Snack makers eye crispy Chinese market; more forays expected
Release time:2023-01-13

By WANG YING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-13 09:26

After more than four decades of development, China's snacks have formed a market of over 800 billion yuan ($118.3 billion) as of 2021. It is projected to cross the mark of 1 trillion yuan by 2025 and further double in scale in another decade, a report suggested.

In the past five years, the Chinese snack food industry has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 6 percent, said Wang Chongyang, founding partner of Doc&Doc Strategy Consulting, a Shanghai-based consulting firm.

"We forecast the Chinese snack market to expand to 2 trillion yuan in the forthcoming 10 years through 2035," Wang said, citing a joint report by Doc&Doc Strategy Consulting and the industrial research institute of the 21st Century Business Herald.

According to Wang, by analyzing the dietary habits and consumption preferences of the Chinese people and foreign consumers, their research discovered that there is a huge gap in snack consumption per person in China compared with their counterparts in Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Due to their varied eating habits, merely 7 kilograms of snacks are consumed per person per year in China, which is less than half that of Japan (18 kg), one-fifth of the UK(36 kg) and about one-sixth of the US (42 kg), according to the research data.

In the meantime, the proportion of snack consumption per person in Chinese per capita disposable income is also far below their international peers.

"Currently, innovation is the key to surviving fierce competition and succeeding. It is important to grasp the market trend, which is healthy," said Wang.

Italian confectionery maker Ferrero made a foray into the dark chocolate segment last year, a particularly dynamic and promising segment of the China market.

"China represents a strategic pillar of Ferrero Group's growth. We have the vision to become one of the leaders of the sweet packaged food arena in China," said Mauro De Felip, general manager of Ferrero China.

According to De Felip, China is the second-largest sweet packaged food market worldwide after the US, with a market value of more than 40 billion euros ($43 billion).

"The middle-income group in China is expanding and will continue to grow more and more in the years to come. For us, and other companies like us, it is not an option but an obligation. We must grab the opportunity to take over in the future," De Felip added.

While enjoying the sector's explosive growth, various categories of snacks are expected to see differentiated outlooks, the report added.

Candies, chocolates and preserved fruits are currently taking up the greatest market share with a 4.4 percent CAGR, and the segment saw its sales revenue rise from 151 billion yuan in 2015 to 187.2 billion yuan in 2020, and may form a market scale of 221.6 billion yuan by 2025.

As Chinese consumers are pursuing healthier lifestyles, sweets brands that are launching low-sugar or even no-sugar products are winning more favor among consumers, Wang suggested.

For example, Coca-Cola's sales volume across China saw a 28 percent year-on-year growth in the 10 months between January and October 2022, while sugar-free Cola reported a growth of 132 percent during the same period, according to data from Chinese food delivery company Meituan.

Known for rich nutrition, nuts are widely regarded as the most healthy between-meal snacks, and along with Chinese people's rising awareness of eating healthily, this specific category has seen its market scale expand rapidly from 95.4 billion yuan in 2015 to 141.5 billion yuan in 2020 at a CAGR of 8.2 percent, possibly reaching a sales revenue of 217.3 billion yuan by 2025, the report added.

Although China has become the world's third-largest nuts market after the EU and the US, the average consumption per person in China is even lower than the global average.

For example, the Chinese people on average consume 30 grams of almonds per year, much lower than the global average of 170 grams, 260 grams in Japan, and 1,070 grams in the US, the report added.

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