Hong Kong - Country Commercial Guide
Agricultural Sectors

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-03-04

Overview

Hong Kong is a dynamic export market for U.S. agricultural products. Total U.S. agricultural exports reached US$2.2 billion in 2020, Hong Kong ranked as the 13th largest market for U.S. food and agricultural exports. For U.S. consumer-oriented exports, Hong Kong ranked 6th in 2020, with exports reaching US$1.9 billion. Hong Kong consumers are willing and able to pay for higher-quality goods.

Hong Kong’s significance as a major food import market can be attributed to several factors: 

· Most food and beverage products enter duty-free.

· A rules-based import regime and sophisticated infrastructure for trade servicing, including financing and logistics, facilitate Hong Kong’s role as a trade destination and regional hub to China and other regional markets.

· An affluent consumer base, with per capita income of over US$46,700 in 2020, among the highest in Asia, that spends a significant portion of income on food.

Outlook for 2021

· In 2020, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 6.1 percent in real terms from 2019. Considering the latest internal and external situations as well as the stimulus effect of the fiscal measures, the real GDP growth forecast for 2021 is 3.5 - 5.5 percent.  

· Food exports to Hong Kong are expected to resume growth in 2021.  Grocery products, meats, seafood, fresh fruit, wines, and eggs continue to be major export items, with demand for natural and organic food and beverages also growing.

· U.S. agricultural products benefit from a strong reputation as safe, high-quality options.

Retail Sales and Outlets

In 2020, Hong Kong’s retail food sector sales rose slightly at 0.06 percent to US$12.68 billion. The Hong Kong food retail market is made up of supermarkets, convenience stores, and traditional markets. 

Table 1 – F&B Retail Sales in Hong Kong (US$ billion)

Channel 

2016 

2017 

2018 

2019 

2020 

Share 

(2020) 

Growth 

(20 vs 19) 

Supermarket/Dept. Stores 

6.80 

6.85 

7.12 

7.18 

7.89 

62 

percent 

+10 

percent 

Other outlets 

5.26 

5.43 

5.68 

5.49 

4.79 

38 

percent 

-13  

percent 

Total 

12.06 

12.28 

12.8 

12.67 

12.68 

100  

percent 

+0.06 percent 

Chart 1 – F&B Retail Sales in Hong Kong (US$ billion)

Hong Kong Retail Service of Food and Services
Hong Kong Retail Service of Food and Services

There are more than 790 supermarkets, 1,300 convenience stores, and over 100 traditional markets in Hong Kong, making food shopping very convenient.

Traditionally, Hong Kong consumers shop daily because of a preference for fresh food. Much of the shopping is still done in traditional markets including street markets and locally-owned shops. Overall, street market sales trend toward fresh foods while supermarkets dominate in processed, chilled and frozen, high value-added and canned food products. The competition between street markets and supermarkets has intensified in recent years.

Although the number of supermarket outlets is expected to remain stable, the market share for supermarket sales is expected to continue to increase in the future at the expense of traditional street markets which have lost in-person sales, especially from the more hygiene-conscious customers under the COVID-19 pandemic. The supermarkets’ share in terms of total retail sales rose from 44 percent of total sales in 1995 to 62 percent in 2020.

Online shopping continues to grow, especially under COVID-19.  In 2020, food and drink e-commerce reached US$436 million, a significant increase of 80 percent over 2019, and it is estimated to reach US$554 million8 by 2025. 

Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional (HRI) Food Service Sector

Restaurants: Hong Kong boasts around 15,000 restaurants which range from local “dives” to high-end fine dining outlets. The Michelin Guide 2021 stars 87 restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, including seven three-starred establishments in Hong Kong, outnumbering the five restaurants in both New York City and London that won the same three-stars recognition10. In 2020, Hong Kong restaurant food and beverage purchases, valued at US$3.31 billion, generated estimated sales of US$10.17 billion, a decrease of 28 and 29 percent, respectively, over 2019. The sharp decrease was due to social distancing restrictions under COVID-19.  As vaccinations have commenced and the pandemic situation further improves, it is expected that the food service sector will resume growth in the latter half of 2021. 

Table 3 – Hong Kong Restaurants Receipts and Purchases (US$ Billion)

 

2018 

2019 

2020 

Growth (20 vs 19) 

Restaurant Receipts 

15.33 

14.42 

10.17 

-29 percent 

Restaurant Purchases 

4.88 

4.63 

3.31 

-28 percent 


 (Source: Hong Kong Census & Statistics Department, US$1=HK$7.8)

For Hong Kong’s statistical purposes, restaurants are grouped into five broad categories: Chinese, non-Chinese, fast food, bars, and other establishments.

Chinese Restaurants: Chinese cuisine is the top grossing restaurant category, according to Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, and it will continue its dominant share in the market due to deep-rooted cultural events, such as banquets for weddings and dim sum lunches, often enjoyed by groups of working class adults and families.  Among all Chinese cuisines, Cantonese is the most widely available, with others including Shanghainese, Sichuan, and Chiu Chow also providing many options to diners.

Non-Chinese Restaurants: Due to its history as a global trade hub, sophisticated and affluent Hong Kong consumers have an enthusiasm for a range of international cuisines made from high-quality ingredients.  Footprints of restaurants offering non-Chinese cuisine options include Western, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and more, are found everywhere in Hong Kong, leading to numerous opportunities for usages of U.S. foods and beverages as ingredients and for pairing.

Fast food: Fast food outlets suit Hong Kong’s quick-paced lifestyle where dining out twice per day at convenient locations is not uncommon.  Competition among fast food chains is intense as brands strive to retain customers and raise brand awareness, but some newer, leading U.S. fast food chains such as Five Guys and Shake Shack have a strong presence here.  McDonald’s and KFC are the leading Western style fast food chains, and Café De Coral and Fairwood are the leading local fast-food chains, by brand share of foodservice value.  Western style outlets including Pret a Manger and Oliver’s Super Sandwich are often located at areas easily accessed by office workers who appreciate healthy and light options such as salad and sandwiches.

Bars: Hong Kong’s vibrant nightlife is renowned and is served by over 700 bars and pubs across Hong Kong.  Lan Kwai Fong in the Central Business District is home to over 90 bars and restaurants.  It is a place where locals, expats, and tourists gather for drinks in the evenings and during special occasions, e.g., New Year’s Eve and the beer festival. 

Other Establishments: “Tea restaurants” offer a range of localized Western and Chinese cuisines and beverages.  Milk tea is a particular local favorite consisting of adding milk (evaporated or condensed) to various tea combinations.  Hong Kong also has a vibrant coffee culture.  Independent specialist coffee shops have grown in number of outlets and sales the past several years.  The leading chains, by brand share of foodservice value, are Starbucks, McCafé, and Pacific Coffee.

Hotels: There are over 300 hotels providing more than 86,000 rooms for visitors to Hong Kong.

Institutions: Hong Kong’s institutional food service sector consists of hospitals, residential care facilities, schools, prisons, and travel industry catering facilities.  Many of these facilities, especially those operated by the government, purchase food supplies through tenders where price, quality, consistency, and stable supply matter.  Experienced local importers are familiar with the process and requirements.

Hospitals: Hong Kong has 43 public hospitals and institutions, managed by the Hospital Authority, and 12 registered private hospitals.  Some of the meal services are outsourced to caterers and distributors.

Schools: There are 1,046 kindergartens, 589 primary schools, 506 secondary schools, and 22 degree-awarding institutions in Hong Kong.  The Government provides nutritional guidelines for students’ lunch and the appropriate procedures to select school lunch suppliers.

Prisons: The Hong Kong Correctional Services managed some 29 correctional facilities including prisons and rehabilitation centers.  Inmates receive meals that are prepared according to health guidelines.

Airlines: Hong Kong is located less than five flying hours from half of the world’s population, so its airport is very busy.  Connected to over 200 destinations, the Hong Kong airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, and their three aircraft caterers have a combined capacity of 198,000 meals per day for plane passengers. 

Cruise Ships: Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal can accommodate the largest ships in the cruise industry.  The number of ship calls reached 218 and the number of cruise passengers throughout reached 903,060 in 2019.  Although current travel restrictions prevent inbound tourists from accessing cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s new Spectrum of the Seas has recently launched a popular “cruise to nowhere” that leaves from the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and takes guests on the water for various time periods before returning to Hong Kong.  Royal Caribbean’s “cruise to nowhere” is a mark of confidence in the long-term commitment to the Hong Kong tourism market.

Entertainment Parks: The two major theme parks in Hong Kong are Disneyland and Ocean Park.  Disneyland operates thirty-six restaurants, and Ocean Park houses nine.  They include restaurants and cafes that offer various cuisines.

Impact of COVID-19

Despite COVID-19, Hong Kong’s food retail sales remained stable. In 2020, Hong Kong’s retail food sector sales rose slightly at 0.06 percent to US$12.68 billion.

COVID-19 has adversely affected the Hong Kong food service sector more as international travel was restricted, and theme parks, cruise terminals, and schools were closed upon the Hong Kong government’s restrictions on gatherings and dining.  In 2020, visitor numbers reached only 3.6 million, a drop of over 93 percent, and hotel occupancy rates fell to just 46 percent.  In 2020, restaurant sales dropped by 29 percent to US$10.17 billion. It was estimated that the catering industry lost US$641 million (HK$5 billion) of business in July 2020 alone, and another US$774 million (HK$6 billion) in December 2020 upon the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions on diners per table.  

While the food service sector was seriously hit, social distancing and stay-home measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 boosted the food delivery market, with luxury hotels, high-end restaurants, and top-notch cake shop joining the platforms.  The main delivery platforms, Deliveroo, Foodpanda, and other smaller operators, have seen a significant increase in orders and new food outlets signing up since the outbreak of the pandemic.  Restaurant groups ranging from fast-food chains to luxury hotels, have introduced or strengthened their own delivery services to compensate the loss of their dine-in businesses. Though estimates vary widely – between 20 percent and 400 percent increase – all sources agree food order delivery increased during the pandemic. While food deliveries cannot totally replace dining-in at restaurants especially for events like weddings, banquets, and parties, they provide a lifeline to the hard-hit catering industry to complement their businesses.

Outlook for the HRI Sector in 2021

It is expected that food retail sales will remain stable, and e-shopping will become more popular as the pandemic keeps affecting Hong Kong in 2021. Facing the challenges, most restaurants have stepped up health measures for their staff and customers, some have released a COVID-19 guide on sanitation procedures, health protocols, readjusting economics, guest relations, and much more.  The restaurant industry group has planned a US$6.4 million (HK$50 million) food safety scheme aimed at rescuing the sector. 

There are already some signs of recovery.  For the first quarter of 2021, Hong Kong year-on-year GDP grew by 7.9 percent, and Hong Kong’s imports of consumer-oriented agricultural products for the first four months of 2021 reached US$8.6 billion, an increase of nearly 13 percent over the same period in 2020.

The Hong Kong government has implemented multiple measures to support businesses and individuals as the pandemic continues to severely damage the global economy. As of June 24, 2021, the total relief provided by the Hong Kong Government has reached HK$318 billion (US$41 billion), and Hong Kong’s economy is expected to pick up in the latter half of 2021 when the coronavirus situation improves.

Best Prospects for U.S. Consumer-Oriented Food Product Exports in 2020

U.S. food and beverage products will continue to enjoy good prospects in Hong Kong:

· Hong Kong has a highly developed marketing system, with tourists and affluent consumers demanding high-value imports. Per capita GDP (over US$46,700) in Hong Kong is among the highest in Asia, enabling Hong Kong people to spend on high-quality food and beverages. With the link between the U.S. Dollar and Hong Kong Dollar, price stability makes purchases from the United States attractive.

· Hong Kong will continue to be a key gateway for trade to other markets in Asia.

· Some product categories that are expected to be top prospects for U.S. consumer-oriented food product exports in 2021 include tea, pet food, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, processed vegetables, prepared food, condiments and sauces, and beef.

For more information about this industry sector, please contact the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong:

U.S. Agricultural Trade Office

Address: 18/F, St. John’s Building

33 Garden Road, Central

Hong Kong

Tel: (852) 2841-2350

Fax: (852) 2845-0943

Email: atohongkong@fas.usda.gov