Food and drink: from Bristol to Beijing

Jonathan Smith
Market Specialist - China
27th October 2017

Business West accompanied eleven South West SMEs from the Food & Drink sector on a trade mission to China. Our China Market Specialist, Jonathan Smith, recounts highlights from a hugely successful week!

Firstly, why China?

-UK F&D exports to China increased by 50% in 2016

-In 2018 China will become the world’s largest market for imported F&D

-British beer sales leading the way with a 500% increase 

-China will have over 500m middle class consumers by 2025

Given the opportunities in China in the Food & Drink sector and the number of high quality South West companies, we decided (along with our partners – Santander, Milsted Langdon, Clarke Willmott and China-Britain Business Council (CBBC)) to take a group of companies to China. 

Rather than go to a trade show, we facilitated quality meetings to increase exposure for our companies, so we set out to find appropriate buyers for our companies to meet. 

Pre-Mission Briefings

We conducted two pre-mission briefings for participating companies to ensure they were well-prepared for the trip. We briefed them on the basics of Chinese business culture, negotiating tactics and an overview of China’s F&D industry; delegates learned why Chinese people give and receive business cards with two hands, what gifts would be considered appropriate and what to do if you’re a vegetarian at a Chinese banquet!

As part of our Extend Your Global Reach programme, Business West and CBBC provided further assistance including IP support, strategy planning and in depth market research. 

Day One: Market Briefing and Store Visits

We kicked off our first working day with an expert briefing at Bank of Shanghai’s HQ on new trends in China’s Food & Drink sector, eCommerce opportunities, regulatory issues and trademark protection. The afternoon consisted of supermarket visits to check on the competition and price points.

Day Two: The Big Day!

This was the most important day of the trip with a whole day of meetings between delegates and pre-selected Chinese buyers at Shanghai’s British Centre. Companies met with up to 10 buyers which led to some on the spot orders for some companies. The action didn’t stop there as we attended a reception at the British Consul-General’s residence that evening, an excellent opportunity for delegates to continue networking with their new Chinese contacts!

Day Three: Nanjing

No rest for our delegates as we left the hotel at the crack of dawn to catch the high speed train to Nanjing, an affluent second tier city of 8 million people with big opportunities for UK companies. The purpose of the trip was to give delegates a sense of the opportunities outside of China’s first tier cities. In Nanjing, delegates had meetings with Golden Eagle Retail Group, touring their nine storey temple to consumption, and High Hope International Group, one of the region’s largest FMCG distributors. 

Day Four: More meetings…

Thursday featured more face-to-face meetings with buyers, with some new introductions and follow up meetings. Delegates had the chance to visit the famous Yuyuan garden before we hightailed it to the airport for our flight to Beijing.

Day Five: Beijing

A glorious day greeted us in the capital, reflecting delegates’ sunny mood after a successful trip so far. In the morning the visited – one of China’s largest and most innovative internet companies and second largest e-commerce platform for meetings with their buyers. In the afternoon. After a demanding week all that was left to do was look for souvenirs at the Silk Market and pose for an obligatory photo in front of Mao’s picture overlooking Tiananmen Square.  

Next steps

This was an extremely successful trip to China, with all companies saying the mission has been very helpful for their market entry. 

The next step is to return to China in November for the FHC show – China’s largest F&D sector event. The success of this trip has encouraged us to repeat the exercise targeting different sectors in 2018, so watch this space!


  • Are you interested in entering the Chinese market?

    Our locally based market specialists can offer you support ensuring that you tick every box before you take the plunge.

    Give us a call today on 01275 370 944

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  • Jonny Smith

    Meet your Market Specialist

    Jonny Smith has a proven track record in helping foreign companies succeed in the Chinese market - from his time at North Head, a boutique strategy consultancy in Beijing, and the Chinese-Britain Business Council – Jonny is the perfect fit as our Market Specialist for China. He holds a masters degree from Peking University in International Relations and can also speak Chinese.

  • Are you interested in entering the Chinese market?

    Our locally based market specialists can offer you support ensuring that you tick every box before you take the plunge.

    Give us a call today on 01275 370 944