Food and beverage to Hong Kong
Trends and opportunities
With a wealthy population of more than 7.4 million and a significant
tourism industry (over 58.4 million visitors in 2017) Hong Kong is a
substantial and high-value market for all kinds of food products (Source: the Census and Statistics Department, Population and Tourism
Tourism Performance 2017, 16 May 2018).
Hong Kong is also a stylish ‘shop window’ that attracts 45 million mainland
Chinese tourists every year.
Hong Kong relies heavily on imports into the market, with 95% of
food and beverage (F&B) products imported (Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service,
Retail Food Sector Annual 2017
(PDF), June 2018).
The domestic agricultural, aquaculture and food processing capacities are
limited, as they are geared as complements rather than competitors for
major supplying countries. Hong Kong is also a trading hub for re-exports
into mainland China, Macau and other neighbouring Asian markets.
While the demand for various kinds of convenient food items is increasing,
consumers are becoming more conscious about nutritional values,
traceability and food safety. The result is an increasing trend towards
naturally healthy, functional, quality, sustainable and organic food
choices, reflected in the introduction of more of these products into
Hong Kong’s food retailing and catering markets have evolved in recent
years resulting from westernisation and increasing household income amongst
the local population. Supermarkets, fast food stores and themed restaurants
have become an integral part of shopping and dining out habits.
Major supermarket chains are transforming to one-stop ‘superstores’ to
enhance business growth through new ‘wet market’ corners (counters selling
chilled and live seafood, meat and poultry products), bakery, take-away
food services, specialty selections and linked lifestyle shopping
facilities such as pharmacies, wine cellars, banking facilities, book
stores and photo processing counters.
Access the Food and beverage retail guide (10MB)
The key trend across all sectors relates to food safety and quality, with
recent food scandals across the region increasing the focus on identifying
quality, safe and reliable foods. This is a major opportunity for all
F&B sectors with Australian produce recognised as ‘clean and green’ and
reliable. Specific opportunities for organic products are growing as
consumers increasingly perceive organic to be a guarantee of quality and
Australia is perceived as one of the top supplying countries for beef,
lamb, pork and poultry that is backed by stable supply, high quality
standards and disease-free status. A$85 million (7,691 tonnes swt) of
chilled and frozen Australian beef and A$27.7 million (5,932 tonnes swt)
of chilled and frozen Australian lamb were exported to Hong Kong in 2017 (Source: Meat and Live Stock Australia –
Hong Kong Market Snapshot (PDF), January 2018).
Australia plays a key role in supplying premium chilled beef and lamb to
the high-end retail and food service sectors in Hong Kong. The influx of
mainland Chinese tourists and steady rise in local discretionary income
continue to support a robust growth of premium meat exports in Hong Kong.
Consumers often prefer Australian produce when it comes to food safety,
traceability, trust and quality. Trade buyers are interested to expand the
meat product range in Hong Kong to include antibiotic-free, hormone-free,
dry age free-range and organic meat products. However, as plant-based
products are becoming more available in Hong Kong, more consumers may opt
for a meat-free diet in the long run.
New Zealand, Australia, France and The Netherlands are the key supplying
countries for dairy products in the Hong Kong market. Australia was the
number two supplier for cheese and butter to Hong Kong in 2017 (Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong SAR,
Hong Kong Merchandise Trade Statistics – Imports
(PDF), pg. 10-11, December 2017).
With growing westernisation, Hong Kong consumers are looking for more
sophisticated cheese offerings. Non-cheddar varieties like Mozzarella and
Parmesan are gaining shelf space in local retailers. Local consumers are
also increasingly health-conscious and supported the expansion of
nutritious snacks in the market. On-the-go cheese snacks and single-serving
yoghurt drinks have gained market presence as consumers recognise their
calcium-rich and good-for-digestion benefits.
Fruit and vegetables
Hong Kong’s per capita consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is thought
to be amongst the highest in the world. There is year-round supply of
imported oranges, apples and grapes to the Hong Kong market. Other popular
items include pears, mandarins, bananas, mangoes, papayas, melons, plums,
nectarines and cherries. Local fresh vegetable production is less than 5%, with the majority of the supply coming from Mainland China, the
United States and Australia. (Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong SAR,
Hong Kong Merchandise Trade Statistics – Imports
(PDF), pg. 23-34, December 2017).
Australian fruit and vegetables enjoy a good reputation among local
consumers for their consistent quality and food safety standards.
Australia’s fresh fruit and vegetable export to this market were valued at
A$129 million and A$15.7 million respectively in 2016/2017 (Source: Australian Horticultural Exporters Association,
Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Export/ Import Statistics 2016/17
(PDF), pg. 10 & 28, 10 September 2018).
Major fruits and vegetable exported to Hong Kong include oranges, table
grapes, mandarins, carrots, potatoes, onions, lettuce, asparagus and
Hong Kong consumers are increasingly interested in value-added fruit and vegetables such as pre-packaged salad mix, frozen sliced vegetables, cooked
and vacuum packed vegetables. Consumers also have a preference for
pesticide-free, organic, hydroponic produce and new varieties. Premium
fruit products are presented as gifts during festival celebrations such as
Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. However, the transparent import
regime and efficient logistic infrastructure in Hong Kong contribute to the
competitive nature of the fresh produce trade in this market.
Austrade and Hort Market Insight Report
Opportunities also exist for exporters to supply Australian fresh fruit produce during unique cultural festivals, particularly those that feature fruits as gifts or offerings. Further insight into the specific opportunity in Hong Kong can be found in the
Hong Kong imports a variety of seafood products from around the world and
seafood serves as a major ingredient in local cuisine. Due to the recent
food safety incidents (e.g. oil fish, melamine, mislabeling) and Hong Kong
SAR Government’s plans to update the
Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations, the industry is now shifting toward more regulated and reliable seafood
There is a rising demand for sustainable seafood in Hong Kong, mostly led
by 5-star hotels, high-end restaurants and upscale retailers. A number of
Australian seafood species are recommended by
WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, providing positive branding and new opportunities for Australian
suppliers in Hong Kong.
Australia enjoys positive perceptions of the supply of fresh, clean and
high quality seafood products. Crustaceans and fish are the top 5 and 10
Australian F&B exports to Hong Kong respectively in 2017 (Source:
Country and commodity pivot table 2006 to 2017, DFAT Trade Statistics, 10 September 2018). Major Australian seafood items exported to Hong Kong include abalone, rock
lobsters, scallops, prawns, coral trout, oysters, mussels and king crabs.
Wine / Alcoholic beverage
Australian wines have built a strong presence in Hong Kong market with
industry recognitions for their consistent quality and regional identities.
In 2017, over 17% of Hong Kong’s imported wines came from
Australia, making Australia the second largest wine exporter after France (Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong SAR,
Hong Kong Merchandise Trade Statistics – Imports
(PDF), pg. 47, December 2017).
With changing lifestyles and more frequent international travels, local
consumers are increasingly wine savvy and eager to learn about new trends
in alcoholic beverages. Bio-dynamic, natural, vegan-friendly, organic and
sustainable wines are gaining attention in Hong Kong. Trade buyers have
also expressed interest in craft spirits, micro-brews and specialty
products to differentiate from the mainstream market. Local events such as
Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, Beertopia and
Watson’s Wine Week
serve as good opportunities to interact with local consumers.
Hong Kong serves as a major alcoholic beverage trading hub for re-exports
to other Asian markets such as Mainland China, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam and
Japan. About 37% of the imported wines were re-exported in 2017 (Source: Hong Kong Trade Development Council,
Wine Industry in Hong Kong, 6 September 2018).
Hong Kong is also the host city for regional trade shows including the Vinexpo Hong Kong and
Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair.
Consumers in Hong Kong are becoming more skeptical of the adverse effects
of chemical fertilizers, preservatives and pesticide residues in food.
Local government, media and not-for-profit organisations have encouraged
consumers to opt for more environmentally-friendly F&B products and
packaging. These have all contributed to a stable growth of the organic and
sustainable F&B segment in Hong Kong.
There is a surge of organic retail stores specialising in the natural and organic retail segment, examples include Just Green, Organic Plus, Green Dot Dot and Green Common. Leading
supermarkets have also assigned dedicated shelf space for organic F&B
products. Local food service operators and restaurants are now more
actively demanding organic produce and ingredients. Hong Kong has not
imposed any legislation regarding organic certification and labelling,
favoring the importation of organic products into Hong Kong. Nonetheless,
trade buyers have a preference for organic-certified over self-proclaimed
There are currently 130 organic-certified farms, aquafarms and food
processing plants operating in Hong Kong (Source:
Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre, September 2018).
However, local suppliers are hampered by unstable supply, limited varieties
and pollution. Hong Kong has the desire and capacity to pay for
high-quality imported organic food, making Australia a natural source of supply.
Australia has good market share in packaged rice, dried fruit, edible oils
and the healthy and functional food and drink sector.
Being one of the freest markets in the world, Hong Kong has minimal trade
barriers for imports. The market is extremely competitive, which means
quality products are often competing on price. As of 2016, Australia was
the fifth largest food supplying country to Hong Kong after China, France,
the United States and Japan.
The image of Australia’s ‘clean and green’ production environment and high
food-safety standards help the promotion of Australian food exports into
Hong Kong. Organic products are helping to sustain and diversify the market
position of Australian food products. Sustainability in seafood is rising
as an issue of concern in the market.
Tariffs, regulations and customs
Hong Kong is a free trade port, with the exception of spirits (over 30% alcoholic content on volume basis), there are no duties or tariffs
imposed on imports of food and beverages. However, import of food and
beverages into Hong Kong is subject to the control of various local food
laws and regulations pertaining to:
sweeteners in food
food adulteration (metallic contamination)
food and drugs (composition and labelling)
harmful substances in food
imported game, meat, poultry and eggs
For more details on Hong Kong’s regulations and laws, please visit
Tariffs and regulations.
Marketing your products and services
For high-volume food products (e.g. fresh produce, meats and dairy), an
effective marketing strategy can improve the competitiveness of Australian
exports to Hong Kong through better:
quantity and quality consistency
export marketing funding
For gourmet food products, dedicated partner research in selected overseas
markets is the key to success. Generally speaking, you should promote your
export business with a marketing package or a concept where you can work
together with the importer to build the business and not just focus on the
Companies should consider:
Selecting a committed agent and work hard on building the relationship
for the long term.
Using a qualified export packer (if your volumes are too small to sell
direct to an overseas importer) or team up with a producers’ association
for collective export marketing and logistics.
- Visiting the market before seeking to export.
- Working closely with buyers in the market, as mutual trust is important
and partnering via a Hong Kong company may also help you learn how to
engage in direct or indirect trade with Mainland China.
- Building branding for your products over time including use of product
- Developing innovative products and packaging
- Setting up your own representative office, ensuring you can own the
customer network (rather than depending on the ‘goodwill’ of your agent).
Once your presence in the market is well-established, you could take on
additional export business from others.
Most imports of food and beverages are channeled through import agents who
normally distribute direct to retailers and catering end users.
Major supermarket chains buy many products directly from selected overseas
suppliers. The two largest supermarket chains, PARKnSHOP and Wellcome,
source products by direct import and through local agents. However for
selected large volume product lines, both large chains generally try to
by-pass agents wherever possible. These two major supermarket chains in
Hong Kong have their own large warehousing facilities for the handling of
perishable goods, re-packaging and distribution.
Smaller supermarket groups and local convenience stores which do not have
their own warehousing facilities, generally source selected overseas
products via importers. As the trade continues to expand it is expected
that some of these organisations will manage to develop their own
facilities and purchase some of their requirements direct from overseas
The three upscale food retailers – Great Food Hall, CitySuper and Oliver’s
the Delicatessen – have appointed consolidators in specific countries
including Australia to facilitate product sourcing and broaden the product
range available to their customers. These are typically smaller volume,
niche products. Some retailers may also look for exclusivity for selling
the products in Hong Kong market.
Due to small volumes and frequent and consolidated orders, most local
hotels, restaurants and many fast food operators normally cannot afford to
handle direct importation from a large number of individual suppliers
overseas. Import agents generally undertake the distribution of food and
beverages to trade buyers in this market sector directly, with only a small
quantity being handled by provision wholesalers.
Leading supermarket chains including PARKnSHOP/Great Food Hall, Wellcome
and CitySuper have developed their respective online stores and mobile
applications, offering efficient home delivery of fresh, frozen and ambient
F&B products by their in-house logistic teams. Retailers use online
retailing platforms to further engage with their customers, such as
offering customised product information, recipes and discounts. A number of
e-commerce platforms are also active in F&B online retailing – HKTV Mall, Ztore, Honestbee, Butchers Club, Ocean Three
and Pacific Gourmet. These
online retailers usually source products via local wholesalers and
distributors. Food and drink internet retailing increases 17 per cent in
current value in 2017 as sales reaches HKD$1.1 billion.
(Source: Euromonitor report, Food and Drink Internet Retailing in Hong
Kong, China, Country Report, Jan 2018).
Distribution to wet markets, hawkers, groceries and small corner stores is
handled by a number of intermediary provision wholesalers.
Beyond Hong Kong - Macau
As the leading gaming centre in Asia, Macau has one of the highest per
capita GDP levels in the world, with a population of more than 0.65 ( Source: Macau Statistics and Census Service,
Population Estimate 2017, March 2018)
. Tourism is Macau’s principal industry and the city attracted over 32.6
million visitors in 2017 (Source: Statistics and Census Service, Macau SAR –
Visitor Arrivals Statistics, September 2018)
. Over 70% of visitors came from Mainland China and Hong Kong,
whereas visitors from nearby Asian regions, the United States and Australia
have also increased steadily, supporting a healthy growth of the food and beverage sector in Macau.
Macau imports most of its food and beverage products due to the city’s
minimal local agricultural production and processing capability. In 2017,
Macao imported over A$2.06 billion worth of F&B products from around
the world (Source: Statistics and Census Service, Government of Macau SAR –
External Merchandise Trade Statistics. August 2018).
With the lack of deep sea ports, there is very limited direct shipping
service to Macau. F&B products are often repacked and trans-shipped via
Hong Kong. Hong Kong importers and wholesalers work closely with Macanese
trade buyers to meet their sourcing requirements. Australian suppliers may
consider to strategise their Macau market entry strategies with their
existing Hong Kong importers.
The occupancy rate for Macau’s 4 & 5-Star hotels has topped 93% in January 2018 (Source: Macao Government Tourism Office –
Hotel Occupancy Rate
(PDF), February 2018).
Constructions of new casinos, amusement parks, hotels and resorts are also
underway. Most of the premium imported F&B products are distributed
through food service outlets in the casino complexes and hotels in Macau.
These new infrastructures will provide attractive new opportunities to
Australian F&B suppliers.
It is recommended that Australian exporters attend or participate in trade
shows as another way of marketing your products. HOFEX,
Asia Fruit Logistica
Seafood Expo Asia
are the most important food shows in the region.
Links and industry contacts
Government, business and trade resources
Bilingual Laws Information System
Centre for Food Safety
Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department
Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Invest Hong Kong
The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Food and beverage
Asia Fruit Logistica
Great Food Hall
Kowloon Fruit & Vegetable Merchants Association Ltd
Oliver’s The Delicatessen
Seafood Expo Asia
Vegetable Marketing Organization
Asian Hotel & Catering Times
Drinks Business Hong Kong
Foodie Hong Kong
Hong Kong Tatler
Hotel Asia Pacific
South China Morning Post
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