Food and beverage to Taiwan

Trends and opportunities

The market

Taiwan has one of the highest per capita rates of expenditure on food in North East Asia, with relatively high disposable incomes and a strong preference for convenient, healthy, quality and premium food and beverage products. Although the local food manufacturing industry is well-established, Taiwan is still heavily reliant on imports, with a self-sufficiency ratio of around 33 per cent.

Australia is currently the fourth largest supplier of food and beverages to Taiwan. Australian produce holds appeal to buyers looking to take advantage of the variety of counter-seasonal supply and reputation for safe, high quality food. Major export items include meat, grain, dairy products and seafood.

Australian suppliers entering the Taiwanese market will benefit from the strong reputation currently associated with Australian food and beverage exporters:

  • Produce is free from disease, particularly Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease.
  • Offering counter-seasonal supply will give exporters a competitive advantage.
  • An increasing number of high-end supermarkets are adding to the demand for high quality imported food and beverage products.

(Sources: International Trade Centre, Trade Map, accessed 25 October 2016; Customs Administration, Ministry of Finance, Trade Statistics Search, 14 October, 2015).

Opportunities

  • meat frozen beef (flank, shin, shank and offal), chilled beef (short loin, rib eye and tenderloin, Australian wagyu and organic beef), frozen goat meat, chilled lamb and frozen lamb rack. Visit Beef to Taiwan for more information.
  • grains: wheat, barley and oats (rolled and organic oats).
  • dairy produce: milk powder, UHT cream, cheese, butter and value added dairy ingredients. Visit Dairy to Taiwan for more information.
  • fruit: tangerines, cherries and table grapes.
  • vegetables: carrots, potatoes, onions and cauliflowers.
  • organic food: both fresh and processed food.
  • high quality packaged food: The increasing number of high end supermarkets driving demand for high quality package food.
  • demand for ingredients for food processing, bakery use and food service.
  • wine: premium wines with international recognition. Visit Wine to Taiwan for more information.

Competitive environment

Owing to the lack of natural resources and limited space, Taiwan is heavily reliant on importing a wide range of food and beverage products from different countries.

The US is the leading supplier of agricultural products, while Japan plays a dominant role in the packaged food sector (Sources: Customs Administration, Ministry of Finance, Trade Statistics Search, 14 October, 2015).

With a trade agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan (ANZTEC) in force since 2013, many food and beverage products from New Zealand have enjoyed zero tariffs or lower tariff rates for a number of agricultural and food products. Australian exporters are facing serious competition from New Zealand exporters, particularly in dairy products.

Taiwanese food manufacturers, such as Uni-President, Standard Foods and I-Mei, produce good quality, price-competitive food and beverage products. However, local food manufacturers also present export opportunities to the Australian food and beverage sector as they look to source high quality, safe and fresh produce in order to appease the demands of an increasingly savvy market.

Market share for agricultural products imported by Taiwan 2015, by country of origin

  • other: 33 per cent
  • United States: 29 per cent
  • Brazil: nine per cent
  • New Zealand: six per cent
  • Australia: five per cent
  • China: five per cent
  • Japan: five per cent
  • Thailand: four per cent
  • United Kingdom: four per cent.

(Sources: International Trade Centre, Trade Map, accessed 25 October 2016; Customs Administration, Ministry of Finance, Trade Statistics Search, 14 October 2015).

Tariffs, regulations and customs

Customs regulations and procedures are administered by the Customs Administration, Ministry of Finance. Tariff rates vary depending on the product imported.

Industry standards

Taiwanese law requires all products (except those for use by the food service sector) to have a Mandarin Chinese language label using traditional characters affixed before products can clear customs.

The Taiwan authorities strictly enforce food and beverage labelling requirements. Improper or altered labels risk rejection by the local inspector at the port of entry.

The container or external packaging of food should clearly indicate in Chinese and common symbols the following matters:

  • product name
  • name of the ingredients: those that contain two or more ingredients shall indicate the respective ingredients in descending order of proportion
  • net weight, volume or quantity
  • name of food additives: in the case of a mixture of two or more food additives which are named according to its function shall indicate the name of each additive separately
  • name, telephone number and address of the manufacturer or that of the responsible domestic company
  • country of origin
  • expiry date
  • nutrition label
  • genetically modified food raw materials
  • other matters designated by the central competent authority in a public announcement.

For more information, please review the Chapter V Food Labelling and Advertisement under Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, Ministry of Health and Welfare.

There are two regulations governing nutritional information for packaged food: the Regulation on Nutritional Labelling for Packaged Food and the Regulation on Nutrition Claims for Packaged Food. For more information, please visit the Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Marketing your products and services

Market entry

Australian food suppliers should have a well-planned long-term marketing strategy and provide an assurance of quality in order to build a solid reputation with buyers. This is fundamental to taking advantage of the diverse range of opportunities available in Taiwan. Before exporting, you should:

  • Assess current demand for the product or service in Taiwan.
  • Identify levels of local production and imports of the product.
  • Identify major players in the market and potential agents and distributors.
  • Understand the regulatory processes, import tariffs and trading regime relevant to the product or service.
  • Identify competing products or services in the market and the organisations servicing this competition.

Taiwan buyers remain extremely price-conscious and have a preference for stable and well-proven products, turn-key solutions and a strong reliance and expectation on the supplier to provide after-sales service and support.

It is also important to be aware of significant cultural differences. As well as having a general understanding of the historical and cultural background of Taiwan, you need to understand and practice the day-to-day business culture to foster successful business relationships.

Australian food is well known and well-regarded in the market for being consistently high-quality, healthy and natural. To export successfully in Taiwan, you should:

  • Develop a good marketing plan with a long-term vision.
  • Provide high quality and consistent produce.
  • Establish strong relationships with supermarkets and importers with good distribution channels.
  • Visit Taiwan frequently to support your agent and proactively participate in trouble-shooting.
  • Follow up on issues raised in your visits.

Distribution channels

Depending on the product there are various distribution chains or channels that are used by traders. Over the past 10 years, the following changes have occurred in the unprocessed food distribution system:

  • Introduction of large retail chains such as Carrefour and RT-Mart.
  • Development of distribution firms to service the large retail chains.
  • Increasing direct sales between importers and retailers and wholesalers.
  • Development of direct purchasing channels between retailers and wholesale markets.

For meat products, the traditional distribution route is importer to wholesaler, then distributor to retailer, caterer or food service industry. The importer, wholesaler and distributor are often the same company for imported meat and are only available in Western-style supermarkets and hypermarkets with adequate refrigeration facilities, where they are butchered into different cuts and packaged. By comparison, in traditional local markets, consumers select the cut of meat they require from a large piece.

For fruit, vegetable and seafood produce, there are three major distribution options:

  • direct sales – exporter to retailer such as a supermarket and hypermarket
  • two-level – exporter to importer to retailer (i.e. the food service industry)
  • three-level – exporter to importer to wholesaler to retailer (i.e. the food service industry).

For other general food produce, supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores are the major retail outlets. Major coffee shop chains are a promising new route for dairy products.

Links and industry contacts

Government, business and trade

Bureau of Animal and Plant Inspection and Quarantine
Fisheries Administration Taiwan 
Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare
Food Industry Research and Development Institute 

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Contact details

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