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04/05/2016

Spain gains a foothold in China

  • Spanish food and beverage exports to China expanded by 58% in 2015
  • Meat and pork offal, olive oil and wine are the most popular Spanish products

Manel González. Journalist

Spanish food and beverages have become very popular among Chinese consumers. This is evidenced by China's foreign trade data for 2015, which has been analyzed by Spain's Economic and Commercial Office in Beijing and reflect unmistakable growth of agri-food exports to China. Specifically, food and beverage exports to China amounted to 789.9 million euros in 2015, rocketing 58% in year-on-year terms.

This reinforces China's leading position among those countries where Spain exports most of its food and beverages, ranking third after France and Germany.

According to the Economic and Commercial Office in Beijing, this situation is attributable to depreciation of the euro in 2014, greater purchasing power by the new middle class in China, the uptick in consumption of imported products, such as dairy, meat, fruit, wine and beer, and, of course, the increasing quality of Spanish exports.

"The Chinese market for food and beverage imports is supported by a growing and thriving middle class, comprising more than 300 million young people with income and a desire to buy Western products that guarantee both health and social prestige. This profile of the average Chinese consumer ensures continuity of the business for those Spanish companies and products that know how to position themselves well in this market", Ernesto Ríos, Commercial Counselor at the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, told WikiSpanishFood.com. "Our food and beverage exports to China have increased tenfold in the last seven years, increasing from 80 to 800 million euros between 2008 and 2015".

The three top products

Of all of the Spanish food products exported to China, three categories stand out in particular: meat and pork offal, olive oil and wine. They accounted for 78.3% of all of Spain's food and beverage exports to China in 2015.

Spanish pork exports to China totaled 379.6 million euros in 2015, up 63% with respect to 2014. Pork is clearly spearheading Spanish food exports to the China, as it accounts for 48% of the total. In terms of volume, exports amounted to 246,000 tons, i.e. 66,000 more than in 2014, at 1.54 euros/kilo. According to Spain's Economic and Commercial Office in Beijing, these figures have increased tenfold in the last four years.

Broadly speaking, China imported 2.8 billion euros of meat and pork offal last year. Spain ranked third, accounting for 13.5% of that amount, on the heels of Germany and the US.

This demand also "removes the financial burden" weighing on Spanish slaughterhouses due to scant sales of pork offal in Spain and Europe, especially considering the Russian ban in 2014 and Spanish pork's low prices in Europe.

The second top Spanish food product heading to China is olive oil, for which exports jumped 71% with respect to 2014. Exports in terms of value reached 122.1 million euros, and volume amounted to 25,000 tons. As for market share, Spain accounts for 75%, far outstripping Italy (12%) and Greece (3.5%).

The Office also notes the rise in prices due to the scant harvest for the production of olive oil in 2014/15 at global level, which enabled Spanish companies to increase that market share ten percentage points due to the increase in average imports (from 3.3 to 4.3 euros/liter). This situation also favored an increase in exports of Spanish olive pomace oil by 50%, to 4,400 tons.

Exports of Spanish wines to China increased in 2015, by 40% in year-on-year terms, amounting to 117 million euros, of which 90% correspond to bottled wine. The trend has changed in recent years; until 2008, most of Chinese wine imports were bulk wine. Now, however, we're seeing a shift towards consumption of better quality products by the Chinese middle class.

Exports of bottled wine increased by 60% in terms of volume last year, to 545,000 hl, at 1.86 euros/liter. Bulk wine exports (205,000 hl) exceeded 9.8 million.

It's also worth noting that sales of sparkling wine (+18%) increased, yielding 6 million euros, at 2.18 euros/liter.

Not just pork, olive oil and wine

Other Spanish food exports to China also increased notably in 2015. Beer stands out in particular (+235%, 35 million euros), making Spain the third-largest exporter to China, trailing Germany and the Netherlands and having surpassed Mexico, Belgium and France.

Baby food also performed notably (+55%, 30.9 million euros), ranking fifth in terms of Spanish exports to China.

Products such as UHT and condensed milk (+230%, 3.9 million euros) and fresh oranges and grapefruit (+228%, 3.6 million euros) performed extremely well, and are now among the most exported foods to China.

SIAL CHINA 2016

The largest international food and beverage trade fair in China held in Shanghai, from May 5th to the 7th, the main goal of which is to promote large scale retail and the HoReCa channel.

"Participation in SIAL CHINA is fundamental for Spanish food and beverage companies, first to strengthen the position Spanish products have attained in China in recent years, and second to steal market share from our rivals which, given the popularity of our products among Chinese consumers, is very much a possibility", says Ríos.

There were 2,734 exhibitors from 61 countries and regions at the 2015 edition, of which 54 were Spanish companies.

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