Chinese love biscuits, cookies, wafers, crackers, etc. Following the terminology used in Chinese statistical publications, I use the word ‘biscuit’ in this blog as a translation of the Chinese term binggan, which is a kind of umbrella term for biscuit-like products. The biscuit production in China has grown from 5.518 mln mt in 2011 to 8.736 mln mt in 2017, making it the third largest market in the world behind the US and Brazil. The value of this market is expected to grow a further to RMB 101.7 billion in 2020.
This does not mean that it is a low entry level market. 219 manufacturers have reportedly stopped production between June 2014 and June 20 16. Still, China had 1699 companies registered as licensed to produce biscuits in June 2016, 721 of which were indicated as serious players in this market. Biscuit revue brought in around RMB 197.9 bln in 2016, up 9.47%.
The information has been collated from a number of specialist Chinese sites. We have deliberately not taken key figures as the bases for our ranking. Instead, we are presenting the brands in order of popularity as indicated in the Chinese food industry media.
The top brand is immediately a foreign one, owned by Mondelez. When it was still the owner of the Oreo brand, Kraft had struggled for almost a decade in China, until the company found out that Chinese consumers preferred less sweet biscuits and introduced new flavors. The size of the packaging was also decreased and Oreos were made available in a larger variety of outlets. Sales rocketed from USD 20 mln in 2005 to more than 400 mln in 2012. The company’s turnover in China has been dropping annually in the period 2014 – 20167. Mondelez is currently exploring new ways to reach customers in third- and fourth-tier cities in China to combat slowing growth in the market. It seems to work, because Mondelez reported in April 2015 that Oreo is its main driver of growth in China. Mondelez has struck a partnership with Alibaba in April 2016, under which it will begin selling brands such as Oreo and Trident through Alibaba’s Tmall online marketplace. Mondelez said it will sell the full range of its products, including Toblerone and Cadbury.
This brand (Kangshifu in Chinese) is sometimes translated as Master Kong. It is a brand owned by the Taiwan-based Tingyi Group. Unlike Oreo, Master Kong refers to a broad range of biscuits, butter cookies and soda crackers. Moreover, Chef Kong’s top product is still instant noodles, which was its first product when it started production in 1992. The company added biscuits and related products in 1996. It has started activities in other food and beverage markets during the past few years, as that of instant noodles seems to be stagnating.
This brand name literally means: “Delicious Pastry”. It is owned by the Dali Group, established as a private enterprise in 1989 in Fujian. The company now operates production facilities in several provinces, employing close to 40,000 people. Dali got listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in November 2015, and reached the Forbes Global 2000 in 2016. Dali has filed a turnover in 2018 of RMB 20.86 billion; up 5.4%.
Garden was established in Hong Kong in 1926 and still is the territory’s largest food company. It offers a wide range of cookies in the Mainland.
Jiashili biscuits and crackers are produced by a company in Guangdong with the same name. The company was established in 1956 by combining 17 private factory’s in the company’s home city Kaiping, under the name Kaiping Candy & Biscuit Factory. The name Jiashili was first coined in 1985. Jiashili’s current chairman Huang Xianming purchased Jiashili in 2007, making it a completely priveately operated company again. Under his ownership revenues have increased fourfold. The group operates three production bases in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces, with a total capacity of 130,000 MT. Jiashili’s core products include plain biscuits, crackers, sandwich biscuits and wafer biscuits.
Jiashili posted 2013 sales of RMB 748 mio up 15% on the prior year and net profit for 2013 was RMB 69 mio, up 60% on 2012. It spent RMB 5.2 mio on R&D in 2013.
Investor Actis has recently taken a “significant minority stake” in Chinese biscuit group Jiashili Food Group.
Jiashili Group has successfully listed on Hong Kong stock exchange in September 2014. The IPO raised HK 370 million, representing 25% of the company’s total issued share capital. Jiashili’s global offering document said that the Chinese biscuit market was highly competitive and said that the ﬁrm would need to constantly develop new products to respond to changing consumer demand. The company said it expected Chinese consumers to shift to healthier alternatives with reduced sugar and higher ﬁber as concerns mounted over obesity and diabetes.
Orion Confectionery is a South Korean brand producing biscuits, pies, candy and chewing gum. It was established in 2001, when it split off from the Oriental Group. In China, its pies, cream filled cookies, are most popular in the category of this blog.
Hsu Fu Chi
Hsu Fu Chi was established in Dongguan (Guangdong) in 1992 by four brothers from Taiwan named Hsu. The company quickly developed into one of the country’s leading producer of candy, pastry and biscuits. Late 2011, Nestlé acquired a majority share in Hsu Fu Chi. Hsu Fu Chi signed a deal with China’s second-largest e-commerce player, JD.com, to launch the latter’s first “unbounded plant” in South China. The plant aims to break traditional ways of thinking about consumer goods and achieve “shopping without borders”. Hsu Fu Chi will adopt JD’s logistics network, where products need not be distributed through major logistics warehouses, but instead enter the express delivery system directly, which is quicker and more efficient.
This is another brand of Mondelez. With 2 out of the 10 most popular brands in China, Mondelez has become a major player in this market. The best selling products under the Pacific brand are soda crackers.
Guanshengyuan is owned by the Guanshengyuan Group, one of Shanghai’s top food producers, established in 1915. Like Hsu Fu Chi, Guangshengyuan produces a wide range of candy and biscuits. It’s most famous product is Big White Rabbit milk candy. The company has a strong R&D unit, derived from the previous Shanghai Research Institute for Industrial Microbiology. Several such institutes have been placed under relevant state owned enterprises and the Shanghai government believed that this institute would benefit from being part of the Guanshengyuan Group.
This brand name literally means: “Qingdao Food”. It refers to its owner, Qingdao Food Co., Ltd. That name reflects its establishment in the early socialist era in 1950. The company produces a wide range of foods, including candy, chocolate, peanut butter and rice meal. Qingshi and Guanshengyuan are good examples of old state owned enterprises that have successfully transformed themselves during the economic reforms.
Can we discern some trends or common traits in the above list? Well the first that stands out is the number of foreign brands and brands with roots outside Mainland China. Oreo, Orion and Pacific are foreign brands, while Garden, Hsu Fu Chi and Chef Kong originate from Taiwan and Hong Kong. This can be explained by the fact that this type of foods, in Chinese statistics regarded as a subtype of leisure foods, is still perceived as part of a ‘modern’ lifestyle.
Secondly, this industry seems to be concentrated in the Pearl River and Yangtze Delta areas. Garden, Jiashili and Hsu Fu Chi’s production bases are located in or around Guangzhou and Fujian is a neighbouring province of Guangdong.
Mondelez’ HQ in China is situated in Shanghai, the home town of Guanshengyuan.
Only Qingshi and Chef Kong is located all over China. Chef Kong’s national HQ is in the port city of Tianjin. However, the company has announced on May 17, 2014, that it intends to establish a second national office in Shanghai.
Instead of rewriting this post entirely, I will add updates roughly once a year. This is the list of April 2019.
|2||Chef Kong||Tingshin International|
|3||Jiashili||Jiashili Food Group|
|4||Haochidian||Dali Food Group|
|10||Glico||Ezaki Glico Foods|
An interesting detail is that the influence of international players in the top 10 is quite big. Glico’s success seems to lean heavily on its Pocky sticks that are immensely popular among Chinese consumers.
Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.