China insights report: muesli opportunity

This report is a part of Food Innovation Australia Limited’s China Insights series which explored different food products in mainland China.


It is critical for Australian exporters to understand both the opportunities and challenges as competition is fierce with more than 25+ power countries from around the globe wanting a slice of the Chinese “middle class” consumer.

In China, consumers constantly refer to Australian food brand as superior quality, revealing both the immediate advantage and set of mind perception Australian brand holds in China over other countries, and also the ongoing concerns in China regarding food safety (and increasingly, brand authenticity).

The strength of our food brand, coupled with the falling Australian dollar, proximity to China and signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, suggests that we have never been better placed to grow our food and beverage exports to the Chinese market.

Increased purchasing power in China has helped fuel demand for protein rich and premium imported foods, while well-publicised domestic food safety scandals have further spurred demand for food imports in China.

The magnitude of the shift to online purchasing among Chinese consumers – and the subsequent opportunities this has created for Western food manufacturers – is unprecedented.

The enormous potential of the Chinese market is clear – yet everyone wants a serving, and our competitors are playing the game hard. Premium supermarkets in first tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai feature products from all over the globe, all jostling for attention on crowded shelves with attractive packaging designs, innovative flavours and strong brand messaging via marketing and promotions.

To succeed in China, Australian manufacturers need to be better informed about what Chinese consumers want ‘imported products currently sold in China’s leading supermarkets are a good guide’.

Our report study focuses on the food and beverage products that are planogramed and currently on supermarket shelves in China – which international competitors’ brands and products are selling well; what are the products’ features; how are the products being positioned and promoted; and what are the opportunities for Australian food manufacturers in these categories.

Specific Category Analysis – Muesli and granola

Muesli and granola Traditional breakfasts in China can vary considerably – including variations across different regions. Chinese breakfast foods include: bread buns and meat buns; fried breads sticks; soy milk; congee; Chinese-style pancakes; hard boiled eggs; dumplings; and noodles.

These foods may be prepared at home or purchased at street vendors for take away, often to be eaten at work. Although oatmeal has gained acceptance in the Chinese market as a high-fibre source, marketed to older consumers in particular, a home breakfast of muesli and milk is therefore a significant leap for many Chinese.

Domestically produced milk is also usually watered down – and so for those consumers wishing to pair their imported muesli with imported milk, and possibly imported yoghurt, the costs can be considerable.

The price of a given muesli product can also vary significantly between different supermarket retailers, including hypermarkets and online stores. Small-format stores, such as independent imported food stores and convenience stores, are often located close to high-rise apartments, and tend to charge a premium for the added convenience.

Consumer feedback on some muesli brands on China’s online sales platforms highlights the ‘foreignness’ of muesli for many Chinese. Comments suggest the overwhelming majority of consumers enjoy the taste of muesli, but they often complain the muesli is ‘too hard to chew’. Online selling gives manufacturers the opportunity to detail product benefits, and how best to consume it.

According to a number of Chinese supermarket operators, expats are still the largest purchasers of muesli, yet young, health-conscious white collar workers are driving sales growth among the local consumer market. International supermarkets now feature a large variety of muesli and granola products, while the imported sections of hypermarkets and regular supermarkets, whether in first tier or lower tier cities, often carry a small selection of muesli – typically of German origin.

Muesli bars opportunities Demand for muesli bars has grown strongly in recent years in China, where branding tends to promote their function as a source of energy, and as a meal substitute. Nuts, fruit and yoghurt are a common feature in muesli bars, while rice bars and ‘soy bars,’ localized to the Chinese market, are also available (SoyJoy is the largest domestic manufacturer of these bars).

Large value packs of granola bars (42g individual serving sizes) were observed at some premium international supermarkets and will become increasingly popular in China given their perceived function as a fast and convenient breakfast substitute.

Selected product information
Serving size
Price (Rmb)
Fruit Muesli
Fruit Muesli
Original Muesli
Crunchy Muesli (e.g. Raspberry Yoghurt)
Jenny Lou’s
Granola (e.g. Mango Macadamia)
City Shop

 Major brands (Muesli)

  • Jasons, Hahne, Musli Land, Familia, Kolln, Emco

Niche brands (Muesli)

  • Carman’s, Bear Naked, Lizi’s Granola, Dorset Cereals, Back to Nature

Major brands (Muesli bars)

  • Nature Valley, Alpen, Corny, Mother Earth, Mr Kanny

Niche brands (Muesli bars)

  • Nice & Natural, Carman’s, Lizi’s Granola, Dorset Cereals

NPD – New Product Development

Muesli imported from Germany, and packaged and distributed under the Chinese brand ‘Jason,’ is the dominant muesli brand in China. Jason muesli features clear plastic packaging, limited brand messaging or images, yet detailed nutritional information prominently displayed on the front of the packaging, written in both German and Chinese.

Other German muesli brands are also commonly sold at Chinese supermarkets, and tend to use clear plastic packaging. (Unlike many Australian muesli products, German muesli also tends to include corn flakes in the muesli mix). Some muesli brands at international supermarkets now feature snap-lock packaging to retain freshness, while a popular granola product comes in milk carton-style packaging.

Snack sized muesli packs are not yet common in Chinese supermarkets, but distributors expect demand for this format to grow.

Some domestic muesli manufacturers are producing low-cost muesli in premium, re-sealable packaging, featuring flavours tailored to local tastes (blueberry, redbean, cranberry and black sesame).

Brand messaging includes ‘cleansing’ and ‘fibre’, appealing to the common Chinese preference for food that performs specific health functions for the body.

Imported muesli brands in China often emphasise the origins of the oats in their branding, using farm imagery such as wheat fields, windmills and tractors on the packaging.

Images of nuts and large pieces of fruit – particularly berries – and milk being poured into a bowl of muesli also regularly feature on muesli packaging. (Chinese believe that dairy products have excellent health benefits.) ‘Fruit muesli’ is most common, while crunchy, sweet granola style products, or muesli with added chocolate, are also popular.

Niche flavours include:

  • Pineapple
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Cranberry
  • Cashew nuts
  • Macadamia nuts

Trends and Opportunities

Australian muesli is well-represented in China’s supermarkets and interest from Chinese distributors, wholesalers and buyers was strong.

Online sales platforms in China give manufacturers the opportunity to educate consumers on a product category (and its health benefits) that many Chinese may be unfamiliar with.

Consumer online feedback on imported muesli constantly refers to the ‘nutritional value’ of the product, while consumers also seem to value the function of muesli bars as a breakfast substitute.

Granola products that use innovative flavours and/ or packaging also have excellent prospects in the Chinese market. Oats and dairy are highly-regarded among young and old Chinese consumers alike for their health benefits.

There is a clear culture shift occurring, and we foresee appetite from Chinese consumers on this category will continue to expand and develop.

This report is a part of Food Innovation Australia Limited’s China Insights series which explored different food products in mainland China.