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Cross-Cultural Influences: Foreign Food in China Is The Trend

Since 2008, the imported food market has been flourishing in China. What Chinese people can now found in the supermarket a huge selection of foreign items and brands, such as chips, sushi, and biscuit. In comparison, Chinese traditional food is declining.

Cross-Cultural Influences of foreign food in China 

Online Community in ChinaThe advent of foreign cultures, e-commerce platform, and tourism boom promote and influence gradually, the food choices in China. On one hand, more and more multinational companies have settled in first-tier cities in China, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, strengthening the ties and communication between foreigners and Chinese. Besides, the “intrusion” of foreign advertisements, TV programs and movies has introduced their local culture and food into China. On the other hand, Chinese people are also making active efforts to understand foreign cultures. Tourism boom emerged several years ago, the heat of which continues. The number of people traveling abroad in 2015 has amounted to 100 million and is expected to surge in the future. Moreover, the e-commerce platform in China has grown drastically in the past few years, the number of which has reached over 5000. The newly developing platforms like Tmall and Yihaodian, make it easier for consumers to buy foreign products. All these play a role in shortening the distance between Chinese and foreign cultures and influencing the food choice in China.

In the meantime, other problems in China are also minor factors for the change of people’s food choice. In the last several years, food safety problems in China were not controlled adequately. For instance, the consumers found insects or even Band-Aid in rice dumplings from Sinian (a famous rice dumpling brand), harming the brand’s image or even the whole market.

Change and Trend in Food Choices in China

Foreign Food in ChinaThe introduction of foreign brands propels people to choose food made in other countries. The net import volume has increased 2.3 folds for the last five years. In supermarkets like Wal-Mart and Carrefour, most of them have set imported food areas where the food comes from Italy, France, Japan, the United States or Britain. The main products imported from other countries are protein products, including oil, meat, dairy food and grains. In meat market, imported amount of meat, including beef, pork, and mutton, increased at a rate of over 40% on average. Compared with protein products, non-protein products expand even more rapidly, among which are vegetables, fruits, and sugar. They rose at the rate of 27% on average. All of those products are available locally, but they still gain popularity from foreign countries. For the same product, such as honey, the consumers are prone to choose the foreign ones like Comvita honey for their higher quality, with a more delicate packaging or for being more nutritious compared to the domestic ones.

The “intruding” foreign cultures lead Chinese people to choose foreign style food rather than traditional food. Different countries have their own characteristics of food. For example, France is famous for its champagne and wine, Belgium for its chocolates and Japan for its snacks and sushi. The advent of TV programs and advertisements presents Chinese people with lures of foreign-style food. Traditional Chinese food may include rice, spring rolls or rice dumplings. But the advent of foreign-style food has sped up the declination of traditional food, and the phenomenon has already existed for a long time. Now people prefer French fries, sandwiches, and coffee. It is estimated that fast food market gained the revenue of over 300 billion RMB in 2015. Fast food branch like Burger King, KFC, and McDonald is already constituting a big part of the market.

Processed food Industry in ChinaAlthough foreign food is catching people’s eyes, consumers still make choices in the foreign food market. For example, although food from Japan, Korea, Europe, and America has composed the market altogether, Chinese consumers have a preference even among these countries. As neighbor countries, Japan and Korea produce a lot of diet food, with similarity with China regarding the flavor’s choice. As a result, the food from the two countries is more appealing to Chinese customers. In comparison, snacks from Great Britain or America may be trendy and popular for locals, but that food might be too salty or sweet for Chinese’s dietary habits. Foreign brands have to be aware of the Chinese taste and habits, in order to do food adaptation, indeed, famous brands like Lay’s is proposing specific versions of its chips which have been processed for Chinese’s flavors.

It is estimated that China will become the largest imported food consuming country, the market scale of which will amount to 480 billion RMB. Although with the new tax policy that was issued in April from the Chinese customs, a trend for cross-border online shopping, either through e-commerce platform or purchasing agent, will be flourishing. In summary, foreign food will still be a trend among Chinese costumes.

How Daxue helps its clients

Flavor adaptation is a key element for a specific market such as mainland China. Foreign brands need to adapt to the local tastes but also to the attitudes and values of the local costumers. Chinese customers are evolving over time due to the globalization, it is, therefore, compulsory for a brand while expanding its business to China to adapt its products, regarding the point of sales, the packaging, the texture of the food, the aspect of it etc… Daxue Consulting has conducted several focus groups and market survey for the Food & Beverages Industry.


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