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Air-Shipped Chilean Cherries Heat Up Chinese Market

November 16, 2023

As Chilean cherries continue to land at various airports across China, the annual “cherry fever” that occurs at the end of each year is unfolding in fruit wholesale markets throughout the country, with the fruit becoming increasingly available on both online platforms and physical retail shelves.

Given that it is still early in the season, consumer purchases are primarily motivated by a desire to be among the first to taste the fruit. According to a representative from Pagoda, China’s largest fruit store chain, early arrivals are consistently increasing despite lingering weather-related challenges. Retail performance remains within expectations, and the industry is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the sea shipments that will signal the start of peak season.

Ahead of the influx of cherries in large quantities, the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) continues to engage with the Chinese market to prepare for the upcoming season. At the recently concluded 6th China International Import Expo, Taobao and Tmall Group unveiled an ambitious 2 billion Chinese yuan ($276 million) plan for Chilean cherry sales and introduced various customized and co-branded gift packaging concepts for cherries. As of the expo period, Tmall’s Double 11 sales of Chilean cherries had grown by an impressive 960% compared with the previous year, according to CNR News.

In terms of offline channels, this season’s promotional efforts for Chilean cherries will reach up to 24 retail channels spanning 55 cities nationwide. Notably, 25 cities will witness more frequent and focused promotional activities. In addition, this season’s promotional campaigns will concentrate on expanding into regional markets, utilizing four key strategic cities — Wuhan, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Qingdao — to reach and influence surrounding consumers.

After years of market development, the supply chain and quality control of Chilean cherries on the Chinese market have undergone significant upgrades. Chilean cherries have become a familiar sight, not only adorning the tables of numerous households during the Chinese New Year period but also emerging as a daily favorite among consumers.

According to in-depth market insights, the target group for Chilean cherries is expanding to include increasing numbers of both younger and older women. As consumers lead the trend in cherry consumption, many traders have proactively responded to meet diverse market demands. There has also been an exploration of customized packaging based on specific consumption scenarios, with various packaging forms such as gift boxes and portable small packages being introduced to better cater to middle- and high-end consumer needs. Innovation in cherry packaging not only shapes consumption patterns but also aligns with the market’s proactive response to meeting consumer demands.

As the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year mark the peak sales period for Chilean cherries, there is a significant surge in demand for both original packaging and gift-boxed cherries during this time. In 2024, Chinese New Year will fall on Feb. 10, almost three weeks later than last year. This later date will not only ease the delivery pressure on the Chilean cherry industry but also ensure a more orderly market supply rhythm. During the leadup to the peak arrival period, Chilean cherries are expected to be consumed more in daily scenarios.

Images: ASOEX (main image), Taobao and Tmall Group (body images)

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