Chinese food market will grow “more than any other market on earth”

With the Chinese food market expected to grow by more than $300 billion by 2020, opportunities abound, reports Michael Jones

According to Michael Schaefer, international global food and beverage lead at Euromonitor, $26 trillion was spent in the global foodservice industry in 2015.

Schaefer, speaking at the National Restaurant Association meeting at NRA Show 2016 in Chicago, Illinois, last week, said that, from that total, only 20% of global food sales are now coming from within the US.

Of the remaining 80%, southeast Asia and China in particular make up the biggest constituent part of those sales. In the next four years, says Schaefer, the Chinese food market alone is expected to grow by more than $300 billion, “more than any other market on earth.”

Much of that growth will come from fast food-oriented operations and, while China remains primed for investment opportunities, Schaefer indicated that the Middle East, Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam were all worthy of attention from canny investors.

Schaefer did, however, exercise caution for Western brands and restaurant chains looking to steal a march on their competitors in Asia. He emphasised the Asian market is already especially fragmented, with a much larger emphasis on street vendors, kiosks and “rolling restaurateurs” compared to the West so the region therefore requires significant due diligence before entry.

It’s not only the quick service sector that is growing in Asia either. According to a recent study from China Market Research (CMR) Group, China witnessed 87% growth in casual dining between 2009 and 2013. Melody Kong from CMR Group recently told Ali Group’s Aliworld magazine that “consumers have higher demands on casual dining than a couple of years ago in terms of food quality, restaurant atmosphere and service.” She identified key players as being “mainly international chains, such as Pizza Hut, or domestic chains including Bi Feng Tang (Cantonese) and Babels’ Kitchen (Italian).”

There are, says Kong, plenty of opportunities for Western brands to capitalise on in China, “provided they offer high-quality, specialised food and top service.” That view is endorsed by David Henkes senior principle at sector analysts Technomic, who believes established chains “have to offer an experience consumers can’t get anywhere else.”

Michael Jones

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