Australian beef the ‘king of proteins’ for Chinese consumers

27 August 2015

Urban Chinese love beef, but Australian beef most of all. Australian beef has key strengths that can be leveraged even further to differentiate from competitors in the China market and command the premium it deserves.

Findings from MLA’s Annual Consumer Survey’s China Report have recently become available. Interviews were conducted in June 2015 with 1,020 18-64 year-old residents of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. All were main grocery buyers for the household and 84% living in upper income households (earning 100K+ Yuan per year).

Beef is the ‘king of proteins’ in a competitive protein market

  • Amongst urban Chinese consumers, compared to other meat proteins, beef is understood to offer the highest nutritional value and hence is considered an ‘essential part of a healthy diet for growing children’. It also rates highest on being “my favourite meat” and “is the most superior meat”. 
  • Seafood is the closest protein rival to beef when it comes to aspiration, rating highest on “tastes delicious”, “freshness” and “low in fat”.   
  • Although pork remains the dominant meat in Chinese diets, due largely to its versatility, ease of use and low cost compared to other proteins, it continues to lose ground on positive disposition (down 20% Top 2 Box in 2015 vs. 2013). Pork is considered comparatively weak on dimensions such as ‘high nutritional value’, ‘tastes delicious’, ‘willing to pay a bit more for’ and ‘low in fat’. 
  • Perceptions of chicken are similar to pork, except that chicken is somewhat  less versatile, less easy to prepare and higher in fat.

The perceived strengths of Australian beef

  • When Chinese consumers think of the country of origin of beef available to them, 55% spontaneously think of Australian beef (up 6% on 2014).  Half (49%) say they ate Australian beef in the past year, with 20% saying they chose to eat it “most often” (up 5% on 2014). 
  • Whilst local Chinese beef continues to lead on being cheaper and fresher than imported product, Australian beef is the most strongly associated with ‘delicious taste’, ‘consistent quality standards’, ‘am willing to pay a bit more for’, is ‘guaranteed safe to eat’ and is ‘the most superior beef’.   After 10 chilled beef plants were approved for export to China in July 2014, Chinese consumers have begun to have access to chilled Australian product.  This should see an improvement in consumer perceptions of freshness of Australian product.
  • A number of highly publicised meat scandals in the past year in China have significantly damaged public trust and had a negative impact on perceptions of all proteins. In this climate, Australia can emphasise the safety systems, including our unique NLIS traceability system. 
  • The MLA survey found that Chinese consumers are very concerned about food additives, with 86% saying they try to buy additive-free food.  Australian beef should ensure that its HGP-free status in the China market is clearly communicated. 

Despite its positive perceptions, beef’s comparative weakness is its higher price, plus perceptions that it isn’t as easy or convenient to prepare as other proteins. Australian beef marketers can continue to help Chinese consumers see how versatile our product is by highlighting its use in a wide variety of both familiar and new dishes. Cooking directions for relatively unfamiliar cuts, such as steak, can help consumers see how quick and easy it is to achieve great results, allowing the advantages of Australian product to shine.  

By consistently reinforcing the safety, quality and taste dimensions of Australian beef, Chinese consumers will continue to place a high value on it and recognise that it deserves the premium it commands.

Associations with beef by country of origin (2015)

  • Australian beef is strongly associated with important dimensions such as safety, quality and taste, which are also very important in this market.

  • Local Chinese beef is associated with freshness, cheapness & versatility.


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