How to Import Western Food to China

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The Asia Pacific region has the highest volume of food consumption in the world, due to its 3.6 billion people -- 56% of the world's population. China is the largest country in the region, making it the most desirable location for Western food exporters. The rise of supermarkets in China gives food exporters unprecedented opportunities. With only one supermarket in 1990, China now has over 60,000 stores, according to the Chinese Chain Store and Franchise Association. Even a very small portion of the Chinese food market can be lucrative for a food exporter. The challenge will be to develop profitable distributor relationships, for the official procedure for importing Western food into China is not very difficult.

Prepare a Certificate of Origin (CO). The CO is required for many items being exported to China, and some need to be notarized by China's Commerce Department. You can find all the relevant exporting documents in the Resources section.

Produce an Ingredients Certificate. This is a required document when importing food products into China. This certificate can be issued by the manufacturer of the food and must include the contents, percentage of each ingredient, storage instructions, chemical data, shelf life and production date.

Translate the labels into Mandarin. The food products must pass inspection by Chinese officials, many of whom cannot read English. Pay a translation service to convert all your official documents and labels into Mandarin.

Provide food samples for Chinese inspectors. Government officials will want to actually try your food product before passing it on to consumers. Your sample should come in a separate package that is clearly labeled as a sample in a manner such as “China Commodity Inspection and Testing Bureau.”

Complete an Export Packing List, both online and offline. You can fill out your list online at free of charge. The offline Export Packing List must include all the information associated with the transaction. It must give the name of the buyer and seller, an invoice number, date of shipment, package contents, package dimensions and weight, mode of transport and name of carrier. This is not a replacement for the commercial invoice, but a separate packing document for the inspectors.


  • China has special rules for importing particular meats from various regions. Read the USDA's report on export requirements for the People's Republic of China in the Resources below. .

    Package Western food into convenient containers for Chinese consumers on the go. Vishal Thapliyal, Associate Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance, suggests that the fast-paced lifestyle of the Chinese consumer helps the market for convenience food. The packaged food market in China grew to $64 billion in 2008.