Guidelines on Exporting Health Food to China

guideline| 18 May 2023

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China is the second largest health food market globally right after the United States, with 18% of global sales and a projected market value of RMB 219.7 billion (ca. EUR 28.94 billion) by the end of 2023. The health food market has registered a 60% growth in the country between 2016 and 2023. The COVID-19 pandemic and the strict prevention measures adopted in the country acted as a catalyst for the surging demand for health food products, especially those enhancing the immune system.

The Chinese health supplement market has different segments. For the young urbanites, health food functions as a nutritional substitute but is also consumed for purposes of rejuvenation, slimming and maintaining health. For the elderly, health food is a means to increase immunity and improve health. Another major target audience is the maternal and baby health food market, for women increasing their nutritional consumption  during pregnancy.

The health food sector allows foreign brands to maintain a competitive advantage over domestic brands. However, European brands perform behind popular brands from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Japan. In this context, these guidelines aim to increase the knowledge of possible opportunities, market access channels and technical requirements for European health food brands to enter the Chinese market.

The first chapter provides a general overview of China’s health food sector, focusing on recent market trends as well as growth drivers. Key regulatory aspects will also be included, in particular the definition and classification of health food in China into nutritional or dietary supplements and functional health foods.

The second chapter focuses on the market access requirements for imported health food. For general trade, imported products need to follow a two-step procedure: (i) product notification/registration with SAMR; and (ii) establishment registration with GACC. The process is lengthy, costly and complex, and may require several years to complete. For this reason, many foreign brands choose Cross-Border E-Commerce as main market entry strategy for the Chinese market.

The third chapter introduces the labelling requirements that imported health food products must meet in China, both for general trade (many) and cross-border e-commerce (almost none).

A case study complements this report, illustrating the experience of European health food brands in entering the Chinese market via cross-border e-commerce.

Finally, four annexes, directly translated in English from the original Chinese language, will illustrate the positive list of nutritional or dietary health food raw materials, health claims permitted for use in health food products, as well as the requirements for
labelling of nutritional content and claims. 

Contents

Executive Summary

1. Sector overview
1.1. Health food market
1.2. Regulatory framework
Key laws and regulations
Definition and classification of health food

2. Market access and registration requirements
2.1. General trade
Product notification/registration with SAMR
Manufacturer registration with GACC

2.2. Cross-Border E-Commerce (CBEC)

3. Labelling requirements

4. Case study: Adiacent International

Annexes
A. Catalogue of Nutritional or Dietary Health Food Raw Materials (Positive List)
B. Health functions permitted for nutritional or dietary health food
C. Health functions permitted for functional health food
D. Name, sequence, expression units, rounding interval and definition of “0” for energy and nutritional components

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  • A comprehensive database of service providers with contact information