Ann Bierbower
Ann Bierbower
9 May 2016 0 Comments

Asia’s largest food innovation exhibition SIAL, comes to China every spring. This is a fresh opportunity to see what items are selling in China and looking to enter the market. On display are up-and-coming trends for products, packaging, positioning and more. China Skinny was at SIAL to track what’s new and below are some of our observations.

Wafers growing in popularity

With China being a snack-y culture, especially in offices, it was no surprise the amount of snack products displaying at SIAL. From crackers, cookies, chips and more from every place imaginable, the one product that was more prevalent than in the past was wafers. Brands and distributors we talked to said wafers have taken off. A Malaysian brand representative attributed the popularity of wafers to the fact that they are light in flavor and texture. He stated Chinese consumers liked wafers because they are not as dense as cookies and therefore have been selling better than their cookies. Another Korean brand believed that wafers lighter texture is seen as healthier than their cookie cousins.

Wafers at SIAL Shanghai 2016-2

Wafers at SIAL Shanghai 2016

Coconut products widely available and wanted

Coconut water is widely available in first and second tier cities in China, helped by Vita Coco’s entrance into China in 2014. The popularity of coconut products extends beyond water to coconut-flavored products and food made directly from coconut.

One Malaysian brand selling coconut water, oil, cream, flour and coconut-flavored ice pops and snacks said their coconut oil and cream were recent hot sellers. This was attributed the increasing interest in cooking and baking at home. Their coconut cream is a big seller as consumers use it to make desserts and perceive coconut cream to be healthier than traditional cream. The baking DIY trends indicates that more Chinese are not only interested in healthier products but are taking food into their own hands where they are more aware of what is going into it. This is likely to increase demand for baking utensils, classes and outlets for baking information and even ovens in their homes.

Kara Coconut Cream is popular in China

Nuts for nuts

There were many types of nuts exhibited at the show. From almonds, to pistachios, to pecans, Chinese have gone nuts for nuts. California had a strong showing with their nut associations, but the most interesting observation about the nuts being displayed was the variety in flavouring. Honey roasted was a popular flavor. Chili, roasted and wasabi flavours were also popular. We didn’t notice anything too out of the ordinary (no durian flavoured nuts) but the increase in the different types of flavorings on the nuts was a new to China trend.

Flavoured Nuts at SIAL May 2016

Nuts at SIAL May 2016

Flavours on flavours on flavours

Speaking of flavourings, there were some interesting and even unidentifiable varieties in the mix. From rose-flavoured (for beauty) to banana-flavoured everything, drinks, snacks and candies were the main carriers of flavours. In addition, we did notice more flavoured olive oil than previous years. Two other curious products to take on flavoring was honey and tea. Lemon, blueberry and even durian-flavoured honey were all displayed as was Cookies & Cream tea. Not sure how well the tea will go over as one exhibitor stated that it is hard enough to get consumers to try rooibos tea.

Flavours at SIAL May 2016

Rose Honey at SIAL May 2016

Strange Flavours at SIAL China May 2016

In Conclusion

Dairy, cereals and granola and wine were still prevalent throughout the exhibition indicating an ongoing strong demand for these products. The presence of frozen food was less expected. This made up a very small percentage of products at SIAL but was a bigger proportion than previous years. It was surprising as Chinese consumers typically don’t buy frozen items. This could also imply improvements in China’s cold chain logistics and a cultural shift to using freezers in apartments.

Check out Part 2 here.