September 20, 2012

Red is a growing trend on Hong Kong’s food plate

Tomatoes have never been more popular in Hong Kong. Not only has the imported tomato volume increased significantly since 2004, Hong Kong has also welcomed more varieties of tomatoes beyond the popular round tomatoes. Promar research analysts Paul Tsai and Yuan Gao visited Hong Kong to understand the current market and assess the future potential of imported tomatoes.

For the past 20 years, China has always been the largest exporter of tomatoes to Hong Kong- currently China holds hold approximately 90% of the market share. In 2004, Hong Kong’s import of Chinese tomato has increased by approximately 4 times in volume. Higher health conscious among Hong Kong consumers is the key factor that drove this demand. The SARS outbreak in 2003 has motivated Hong Kong consumers to eat healthier, which driven sales of fruits and vegetables upwards.

Another factor for the tomato  increase is the improved quality of Chinese tomatoes. While Chinese tomatoes are still not considered the ideal ingredient for cooked food or fresh consumption, their quality and taste have improved over the past decade. Chinese tomatoes’ biggest strength has always been their low price, which is 1/3 of the price of most tomatoes importedto Hong Kong. The future for Chinese tomatoes in the market for fresh tomatoes in Hong Kong looks positive as buyers across the supply chain believe that it will continue to increase in volume.

This is not to say that non-Chinese tomatoes do not have a chance in the Hong Kong fresh vegetable market. European tomatoes imported from Italy and France are the favorites for Hong Kong consumers who demand the highest quality. Tomatoes imported from Holland with  good pricing and a year-long supply are the best-selling tomato product in many high to mid-level supermarkets. Australia and Japan also offer good quality tomato products that could compete with the European products in retail. There has been a trend for Hong Kong consumers to demand higher quality western food in food service. In addition, sweeter tasting tomatoes of European origin are preferred for home consumption, especially for children. These are the key areas in which non-Chinese tomatoes have a greater advantage in the Hong Kong tomato market.

While competition between various countries is becoming more intense, the outlook for both Chinese and non-Chinese tomatoes in the Hong Kong vegetable market remains positive. In the coming years, it is possible that tomatoes could shake off their image as a secondary vegetable on the Hong Kong dining table, where they have been overshadowed by green leafy vegetables.

Photo: Round tomatoes from China’s Shandong Province are the best-selling products in the Hong Kong tomato market.

Promar Consulting has investigated a variety of aspects of fresh fruit and vegetable market in China, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. If you are interested in knowing more please contact us.