For centuries, the Chinese have purchased their daily ingredients such as fruit, vegetables and meat from local fresh produce markets. More recently, due to urbanisation, modern supermarkets are gaining popularity and the trend to purchase weekly is slowly becoming more convenient for busy commuters. In the past, little attention was paid to the origin or treatment of the food, as “fresh” was simply considered the best form.
Whilst “fresh” is still a major consideration, Chinese shoppers are now more focused on food safety, health and diet. The spate of food quality incidents and a heightened awareness of the effects of pesticides have produced a more discerning consumer and organic options have gained popular interest.
Soil depletion, over-cultivated land, pollution and public health issues have also forced the government to look for solutions. They see organic farming as a potential remedy and for the past 30 years have been working on initiatives to develop a national standardisation body.
Whilst these days there are multiple government and international bodies dedicated to achieving organic standardisation in China, the main one is the China National Organic Product Standard. Products that qualify are registered with the Administration of Certification & Accreditation of China (CNCA) body. Food products that satisfy the standard and attain this certification will receive the "fully organic seal".
When it comes to organic food products, price sensitive Chinese consumers still pay close attention to whether they are grown locally or internationally. Generally international products are deemed more trustworthy, although price can still dominate the final purchase decision. With time, and as China continues to develop their food industry, more local options and choice will become available to local consumers. International competition in this market is still fairly new.
Chinese Consumers are buying their organic products from organic farmers markets, organic specialty stores, supermarkets and through home delivery. Perhaps one option that is becoming increasingly popular is online purchasing. It's a common belief that the online channel offers better prices and higher quality.
With Australia’s good reputation for being a clean and healthy country, we enjoy popularity in China for our known quality foods – especially organic. This makes us a premium choice for local consumers when it comes to purchasing decisions. Sadly though, Australian producers are still very under-represented in the China market. As our organic growers become more aware of the potential for their products in China, and gain an appreciation of their popularity, hopefully more growers will start looking east to Australia’s largest trading partner.