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With a raft of new laws being introduced later this year, Mark Tanner highlights the importance of having the right packaging when targeting China’s domestic market.

Anyone who has spent time in China is likely to have noticed how elaborate the packaging can be relative to similar products in Western countries. Goods are wrapped up as if for high tea in the depths of a Heilongjiang winter – one may have to make their way through four or five layers of intricate wrapping before reaching a tasty morsel buried deep inside.

The perceived status, discovery or safety from fanciful packaging trumps any environmental concerns for most consumers.

While many everyday goods have plenty of packaging, the finely crafted gift box is the pinnacle of China’s elaborate packaging. China is well known for its gift-giving culture, and an important component of gifting is an appealing package, which is symbolic of the quality of the gift and the relationship with the recipient. There are few product categories which don’t offer a slew of products festooned with special gift packaging.

The lead up to the recent Mid Autumn Festival is where gift packaging steps up a gear with the onset of mooncake season. Each year the baked goods are packaged with more elaborate trimmings than the last and, even with the economic headwinds, this year was no exception. Mooncakes have increasingly become so elaborate that Beijing has stepped in to ensure “excessive packaging” and overcharging didn’t spoil the mooncake giving tradition this year.

Over 180,000 sellers and suppliers had been inspected by law enforcement officers since early August, ensuring that prices were kept below ¥500 ($72) a pack and banned ingredients weren’t included. It is one of the most visible initiatives of how Common Prosperity policies are creeping into mainstream consumer products.

Mooncakes are not the only goods to be targeted by Beijing’s packaging police. New laws coming late this year will introduce a string of packaging requirements which will impact production, sales, delivery and recycling to stem overpackaging.

1.4 billion consumers going through a little less packaging in their lives will make a material difference to the health of the planet. Last year, there were an estimated 544 million consumers who purchased food delivery services. When they order next year, there will be greener policies determining how the goods arrive. Similarly, close to a billion online shoppers will see less non-recyclable packaging accompanying their purchases.

The importance of having the right packaging has always been important in China. The new regulations will add just another element to consider. This will be on top of ensuring your products have the right format to serve China’s often unique occasions and uses. Appropriate imagery, icons, text, typeface and placement are important in addition to the legal labelling requirements.

Packaging will also need to appeal to your target demographic or subtribe, whether it be brandishing Genshin Impact game characters to appeal to Gen-Zers, or having larger font and easy-opening to suit elderly.

Even sales channels should be considered when tailoring for China to ensure your products stand out amongst the sea of competitors.

Mark Tanner heads up Shanghai-based China Skinny, a marketing agency that offers tools, research, strategy and branding services to help you optimise your performance in China.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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