The General Administration of Customs of China (GACC)’s new order on imported overseas products comes into effect on January 1, 2022. In order to meet the new policy requirements, overseas food brands will need to make hasty adjustments to their product packaging – is there time? And could cross border e-commerce channels be the answer? Frank Ren of RedFern Digital explains
Once the administration of Order No.248 (hereinafter referred to as the “administration”) comes into effect, the former provisions on the Administration of Registration of Overseas Enterprises Producing Imported Food, announced in 2012, will no longer be effective.
The new administration has been issued to implement provisions of the Food Safety Law on the registration of overseas food production enterprises that import food into China. It:
- Expands the registration scope of food production enterprises.
- Stipulates the methods of assessment and censorship on the imported food manufacturers’ registration, including paper audits, video assessments, on-site inspections, etc.
- Stipulates that some special types of food producers need to be recommended by their national (regional) authorities to the GACC for registration.
- Outlines that registration validity and renewal of registration will be extended to 5 years, which is the same as the validity of domestic food production licenses.
On the same day, GACC also released another new regulation worth noting among food suppliers overseas, the Administrative Measures on Import and Export Food Safety as GACC Decree 249.
The new policy will also come into effect on 1 January 2022, replacing many previous regulations, including Quarantine (AQSIQ) Decree 144, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and the AQSIQ decrees related to the regulation of the import and export of dairy, meat, honey and aquatic products.
What does this mean for overseas brands in the food industry?
It is therefore necessary for overseas brands in the food industry to fully comprehend the impact of the new policy if they want a seat at the table when it comes to the imported food market in China. The main adjustments from the new policy include:
- The introduction of the concept of “conformity assessments of food imports.”
- The sales packages of imported health food and foods for certain dietary purposes must be equipped with printed Chinese labels instead of only affixed ones
- Imported fresh and frozen meat and aquatic food products require instructions on both the inner and outer packaging
- Manufacturers and operators of imported and exported food products are held responsible for issues related to their products
Foreign brands importing into China should pay particular attention to the section in the new policy regarding packaging regulations for certain types of products. Compared to the previous regulations for imported food introduced in 2013, the range of products that require printed Chinese labels on their sales packages has been extended to include sports nutrition, infant supplementary food, supplementary food for pregnant women and nursing mothers, formula products for medical use, and imported health foods.
Foreign brands importing into China should pay particular attention to the section in the new policy regarding packaging regulations for certain types of products.
The impact of the new regulations for overseas exporters and operators within the food industry in the Chinese market cannot be ignored. In order to meet the requirements of the policy changes for imported product packaging, overseas food brands will need to make adjustments to their packaging and ready these new designs within the next six months, before the regulation comes into effect. This will lead to a series of questions:
- Is there enough time for overseas food brands to get ready? Especially when taking into account various considerations such as budget reallocation, production coordination and marketing replanning
- Will these processes make financial sense for the brand?
Selling through cross-border e-commerce channels (CBEC) might be a worthwhile alternative, as it allows overseas food exporters to sell to Chinese consumers while they get ready for future export under the general trade model.
Selling products through CBEC channels such as Tmall Global offers overseas food brands a number of benefits:
- The CBEC platforms where the brands list their products can provide additional confidence to Chinese consumers as they trust the platform. This is especially true for brands that have limited recognition and presence in the market.
- The stores on the CBEC platforms will be owned by the brand instead of local distributors, which offers brands more control over in-market branding and ROI.
- The new regulation on imported food product packaging does not apply to CBEC, which suggests that brands, if unable to take action in time to be compliant, can still sell the stock that had originally been planned for general import through CBEC channels instead.