China’s top online meat sales trends

By Mark Godfrey

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese men aged between 28 and 35 are online shoppers of meat
Chinese men aged between 28 and 35 are online shoppers of meat

Related tags China Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

Chinese males aged between 28 and 35 are the sweet spot for vendors of meat in China’s booming online commerce.

That’s according to data for 2016 sales on, compiled by CBNData in cooperation with, part of the Alibaba group and the market leader in China’s e-commerce sector.

Women are more likely to eat fresh vegetables, according to a report entitled China Household Dining Consumption Trends, co-published by the two organisations.

Australia and New Zealand – both of which have free trade deals with China – lead the pack as the top sources of imported meat sold online in China, according to the report.


Another country in the top five sources of meat is Denmark, long a major supplier of pork to China​. Tmall’s own sourcing operation sells what are termed ‘Royal Danish’ pork products, such as pigs’ feet (RMB18.57/500g) and fatty loin cuts (highly prized in traditional Chinese cooking) at RMB36.12/500g.

As well as imported meat, the rise of online commerce is also boosting sales of domestic regional specialities, such as Qingyuan-style chicken from the Guangdong region near Hong Kong: frozen Qingyuan birds from various suppliers sell for between RMB67.50 to RMB148.89 per 500g (depending on size) on Tmall.

Some less likely meat exporting nations are however also picking up sales online in China. As published by CBNData, the study also shows a tendency among Chinese consumers for adventurism and fads in imported food products. The fastest jump in sales recorded for a fresh food product in 2017 went to Tunisian pomegranate, while consumers also favoured chicken from Poland.

Whole, chilled Polish chickens currently sell on store (operated by a Chinese food importer) at RMB27.30 per 500g. The birds are dispatched from Shanghai, with preparation instructions described as traditional Eastern European recipes.

Fresh food imports

Meanwhile, overall imports of fresh food sold online in China – where Tmall has a dominant market share – have risen from US$10.2 billion in 2010 to US$21.8bn in 2015, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The percentage of fresh food as a share of overall consumption rose from 66% to 72% among urban Chinese between 1995 and 2012, while the figure for rural dwellers went from 32% to 45% in the same timeframe. This is based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The data also reveals an interesting shift in online purchases of fresh food, with more consumers in inland regions, hitherto regarded as poorer and more remote compared to east coast cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Wenzhou.

In 2014 the east coast accounted for 65% of fresh sales, but this shifted down to 40% in 2016, though it remains the top purchasing region. Sales to consumers in south-west China are growing fastest, according to the CBMData/Tmall report (though no precise figures are given). The region includes the huge inland cities of Chengdu and Chongqing, which were recently permitted to conduct customs checks for agricultural imports at their own airports.

Online sales are set to account for 12.5% of overall retail sales in 2017, according to Hong Kong-based investment bank CLSA. However, the space has also become crowded, with new entrants chasing consumers. Many of the country’s e-commerce sites have yet to turn a profit, while market leader Alibaba remains a dominant presence​.

Increased overseas travel by Chinese tourists is a driver of online consumption of imported​ foods at home, according to CLSA, which projects that 200 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad each year by 2020, more than twice the figure in 2010.

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