The sales of honey have increased rapidly in China in the past years and the products are not only given as gifts but increasingly more Chinese use honey for cooking and baking.
Yet, the health benefits of consuming products such as Manuka honey is the biggest driver of increased sales and export opportunities for overseas companies. Nowadays, you won’t only find honey in a fluid form, but also in capsules and taken as supplements.
Worth mentioning is that honey is edible so comparatively, strict import restrictions apply.
In this article, I shared the basics you need to know before exporting honey to China and review the following topics:
- The Honey Market in China
- The Problems With the Adulteration of Honey
- Exporting Manuka Honey
- What are the biggest honey producers in the world?
- Documents to Clear the Customs for Honey
- Which companies sell honey in China?
The Honey Market in China
The honey market has grown exponentially in China in the past years, thanks to its many health benefits. Not only is it the biggest exporter of honey, but also the biggest importer globally.
More than 300,000 tons of honey is consumed here every year, which is kind of astonishing.
Even if China has a large domestic production of China that is primarily centered on Qinghai province, many Chinese turn to foreign brands due to the many counterfeit products in the market.
Due to the ongoing issues with counterfeit and low-quality products, European countries have even prohibited imports. With that said, foreign exporters have great opportunities to export honey to China/
Here, Manuka honey is in particularly high demand (more about that later) that is exported from Australia and New Zealand, the only countries exporting the product.
The Problems With the Adulteration of Honey
Australia is one of the biggest honey producers in the world and has China as one of its main markets. That said, the country has faced issues with the adulteration of honey, which simply means that honey is mixed with non-honey products.
During tests, it was shown that almost 20% of Australian honey samples found to not be pure on average. In some areas such as New South Wales, 50% of the tested honey was adulterated.
Studies have shown that blended honey from unknown sources often contains antibiotics, toxins, irradiated pollen, or even alkaloids with the potential to cause organ damage.
The study tested 100 samples, including 38 Australian-branded honey samples. This imposes greater pressure on the Australian government to start testing honey nationwide.
Exporting Manuka Honey
Manuka honey can only be found in Australia and New Zealand, the two countries have a rivalry where one another claim their honey to be superior.
Manuka honey has risen in popularity in, not only mainland China, but also in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Its health benefits and unique characteristics drive the demand and you’ll mainly find the honey in a supplement format on eCommerce websites.
New Zealand saw a rapid growth of Manuka money, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people became more health-conscious. It exported honey worth NZD 413 million by the end of May in 2020, which equals an increase of 400% compared to 10 years ago.
Despite costing as much as USD 150, the demand for Manuka honey remains high. The profitability is so high and the demand so great so that we’ve even seen organized crime syndicates stealing bees and hives to make money.
What are the biggest honey producers in the world?
The top 15 countries in 2019 in terms of exported values were:
- China: USD 235.3 million (11.8% of exported natural honey)
- New Zealand: USD 228.8 million (11.5%)
- Argentina: USD 146.7 million (7.4%)
- Germany: USD 131.5 million (6.6%)
- Ukraine: USD 113.3 million (5.7%)
- India: USD 99.6 million (5%)
- Spain: USD 92.1 million (4.6%)
- Hungary: USD 82.5 million (4.1%)
- Brazil: USD 67.9 million (3.4%)
- Belgium: USD 64.1 million (3.2%)
- Vietnam: USD 57.4 million (2.9%)
- Mexico: USD 55.7 million (2.8%)
- Romania: USD 44.5 million (2.2%)
- Poland: USD 43.2 million (2.2%)
- Canada: USD 41.3 million (2.1%)
Documents to Clear the Customs for Honey
Below I have listed the main documents needed when exporting honey to China. The documents are needed to clear the products at the China customs.
Keep in mind that you should double-check the documents with your importer as regulations can change over time.
- The shipper and manufacturer registration number at the China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ)
- The business license of the consignee in China
- Bill of lading/air waybill, invoice, sales contract, packing list
- Certificate of origin
- Health certificate
- Certificate of analysis
- Bottling date certificate
- Original labels and their Chinese translation
Which companies sell honey in China?
Honey is widely sold online on platforms like Tmall Global and JD Worldwide, but mainly as supplements. Manuka honey is one of the most popular products and where Comvita has impressive exposure).
Founded in 1974, the company has expanded aggressively and currently sells its products on both Tmall Global and Walmart. You’ll notice that it sells its Manuka honey supplements in the thousands on Tmall Global.
Other big brands on the website include Richora which also comes from New Zealand, Youthit, and Streamland, two other brands from New Zealand. On cross-border websites like Tmall Global and JD Worldwide, brands from the country dominate the market.
Honey Prices in China
Honey prices differ greatly depending on the type and from which country the honey comes from. Naturally, the marketplace will have an impact on the price as products sold cross-border are shipped from overseas or Hong Kong.
A can containing 500 grams of Manuka honey capsules from Comvita fetch from around RMB 400 – 450 on Tmall Global (USD 57 – 64). At the same time, you can buy as much as 900 grams of locally produced honey for around RMB 40 (USD 5.7).
Thus, prices vary greatly and should be thoroughly checked before you enter the Chinese market.
Labeling of Honey in China
If you plan to sell honey on local eCommerce platforms such as Tmall.com or in retail stores, you have to label the products in Chinese first. The labels should be produced and verified by the Chinese authorities before you exportation.
With that said, you can either attach the label in your country of manufacture or after the products have arrived at a bonded warehouse, it’s up to the seller.
The following information is generally required for the labels:
- Country of production
- Production date
- Shelf life
- Storage instruction
- Address of importer
- Phone number of importer
Besides, you also need to include a list showing the nutrition details, such as the number of calories, proteins, and sugar. Your importer should help you to create the labels and make sure that it follows government requirements.
Incorrect labeling is one of the main reasons why products get stopped at the customs, which not only costs time but also money for exporters.
Food Fairs for Honey Products
Many of Asia’s biggest food fairs are held in China where most are concentrated in big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. Below you can find some of the biggest fairs that should be of interest.
SIAL is currently the largest fair for food and beverage in China and it attracts over 100,000 persons every year. It’s been held for around two decades in Shanghai and it’s a perfect place to learn about the latest market insights, connect with industry professionals, and network.
The fair is managed by Comexposium which is a leading event organizer. They also hold fairs in countries overseas such as France.
More than 3,500 exhibitors visit the fair and it’s held in National Convention & Exhibition Center, Shanghai.
BIOFACH China focuses on organic products and is a leader in the field. Thus, it’s suitable for producers of ecological honey and brands that sell premium products. That said, most of the visitors are Chinese, even if you also find foreign companies there.
The organic food industry grows rapidly in China and there are plenty of success stories of brands that have managed to penetrate from this lucrative market.
BIOFACH doesn’t only hold events in China, but also America, India, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.