Winning Strategies for Agribusiness Communicators in China 2023

June 30, 2023

Kit Mention, Group Account Director, Corporate, WE Red Bridge

Trend forecasts in the first half of a new year are nothing new, but China analysts seem to be working overtime in 2023 as the country reopens to the rest of the world. In many industries, multinational corporations have found ways to alter their models to survive without an overreliance on Chinese consumers, and agriculture is no different. That said, the Chinese market continues to present significant opportunities for those who know how to make the most of it.

China remains the largest consumer of meat in the world, and its appetite continues to grow. Much of this growth is coming from more frequent consumption as incomes, especially in rural areas, continue to be buoyed by overall economic growth. Despite a slowdown in 2022, the economy is expected to get back on a growth track in 2023 and beyond, with a 5% growth target just set during the Two Sessions meetings in early March.

Yet consumers are still affected by the events of 2022, and consumer spending into the second quarter remains lower than many had hoped, with projected revenge spending failing to deliver on expectations. Given this, the importance of having the right message to meet the moment is crucial.

WE Red Bridge is a communications agency with nearly a decade of experience creating integrated marketing and communications strategies for clients in the agribusiness sector, covering both consumer- and corporate-facing remits. We understand how to translate consumer trends into actionable marketing strategies, and in our view, today’s landscape presents a series of opportunities for marketers in the agribusiness sector to win market share and differentiate their products and brands.


Referencing recent trend reports from McKinsey, China Briefing, Mintel, Statista, and more, we see the four following trends as being the most important to understanding where the market is today and its trajectory for the coming year:

1. Meat continues to grow

Growth remains strong across the major categories of beef, pork, poultry, and fish, though it has slowed over the course of 2022. This growth comes from two sources: upgrades and increase in frequency, with the former occurring primarily in established cities and the latter increasing in the countryside.

2. Health consciousness continues to grow

Health as a lifestyle choice affecting consumption has shown strong growth over five years but it has taken on a new meaning with the pandemic, as consumers were forced to establish new health habits, some of which they may maintain now that China has emerged from pandemic controls.

3. Other proteins begin to challenge pork’s dominance

Health-conscious consumers are expected to consider other meat choices such as poultry, fish, and beef – though pork is also expected to continue to grow.

4. Convenience appreciated

Consumers will look for producers to provide easy-to-cook or already cooked product formats to save time.

For more details on these trends, see links to the reports referenced at the end of this document.


Health and taste need to play off each other

The overall growth in the sector means that taste ("Does it taste good?") and cultural fit ("Do I recognize it?") of products will be the factors that are most likely to resonate with the greatest number of consumers. Marketing strategies should concentrate on reassuring potential customers about the great taste of a product, and should show how it can fit into a contemporary Chinese diet. While taste is not the only factor to emphasize, the growth in value and volume in the meat industry indicates that communicators should not stray too far from the fundamental taste appeal of their products to win consumers.

That said, with consumers identifying health as a motivating factor, expected growth in poultry and other meats aside from pork, and the trend for consumption upgrade in the meat sector, suggest that health is beginning to challenge taste as a purchase driver for a growing segment of mainstream consumers.

The reality is that consumers are increasingly likely to expect that meat and other food products offer both health benefits and great taste. Given this, marketing and communications efforts should trade off between leading with taste and with health. Having strong storytelling in both areas will ensure that opportunities are not missed to convert based on either factor as both are likely to remain strong.

Develop storylines around convenience

As Chinese consumers lead ever busier lives, they seek convenience in more sectors. To compete with the ubiquity of delivery options, consumer-focused food products must have strong storylines around the convenience of their products, whether it’s quickly cooked fillets, pre-chopped formats, or another proof point entirely. While a convenient product format is unlikely in most cases to be the main factor driving sales conversion, knowing that a buyer can easily prepare a meal that is delicious, healthy, and fast may be enough to push consumers to choose one product over another.

Country of origin decreases in importance

Consumers are spoiled for choice in imported food products, and, though safety remains important to consumers, most international and many domestic brands now have largely comparable food safety credentials. In addition, China’s relationships with key western countries such as the United States and Australia have complicated their country brands. In total, these factors combine to suggest that affluent, sophisticated consumers are no longer as swayed by the origin of a food product as they may have been in years past. These stories must be communicated, but brands should not expect that they will deliver the same reputational or commercial dividends as they may once have.


Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to marketing in China, we’ve put together some top-line thoughts on how to optimize channel mix and spend below, mapped to different stages of the purchase funnel using the Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) framework. Note that these recommendations will need to be adjusted to target specific consumers to account for differences in demographic or regional preferences.

ATTENTION/INTEREST – 40% of your efforts

Use traditional media, targeting their social channels and offline events in key markets, WeChat moments ads, and influencer engagement focusing on Weibo and Douyin to drive top-line awareness and potential interest. Restaurant collaborations encouraging sampling can also be useful at this stage. With these activations, seek to simplify your story with one clear message that is easily remembered and relates to your core differentiating offer.

  • Why 40%? The marketplace is crowded, and sparking awareness and top-line interest is difficult. For many brands, cutting through the noise and getting noticed is their primary objective, so it deserves a lot of focus – though this must be balanced by the need to tell their full story to complete a potential customer’s understanding.

DESIRE – 40% of your efforts

Use research channels such as WeChat, WeChat channels, traditional media collaborations, and RED, covering both your owned channels and influencers, to provide in-depth information on or reviews of your product to those who are already intrigued. This is also the stage in which in-depth content collaborations with chefs are most effective, as they can deliver a more complete set of messages that provide a fuller picture of your product’s storyline and benefits.

  • Why 40%? At the desire stage, consumers are already interested in the product and are receptive to more complete and nuanced communication. This is your chance to tell your story in full.

ACTION – 20% of your efforts

To stimulate purchase, livestreams, KOL performance marketing, and both online and offline point-of-sale merchant collaborations are effective at grabbing attention and providing the optimal circumstances to drive sales conversion. In terms of social platforms, Douyin has had the most success in driving sales, while WeChat, despite its integrated payment function, has lagged.

  • Why 20%? Chinese consumers have become weary of aggressively sales-focused content and pushy marketing tactics. While sales promotion is important, it can be expensive, and, if done incorrectly, can damage a brand. Suggest a lower focus on this type of communication.


With offices in Beijing and Shanghai and the ability to execute nationwide, WE Red Bridge has been supporting businesses in the agriculture sector in China with integrated communications strategies covering social marketing and PR for nearly a decade.

If you are curious about how to translate China’s agribusiness market trends into communications wins for you, we have a team of specialists with a proven track record who are on hand to help, consult, or just discuss.

Reach out at:

Tony Zhang, Head of Corporate Practice

[email protected]