Chinese Consumers' Tastes Are Changing

CHINA - As the living standards of China's more than 1.3 billion inhabitants continue to rise, so does the country's demand for meat products, according to a new Rabobank report.
calendar icon 24 January 2014
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Consumers' tastes are changing, though, with poultry, beef and sheep meat becoming more popular, while pork’s share decreases, as consumers focus more on nutrition and food safety. This could bode well for meat producers willing to seize opportunities.

Growth Potential

According to Rabobank, while meat consumption in China is still rising, growth rates have dropped markedly since the 1990s. Today, growth is at a steady two per cent or so per year. However, the vastness of the Chinese market means that there is still a great deal of potential, with market growth shifting from purely volume to both volume and value growth.

According to a new report by Rabobank – A Glimpse at China's Meat Consumption: What is Changing? – supply volume growth is expected to maintain a two per cent growth rate over the coming decade. Market value, however, will see much faster growth, with an estimated annual rate of ten per cent during the same period, due to growing consumer affluence and a desire for safer, premium meat items.

Changing Tastes

Along with rising incomes, Chinese consumption patterns are changing, says report author Chenjun Pan. “Pork’s share of total meat consumption has decreased from 80 per cent in 1985 to 65 per cent in 2011, while the shares of beef, sheep meat and poultry have increased as these meats offer an alternative flavour and attractive value relative to pork, while also adding variety to Chinese consumers’ diets.

Beef and sheep meat are perceived as being more nutritious and have a ‘greener’ or safer reputation compared to pork due to different feeding methods. Poultry, meanwhile, is more popular in quick-service restaurants, which are growing rapidly in China.

Moreover, processed meats, such as ham and sausage, are serving as a replacement in traditional home-cooked dishes due to faster-paced lifestyles. The change in the diversity of meat consumption in China reflects the increasing demand for greater added value, variety and more health attributes.”


Chinese consumers have traditionally bought their meat from wet markets, which sell meat 'hot' (very recently slaughtered). However, things are changing. Urban consumers are increasingly purchasing perishable foods from supermarkets due to food safety concerns.

Despite this, wet markets still have many advantages, including lower pricing, greater variety and fresher products. In addition to the growth in supermarket sales, the retail channels of online and telephone shopping are also emerging in China.

According to Chenjun Pan, while increased meat sales through supermarkets will likely be an ongoing trend due to its perceived better traceability, she does not expect wet markets to be replaced in the foreseeable future, given the improvements and advantages mentioned above. Looking ahead, Pan believes the Chinese market also offers great potential for value-added meat products.

Mr Pan said: “This will benefit meat players who are aware that consumption patterns are shifting from basic needs to greater added value, variety and health attributes. They are in a position to offer such products or can adjust their product strategy to meet emerging demands.”

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