Hong Kong’s food culture brings together Cantonese, European, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, and a variety of non-Cantonese Chinese influences in a unique and open sector. A thriving restaurant industry complements home cooking that that relies on locally purchased produce from both independent and larger grocery stores. High-density living, long working hours, and interest in exploring new tastes and flavours, means residents in Hong Kong are open to new food experiences both in and out of the home.

Food imports: a necessary and thriving industry

Hong Kong’s geography, limited arable land, high-density living, and relatively large population means it has insufficient capacity to produce enough food locally, both from a farming perspective, but also processed food to meet the of the 7 million inhabitants. The city-state has become reliant on importing both fresh and processed food and over 90% of all food consumed locally is imported, making it one of APAC’s biggest import markets.

This reliance on food importing has created a culture of sophisticated food consumers who enjoy and are open to cosmopolitan food tastes. People are generally open-minded to and keen to test new international products. This unique landscape gives Swedish food and beverage companies a safe landing spot in the APAC region to test their products with local consumers.

A gateway to APAC

The willingness of Hong Kong’s consumers to test new food and products makes it the perfect pilot market and entry point to the wider region. These low entry barriers mean Swedish companies can strategically target Hong Kong as part of their wider expansion plans with the knowledge that consumer acceptance of new brands is high.

The open consumer attitudes are complimented by Hong Kong’s strategic geographic position at the heart of APAC. Located only four hours to APAC’s other key markets and around five hours to half the world’s population, establishment in Hong Kong positions Swedish food and beverage companies within proximity to further expansion opportunities and connections with distributors and suppliers who operate in these markets.

Favourable tax conditions

Hong Kong is a leading global trade and financial hub, which in many ways can be attributed to its free trade policy. Imported and exported goods do not incur customs tariffs, surcharges, taxes, or tariff quotas, except for dutiable goods including liquors, methyl alcohol, tobacco, and hydrocarbon oil. The duties payable on liquors depends on the alcohol volume with those under 30% alcohol content have no duties levied, while those with more than 30% incur a 100% duty rate.

This free trade policy has established Hong Kong as a gateway to southern China as well as positioning it as a popular trading hub for APAC as a whole. Many of the traditional customs and trades challenges that Swedish companies face when entering a new export market are removed, however there are still hurdles to overcome with transit, trans-shipment, and temporary importation process to be navigated.

Simplified import regulations

While the free trade policy is an attractive prospect for Swedish companies, the simplified import regulations of Hong Kong are also a benefit. Only certain high-risk imported food like meat, milk, or frozen confections are subject to regulatory control. There are clear guidelines for importers of these products and our local team can help Swedish companies secure the appropriate approvals.

The food labelling laws are also simply to navigate with the Centre for Food Safety clearly outlining the requirements for pre-packaged food. General food and nutrient information are in many cases the only requirements, with clear guidelines in English acceptable in the market.

Sustainable consumerism on the rise

The rise of health- and eco-conscious consumption is on the rise in many markets, and Hong Kong is no exception. Local consumers are increasingly seeking out products that are not only natural, healthy, functional, and organic, but meet wider environmental sustainability concerns.

Swedish brands have a unique opportunity to establish early and become market leaders in this area, with proven products that are healthy and nutritious, but also deliver on minimising impact on the planet. Sustainable packaging, production, and end products are all sought after, with consumers making active choices to embrace sustainable consumerism.

Are you the future in Hong Kong’s food and beverage sector?

Try Swedish provides tailored support based on your specific conditions and needs, working with you to identify opportunities in the Hong Kong market that suit your product and company

We can:

  • Identify potential distributors or agents, specific to your products
  • Carry out qualitative and/or quantitative market analysis to:
    • Clarify the potential of the local market
    • Compare the potential with other markets to inform your strategy
    • Identify and understand your customer group
    • Analyse the competitors in your sector
    • Investigate which sales channels will work for your brand
  • Assist with practical support for starting a local subsidiary, finding an office space, and local invoicing
  • Inform about current regulations and how to meet local requirements and regulations

Upon joining this project, selected companies will have:

  • A local distributor as their exclusive distributor to Hong Kong and Macau (both online and offline)
  • Immediate sales order from the local distributor
  • Business Sweden’s local support throughout the 1-year programme
  • Be promoted in a one-go promotional campaign (i.e. B2C event)
  • During 2021-2022, this project generated a total of ~SEK2.5M to the 5 selected companies. In 2022, two Try Swedish B2C promotional events were organised, one at a shopping mall in a popular shopping district which attracted ~30,000 visitors.

Hong Kong: The big numbers

  • Population: 5 million
  • 3rd in the global ease of doing business ranking
  • 3% year on year increase of imports
  • USD 5,302.8 billion – import value
  • 9,049 foreign companies present in Hong Kong
  • Service sector account for 4% of the GDP in 2020

Contact our team

Email our Try Swedish team in Hong Kong.

Carrie Chan, carrie.chan@business-sweden.se

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