The changing tastes of chinese consumers

It’s inevitable, the taste and consumption model of the Chinese people doesn’t stop evolving. How far can this this exploration go? What’s the image of French products in China? A study conducted recently by Ifop among Chinese people aged 20 to 40 living in major cities answers these questions.

Chinese people are experiencing a major shift in their eating habits. They tend to eat more fruits (64%), fresh market products (56%), dairy products (53%) and meat (41%) than 5 years ago, and in Shanghai specifically more prepared foods (38%), a phenomenon that can be associated to the fast paced lifestyle and westernization of the city.

The type of goods consumed are not the only ones to go through a change, the way meals are approached is also “modernizing” as people spend a smaller proportion of their meals with their family (46%) and go more frequently to fast food restaurant (38%) or to restaurant with their colleagues (52%).

A necessary adaptation for foreign brands

Foreign brands are more and more present in supermarkets and they are overall highly welcomed by consumers. The result is that 65% of Chinese consumers admit that they buy more imported food products than five years ago. And this evolution does not seem anywhere near to stop as among all main demographics (male/female, younger/older consumers) a large majority expects to buy even more imported food products in 5 years.

But despite this interest for international brands, local brands are still the favorite ones. Thanks to their visibility and reassuring image German and American brands rank in second and third position respectively. Then how about French products?

A challenge for the French

Proud of their gastronomy, French players in the food industry may be a bit disappointed to see that French brands are merely in fifth position and are therefore facing a real challenge. Some of the specifics of the French food offering are well recognized as France is by far the preferred place of origin for wine, spirits, bread and pastries. But French excellence is not much recognized beyond these product as in other categories products from France tend to rank behind Australian, New Zealander, American, Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese ones. New Zealand and Australia benefit from an image of purity and freshness in the field of dairy products. China leads in people’s mind when it comes to fruits, meat and prepared food. However, meat is also seen as and expertise from the Pacific countries: the US, Australia and Japan. Where have the good milk from Normandie, the melon from Cavaillon or the Charolais meat gone? They just don’t seem to be known enough.

In a country that faced many food and health scandals in recent years, Chinese consumers tend to seek safety, quality and affinity with brands. The origin of the brand is an important contributor to its reputation. As the Made in France values have managed to develop a major space for French brands in the luxury and beauty industries, there are still huge opportunities to grasp in exporting the French food know-how and savoir-vivre to China.

Article written by Stéphane Courqueux – Initially published in French in Connexion magazine