Australia enjoys a reputation for high-quality FMCG products as a result of our “clean and green” environment, our high regulatory standards and a strong commitment to quality control. However, it’s clear from recent research that “clean and green” is no longer a competitive advantage in China, and in fact it’s become a baseline requirement for any product manufacturer or brand from any country looking to enter the China market”. 

It seems to me that we need to work a bit harder to articulate the “Made in Australia” value proposition and also strengthen relationships on the ground in China (employees, partners, investors, distributors, Government connections etc.) to protect and promote our brands in a competitive, complex and fast-changing environment. 

Here are three areas which now require your attention:

1. Brand story

With thousands of years of chinese history behind them, it’s hard to impress the chinese when it comes to building your long term brand story, but it’s definitely possible if you put your mind to it. Perhaps your family has passed down some unique methodology from generation to generation and you can boast some 50-100 years of shared experience? Or your brand name has some heritage value which relates to your location or home? Or you can point to a breakthrough moment when you discovered a new way of doing things? Whatever it is, you need to work hard to articulate these stories into words, pictures, video, music or symbols that the chinese can fully understand by looking at your product label or (if you’re lucky) your web site and/or promotional materials. 

This is likely to require professional advice and support in a number of areas:

  • a chinese version of your name, brand and logo which has aspirational qualities and will appeal to chinese consumers in the appropriate segments/demographics. 
  • a chinese version of your promotional, educational and product related materials which includes chinese language
  • a chinese translation of your brochure, catalogue, web site and all marketing materials, remembering to ensure that the meaning and essence of your words are properly reflected in the chinese language
  • a promotional video, hosted in China (so they can watch it) which includes chinese language (either spoken or dubbed) and/or sub-titles
  • a chinese based web site, hosted behind the China firewall, which can be downloaded quickly and found via local search engines and social media platforms

2. Australia’s unique advantages

Living in Australia, it’s easy to forget how hard it is for Chinese shoppers to select products which are safe to consume and, having done that, to trust the information they’re being given. Over the years there have been many scandals around food poisoning, fake products and misinformation around nutrition and health benefits. I have seen with my own eyes a basket of oranges in a premium supermarket with “Australian grown” on the label but were clearly sourced locally and had been dyed to improve their appearance. It happens less often these days, but it is always in the back of the mind of any chinese shopper. 

Australia is highly regarded amongst Chinese consumers for many things which allows us to charge premium prices for our world class FMCG products:

  • our clean and green environment, free of pollution, clean air and water plus wide open spaces
  • our unique farming community and culture which is hard-working, efficient, stable and the envy of the western world
  • our highly regulated market for FMCG products, especially in relation to the full and accurate disclosure of ingredients, sourcing, nutrition and traceability
  • our world class processing, supply chain, technology and logistics which enables Australian products to arrive in China within the speed that is expected of a country with our unique location in the Asia Pacific region

Don’t assume that every chinese consumer can work this all out for themselves. Make sure that you have taken the time and trouble to weave your brand and product attributes into the broader Australian story, and delivered it accurately in a language the chinese fully understand

3. The new “post Covid normal”

Whilst it may have been possible in recent years to sell Australian FMCG products into the China market without paying close attention to the two areas mentioned above, it’s already become a lot harder after the Covid-19 pandemic. Amongst other things, chinese consumers have become more health conscious, spending more time checking nutrition labels and making decisions about which ingredients are healthy, and which are not. 

There were problems with obesity, diabetes and under-nutrition before the global pandemic, but now these issues have been raised to a level not previously imagined, and we’re therefore likely to see an increase in the demand for healthy plant-based packaged foods, including:

  • Meat alternative products
  • Plant based milks fortified with B vitamins
  • Products with gut health and/or immunity benefits
  • Products which include prebiotics, probiotics and micronutrients
  • Packaged food products with a longer shelf life
  • Products with natural food ingredients
  • Lactose free products

These consumer trends play nicely into the hands of Australian FMCG companies and allows us to innovate at scale and move products from “niche” to “mainstream” in a fast moving, high growth market. 

There are over 400 million middle class consumers in China, willing to pay premium prices for healthy, clean and nutritious products from well regulated countries. We now need to get better at promoting our brand story, selling Australia’s unique advantages and articulating this in a value proposition which is properly translated into the Chinese language. 

The question now is, ‘are you ready?’

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