Consumer Food Trends in China

Explore how food and beverage categories in China are developing

June 6, 2024 – Consumers in China exhibit unique attitudes and interests towards food and beverage. Through Innova’s consumer food trend research, each category within the Chinese market has been extensively analyzed, revealing key purchasing trends, and influential factors driving consumer interest.

Consumer Food Trends: Beverages

Chinese consumer food trend research indicates a general increased consumption of alcohol within the past year. 10% of consumers increased their beer intake, 14% increased cider intake, 2% increased hard alcohol intake, and 9% increased wine intake. Additionally, 22% of Chinese consumers increased their premixed cocktails intake, over-indexing on premixed cocktail penetration compared to global consumers.

A variety of factors impact the increased consumption of alcohol. Changing lifestyle needs, budget, increased promotional activity, and changing taste preferences are all top-cited attributes. Taste is also a key attribute, with consumers desiring premium products. Furthermore, claims of premium, natural or real ingredients, and indulgent qualities help drive purchases.

In the soft drinks subcategory, bottled water and iced coffee saw the most substantial increases in consumption. The demand for bottled water is partially driven by its healthy image. Additionally, product safety, natural, sugar reduction, and vitamin or mineral fortified are important positionings within the subcategory. In every soft drink subcategory, taste is the most important purchasing factor.

In hot coffee and tea, consumer food trend research reveals that taste is the top purchasing driver, but health properties are also important. Chinese consumers consider health aspects as the second most important purchasing motivator, much higher than the global average value of health aspects in the subcategory.

Everyday Staple Preferences for Chinese Consumers

With a penetration rate of 57%, Chinese consumers purchased bread significantly less than most other countries – the global average is 78%. However, one in four claim to be increasing their consumption, with health and increased novelty and variety being key factors. Reduced sugar is another key motivator for purchasing, as is product safety and natural claims. With cereal, penetration is lower than the global average, but not by a wide margin. Health aspects are the most important attribute for Chinese consumers, even over taste.

Demand has increased for all dairy categories in China, including cheese, milk, and yogurt. Product safety is the most influential factor across all types of dairy purchases. Health aspects are also a key driver for Chinese consumers, especially relating to protein. Sugar reduction is more important for yogurt consumers, and in milk, functional ingredients are valued.

One in five Chinese consumers are increasing their intake of fish, meat, and poultry. Health and freshness claims drive consumption, with over half of consumers citing freshness as the most important aspect. Health is also a key factor for those increasing consumption. Safe, natural, and local are the top concerns towards fish and seafood products.

Consumer Food Trends in China

Consumer Meal Preparation Trends

Almost one third of Chinese consumers are increasing their intake of meal prep solutions, with bouillons and sweet spreads seeing the highest net gain. Increased novelty and variety are driving consumer purchases of bouillons and seasonings, sauces, and dips. Product safety and natural claims are also valued.

In savory and sweet spreads, natural claims sway consumers, as well as real ingredients, non-GMO, and no artificial flavors and colors.

Consumer food trends research also reveals that for ready meals, premium and fat reduced claims are appealing.

Consumer Food Trends: Snacks and Treats

In terms of penetration, Chinese consumers under-index the global average of snacks and sweet treats consumption. Taste is the strongest driver of snack and treat purchases, except for in the cakes subcategory, where freshness ranks higher. For all subcategories, product safety and natural or real ingredient claims are most influential, but health is additionally important, especially sugar reduction and protein claims. Increased novelty and variety is another key consumption driver.

Interestingly, “because it’s healthy” is the top reason cited for why consumers were increasing their intake of cereal and energy bars. In general, Chinese snackers see more value in treats as vehicles for added health, compared to the global average.

Consumer Plant-Based and Special Diet Trends

Chinese consumers increased their purchases of meat replacements more than the global average. In dairy alternatives, cheese and yogurt over-indexed on penetration, and in sports nutrition, Chinese consumers purchased more than the average.

A variety of factors drive increased consumption of meat and dairy alternatives. Health, promotional activity, increased variety and novelty, and more awareness of brands all contribute to increased uptake. Functional ingredients are key in non-dairy milk and yogurt, while fat reduction is influential in plant-based cheese. In meat substitutes, consumers are influenced by protein claims.

For sports and functional nutrition products, increased purchases are being driven by increased exercise and health consciousness of consumers. Product safety is the most important claim, followed by functional ingredients, natural claims, and sugar reduction.

What’s Next in Consumer Food Trends in China?

Health is an important driver within Chinese consumer food trends. Health aspects often rank as a top attribute, and consumers prize these above qualities such as taste and costs across many categories. Functional ingredients are notably valued, so brands can consider how adding these can broaden product appeal.

Natural formulations are also popular with Chinese consumers. Companies can strive for simple, “cleaner” formulations in their products. Sustainability and environmental claims can also be utilized further, with Chinese consumers more receptive than average towards these positionings.

Finally, traditional claims add value to products for consumers, but they are also swayed by variety and novelty. In response, brands can explore mixing the old with the new. For example, in the plant-based category, soy and other bean products are well-established and accepted in the country, but there are opportunities for a fresh take on flavors and novelty.


This article is based on our report, “Consumer Insider: Category Growth Drivers in China.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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