages is “extremely low,” anxious Chinese consumers decided to play safe and cut back their consumption on imported foods.
A China Imported Food Tracker was thus called for to understand and monitor Chinese consumers’ sentiments towards imported foods and to help Irish food exporters better position themselves in this unique market. The study is an online survey, conducted on a monthly basis, with a sample size of 1,000 respondents across China’s Tier-1 to Tier-3 cities.
The latest survey (Wave 2), which was conducted in April 2021, found that 79% of Chinese consumers have changed their consumption of imported food because of Covid, including 26% of respondents saying Covid has impacted on their consumption on both cold-chain and non-cold-chain foods. Although the proportion seems surprisingly high, it was an improvement compared to last month, where 34% of respondents felt the same (Bord Bia, 2021).
It is noteworthy that the image of Ireland as a food origin was unharmed in the midst of this confidence crisis, as only 7.6% of respondents would avoid buying Irish food products. Countries associated with ineffective control of the pandemic, such as the US and Brazil, are facing higher rejection rate, with 32.5% and 16.7%, respectively (Bord Bia, 2021).
With Chinese authorities implementing more strict traceability requirements for all chilled imported foods, and campaigns for Covid-19 vaccines being rolled-out across the country, the market demand is expected to gradually bounce back.
One thing Irish food exporters should keep in mind is that although the demand for imported food may be thawing, over 70% of Chinese consumer’s surveyed still need reassurance from the Chinese government as well as the exporting country, in the form of inspection certificates, to help restore their confidence in purchasing from international food and drink brands (Bord Bia, 2021).
If you would like to receive more details of the China Imported Food Tracker, please feel free to contact Bord Bia’s Thinking House.
Bord Bia. (2021). China Imported Food Tracker (Wave 2).