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

Hong Kong is a dynamic export market for U.S. agricultural products. Total U.S. agricultural exports reached US$3.1 billion in 2019, making Hong Kong the 9th-largest market for U.S. food and agricultural exports. For U.S. consumer-oriented exports, Hong Kong ranked 6th in 2019, with exports reaching US$2.8 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, facilitates 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 US$48,980 (HKD382,046) in 2019, among the highest in Asia, that spends a significant portion of income on food.

Outlook for 2020

  • The demand for food imports to Hong Kong remains positive. The grocery sector has grown by 11.1 percent in the first two months of 2020 over the same period in 2019. While demand remains strong, food imports to Hong Kong are expected to grow at a slower pace in 2020 because of increasing uncertainties from the external environment, namely, product availability and shipping arrangement availability.  
  • The Hong Kong government has forecast the economy to shrink between 6 percent and 8 percent (estimated) overall in 2020, compared to a contraction of 1.2 percent in 2019. The local government will be closely monitoring the situation and is likely to implement additional measures to stimulate the economy.
  • Grocery products, meats, poultry, eggs, and fresh fruit 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 2019, Hong Kong’s retail food sector sales decreased by 13.6 percent to US$11.27 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

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Share

(2019)

Growth

(19 vs 18)

Supermarket/

Dept. Stores

6.58

6.74

6.80

6.85

7.12

5.78

51.3

percent

-23.2 percent

Other outlets

4.89

5.18

5.26

5.43

5.68

5.49

48.7

percent

-3.5 percent

Total

11.47

11.92

12.06

12.28

12.8

11.27

100

percent

-13.6 percent

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

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

 

Hong Kong Retail Sales of Food and Beverage: 2014-2019
Hong Kong Retail Sales of Food and Beverage: 2014-2019

There are more than 800 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 expand in the future at the expense of traditional street markets. Supermarkets’ share of total retail sales rose from 44 percent of total sales in 1995 to 55.6 percent in 2018.

The performance of e-commerce platforms continues to rise as many residents avoid venturing out due to social unrest during the second half of 2019, and due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. In 2019, food and drink e-commerce reached US$243 million, an increase of 14 percent over the previous year. The value of food and drink e-commerce is estimated to reach $US487 million by 2024. 

*The recent 2019 statistics do not reflect the historical data of the Hong Kong economy in comparison to 2018.

HRI Food Service Sector

Restaurants: Hong Kong boasts around 16,000 restaurants, which range from local favorites to high-end fine dining outlets. The Michelin guide 2020 stars 70 Hong Kong restaurants, including seven three-starred establishments, outnumbering the five restaurants in New York City and three in London that won the same three-star recognition.

In 2019, Hong Kong restaurant food and beverage purchases, valued at US$3.3 billion, generated estimated sales of US$14.42 billion, a decrease of 14.3 and 5.9 percent*, respectively, from 2018. In contrast, food delivery service has gained significant ground as consumers became less willing to dine out due to social unrest and the pandemic. 

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

 

2016

2017

2018

2019

Growth (19 vs 18)

Restaurant Receipts

13.77

14.45

15.33

14.42

-6.1 percent

Restaurant Purchases

4.56

4.66

4.88

4.62

-5.6 percent

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

*Percentages are calculated before numbers are rounded  

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 the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Bureau, and it will continue its dominant share in the market due to deeply 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, including 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: The 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. 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, Oliver’s Super Sandwich, Shake Shack, and Five Guys are often located in areas easily accessed by office workers who appreciate varied options such as salad and sandwiches.

Bars: Hong Kong’s vibrant nightlife is renowned and is served by some 700 bars and pubs across Hong Kong.  The Central business district is home to around 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 or a beer festival.  According to Euromonitor, foodservice sales value in bars and pubs increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3.3 percent during 2012-2017, reflecting growing opportunities for imported alcoholic beverages. 

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, Pacific Coffee, and McCafe.

Hotels: In 2018, tourist arrivals reached 65.1 million, with visitors from Mainland China representing 78 percent of travelers. Visitor numbers grew by nearly 17 percent in the first three months of 2019, showing opportunities for the hospitality industry and demand for accommodation at every price level. These 2019 statistics are not reflective of the recent decline in hotel stays due to political unrest and the pandemic.

To meet the continued rise in the number of visitors, Hong Kong’s hotel room supply continues to increase. Up to March 2019, there were 297 hotels offering 83,138 rooms, compared with 225 hotels and 70,017 rooms in 2013, reflecting growth rates of 32 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The room occupancy rate was 92 percent in 2019 (March). Hotels in Hong Kong offer premium dining experiences including buffets and occasional menus by celebrity chefs from overseas. Local residents fill dining outlets in hotels, especially during festivals when families and friends gather for celebrations. 

Inaugurations of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link in 2018 further connected cities in the region and shortened the transport time. The flow of passengers is expected to contribute to the growth of the hospitality industry once the transportation situation normalizes, leading to increased opportunities for food and beverages.

Institutions: Hong Kong’s institutional foodservice 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 1,049 kindergartens, 587 primary schools, 504 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. The Department of Health leads an “EatSmart at School” campaign to encourage healthy eating such as reduced sodium and the inclusion of fruits.

Prisons: The Hong Kong Correctional Services managed some 28 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 220 destinations, the Hong Kong airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, and its three aircraft caterers have a combined capacity of 198,000 meals per day for plane passengers. 

Cruise Ships: Hong Kong is increasingly popular as a cruise hub due to the development of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which can accommodate the largest ships in the cruise industry. The number of ship calls surged from 89 in 2013 to 245 in 2017.  The number of cruise passenger throughput in Hong Kong jumped from 191,000 in 2013 to 875,212 in 2018.   While official statistics are not yet available, 2019 cruise passenger statistics are likely to show a decline as a result of the social unrest that occurred in Hong Kong during the summer and fall of 2019, and the resultant effect on the tourism industry.

Entertainment Parks: The two major theme parks in Hong Kong are Disneyland and Ocean Park. Disneyland operates twenty dining outlets, and Ocean Park houses eight. They include restaurants and cafes that offer various cuisines.

Outlook for the HRI Sector in 2020

While the foodservice industry’s immediate future remains unpredictable, demand for high-quality U.S. food and beverage products by the grocery sector in Hong Kong is expected to remain robust. The call for healthy, nutritious options continues to gain momentum as changing lifestyles and consumer awareness of transparent and sustainable food sourcing are in demand.

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 (55.9 million in 2019) and affluent consumers demanding high-value imports. Per capita GDP (over US$49,980) 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 2020 include fresh fruits, wine and beer, snack foods, food preparations, red meat, and condiments and sauces.

*The recent 2019 statistics do not reflect the historical data of the Hong Kong economy in comparison to 2018.

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