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The Chinese economy saw growth slow towards the end of the review period. Following real GDP growth of 9-11% annually in the first three years of the review period, growth slowed to 8% in 2012 and 2013 before dropping to just over 7% in 2014 and slightly lower than 7% in 2015. Real disposable income levels are continuing to increase, with per capita growth of 7% in 2015. However, slowing economic growth and a slight rise in unemployment at the end of the review period are resulting in growing economic concerns.

Some consumers are thus becoming more likely to economise, with overall packaged food seeing current value growth slow in 2014 and 2015 in comparison to a strong review period CAGR of 12%. However, growth remains strong, reaching 10% annually in the last two years of the review period. Ongoing strong growth is continuing to be fuelled by rising disposable income levels, while also benefiting from a number of other trends.

China is notably seeing both rapid urbanisation and strong retailing development. The country’s urban population soared from 47% of the total in 2009 to almost 54% share in 2014, with further growth being expected in 2015. These urban consumers enjoy access to a considerably wider range of packaged food options, have dramatically higher income levels in comparison to rural consumers and also typically have fast-paced lifestyles due to lengthy commutes and long working hours. The number of supermarkets and hypermarkets operating in China meanwhile increased by 7% CAGR and 12% CAGR during the review period, resulting in many consumers gaining access to a wider product range, particularly in smaller cities and towns.

Outlook

Chinese consumers are likely to have to come to terms with slower economic growth in the forecast period. Real GDP growth is expected to continue to decelerate and is expected to drop below 6% annually by the end of the forecast period. However, economic growth is expected to continue, as will growth in disposable income levels. Over 2013-2030, total disposable income levels are expected to rise by an average annual rate of almost 6%. The country’s urban mid-income group will meanwhile continue to expand and drive growth in private final consumption. Consequently, consumers’ economic concerns could well soften by the end of the review period.

Growth in packaged food is thus also likely to soften but remain strong in the forecast period. Overall sales are expected to see 7% value CAGR at constant 2015 prices, down less than a percentage point in comparison to a review period CAGR of 8%. The forecast period CAGR will indeed be marginally than the annual growth seen in the last two years of the review period as economic confidence begins to rise once more. Growth will continue to be driven by urbanisation, busier lifestyles and retailing development, while a growing consumer focus on quality and an ongoing focus on food safety will also boost sales.

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