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Exporter Guide: Food and beverage market in Hong Kong

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  • Published: 2013-04-02
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Introduction
Due to limited land resources, Hong Kong relies on imports for over 95 percent of its food supply. The global financial crisis has not had a significant impact on Hong Kong’s food and beverage (F&B) imports – spending on food and growth within the food and grocery category is projected to reach 6.6 percent growth in 2011, moderating to 6.1 percent in 2011.

Due to its central location, free port status and position as a regional purchasing and distribution centre, a significant amount of Hong Kong imports are re-exported.

CONTENTS
1 MARKET STRUCTURE 3
1.1 Market size 3
1.2 Growth rate 4
1.3 Drivers behind growth 4
1.4 Import trends 5
1.5 Key players in the market 7
1.6 Regulatory Information 7
1.7 Sustainability 11
2 MARKET ENTRY AND DEVELOPMENT 13
2.1 Marketing entry strategies 13
2.2 Points of differentiation 13
2.3 Long term strategic issues for exporters to consider 13
3 MARKET RESOURCES AND CONTACTS 14

The Hong Kong food culture is “fresh”. Consumer preference for fresh and live products is due to tradition, as well as concerns about food safety. Overall, wet markets are strong in fresh foods, while supermarkets are strong in processed, chilled and frozen, high added value, and canned food products.

The competition between wet markets and supermarkets has intensified in recent years, with some wet markets turning air-conditioned and provide free shuttle to nearby residential areas.

Hong Kong consumers are price sensitive and not generally brand loyal. They also have a preference for small and convenient packaging. Premium western food products are becoming popular with the younger middle to high income groups.

Hong Kong consumers are also increasingly health conscious. Hong Kong has over 50 small to medium size health food stores. The two leading supermarket chains (Wellcome and ParknShop) and drug store chains (Manning’s and Watson’s) also sell natural / organic products at their outlets.

Organic foods are also gaining popularity as evidenced by the growth of specialised retail outlets for organic foods.

Getting your product into market

Despite a highly centralised supermarket retail network, with two supermarket chains accounting for about 80 percent of the supermarket turnover, the total number of retail establishments stands at approximately 16,557. These retail establishments include:

57 supermarkets and convenience store establishments (the number of supermarkets and convenience stores is about 1,940 if branch outlets are included)
9,010 wet market stalls and superettes.
Alternative options include the Hospital, Restaurant and Institution (HRI) sector. As the Hong Kong economy experiences continued growth, it is expected that restaurant purchases and receipts will grow by 4.3 percent and 5.0 percent, reaching US$3.7 billion and US$10.75 billion respectively in 2010.

Hong Kong has around 760 hotels with a total of 65,386 rooms and according to Hong Kong Tourism Board statistics, tourists spent more than US$1.37 billion on food and beverages in 2009.

Institutions such as schools, hospitals and airlines are serviced by a small number of large catering groups who are generally affiliated with the restaurant sector. The annual cost of Hong Kong’s school lunch programme is estimated at US$250 million. Within the 40 hospitals that operate in Hong Kong, there are approximately 27,117 beds.

There are also three aircraft catering franchisees at the Hong Kong International Airport, each with a 15-year term: Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, and Gate Gourmet.

Marketing

Competition in the food market in Hong Kong is very fierce. New Zealand exporters should provide advertising and promotional assistance to their importers. This is standard practice for the introduction of new F&B products to the Hong Kong market.

Consideration should be given to running free tastings at retail outlets as this is a very effective way to promote new products in Hong Kong.

Effective branding is vital in the Hong Kong market. The most popular grocery product brands are those for which heavy advertising and promotion investment has been made.

Television, radio, magazines, newspaper and signboard are the most popular advertising media used by food companies. However, free tasting at points of sale is still a very effective way to promote food products in Hong Kong, especially for new products.

Regulations

As Hong Kong is a free port, there are no customs tariffs on goods imported into or exported from Hong Kong.

A Food Safety Bill aimed at the compulsory registration of all companies engaged in food importation and distribution is currently being debated by the Hong Kong Legislative Council. The Bill provides for food safety control measures including, among others, a requirement for food traders to maintain proper transaction records to enhance food traceability.

Before enacting the new legislation, the government has launched a pre-statutory voluntary scheme to encourage registration by all importers and distributors of poultry meat and eggs, meat, game meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruit, fish and fishery products and processed food products.

A mandatory nutrition labelling scheme came into force on 1 July 2010. The scheme defines the need for prepackaged food to provide nutrition labels, with standardised format and content.

It requires information on energy and seven specified nutrients, or so called “1+7”, to be listed on food labels. The “1+7” on the nutrition label refers to energy values and the amount of seven specified nutrients, namely: protein , carbohydrates , total fat , saturated fat , transfat , sodium and sugars.

 
 
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