Market Digest: China’s Diversifying Condiments Sector


Variety is the spice of life, and Chinese consumers are craving both.

China’s condiment market has exploded in flavor and value in recent years, reaching US$64.18 billion in 2021, with its compound seasoning market at US$24.95 billion and growing rapidly. The compound seasoning market is expected to reach as great as US$47 billion in 2027, with a CAGR of 13.46%, suggesting huge demand for a variety of flavor combinations.

Chicken essence, hot pot base, Chinese compound condiments, and Western compound condiments are the main compound seasonings in China. Chicken essence comprises 30% of the market share, followed by hot pot base (20%), Western compound seasoning (20%), and Chinese compound seasonings (17%). In recent years, the market for Chinese compound seasonings has grown quickest at 16.5%, from 2016 to 2021. Still, Western compound seasonings grew 14% and hot pot bases 13.8% over the same period, indicating substantial potential across all segments of the compound condiment sector.

Catering channels acquire 60% of condiment consumption, while households consume 30%. Industrial channels account for the remaining 10%. With the rise in takeaway orders and pre-prepared dishes, compound condiments still have great development potential. Additionally, the pandemic sparked an increase in home cooking, which has boosted household consumption and the overall compound condiment industry.

Western-style fast food’s diversified and rapid development has expanded some Chinese consumers’ pallets to gradually become familiar with Western-style tastes and flavors. In some pre-prepared Chinese foods, western-style sauces have become much more common. For example, AirMetter, whose revenue rose 76.81% to 1 billion last year, uses several Western-style sauces, which has helped drive in a new customer base looking to explore the flavors of these condiments.

While Chinese consumers are looking to add more variety to their diets, their health consciousness is also growing, and they demand the use of healthy compounds and pure ingredients. International specialty brands in the market, such as Masterfoods and Uncle Tom’s, have begun utilizing e-commerce platforms to promote pure ingredients and health advantages. Masterfoods, for instance, emphasizes its BBQ sauces from Australia that do not contain preservatives, while Uncle Tom boasts grilled chicken condiments from the United States that are natural, organic, and sugar-free.

However, as local consumer demands continue to diversify, foreign brands that mass-produce conventional products are struggling to meet the demands of the Chinese market. Consequently, several local condiment companies that target niche segments have appeared to fill emerging gaps. For example, Bolex is a local company focusing on mid-to-high-end Western-style baking sauces that also appeal to health conscious consumers. Bolex’s sauces contain 38% imported real cheese and natural fruits as opposed to artificial flavoring. Bolex’s sauces highlight the Chinese consumers’ demands for clear and transparent processing procedures and preferences for organic, non-GMO, additive, and preservative-free products.  The company was listed on the primary board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2022.

The condiments sector is extremely dynamic and continues to witness change. Because the condiment market is highly competitive, unique flavors can help brands stand out in the Chinese market. However, it is crucial for brands to be flexible and stay ahead of market trends in order to capture the quickly evolving tastes of Chinese consumers. 

With more than 25 years of experience conducting market research and advising companies on their Asia market entry strategies, our seasoned experts are poised to provide the knowledge and tools you need to turn your expansion goals into operational reality. Contact Tractus today to learn more.

Authored by

Cathy Gu is a Senior Research Analyst based in China.

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