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Comvita to open more stores in country

By ZHONG NAN China Daily Updated: 2023-07-06
Comvita employees check a beehive at an apiary in New Zealand. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Buoyed by the increasing spending power of Chinese consumers, Comvita Ltd, a New Zealand-based company specializing in food and healthcare products, has decided to open more brick-and-mortar stores in China, its top executive said.

Comvita will work closely with local partners across China to maintain robust growth, he said.

Many opportunities come from Chinese consumers' soaring demand for healthy foods, favorable tariff rates and tax exemptions for various products from free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the upgraded protocol of the China and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, said David Banfield, CEO of Comvita.

Platforms like the annual China International Import Expo, which showcases China's high-level opening-up, are also a big help, he said.

Banfield, who is a British citizen, said he expects double-digit growth in Comvita's sales revenue in China this year. He highlighted that Chinese consumers are now increasingly conscious of their well-being and have been paying more attention to their lifestyle and dietary choices. As a result, the company has observed a remarkable surge in demand for natural health food products in China.

China remains a crucial market for Comvita — its local sales accounted for 46 percent of its global revenue in 2022, with an average annual growth rate of 5.4 percent.

"Given the robust growth trend in the health sector, we hold a highly optimistic outlook for our business in China this year," he said.

Comvita, he said, is ready to offer more tailor-made health solutions to Chinese consumers and will continue to invest in its regional product development center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

Besides, it will continue to participate in the CIIE in Shanghai in November.

Global market research firm McKinsey & Co estimated that by 2025, China will likely boast 500 million middle-income consumers. By 2031, China will become the second-largest consumption market, trailing only the United States.

During the visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to China in late June, Comvita and Ole, a premium supermarket chain owned by State-owned China Resources (Holdings) Co Ltd, signed an agreement in Beijing to accelerate the localization and commercialization of Comvita's Harmony Plan within the Chinese market.

Under the Harmony Plan, Comvita, in association with local governments, communities, business partners and nongovernmental organizations, will invest 1 percent of its profit in China to help cut carbon emissions, protect bees' living environment and improve biodiversity.

"China stands out as the most dynamic and rapidly evolving market, necessitating foreign brands to grasp local market trends and consumer preferences, while demonstrating agility in business planning and operational efficiency," Banfield said.

Toward that goal, Comvita underwent a transformative phase over the past two years by reinforcing its local team, specifically enhancing its product development capabilities within China. Such efforts led to double-digit growth and a promotional campaign in China in June.

In addition to promoting the sales of its core product Manuka honey in China, the company will deploy more resources to enhance its market presence through category expansion in the coming years, Banfield said.

In 2022, Comvita established a branch in Hainan Free Trade Port whose preferential free-trade policies help accelerate the pace of introduction of its medical-grade products like olive leaf extract in the country.

"China and New Zealand's industrial complementarity will continue to increase their trade in both goods and services from a long-term perspective, as China, a huge consumer and a manufacturer, needs to import many agricultural goods and commodities from New Zealand," said Zhao Ying, a researcher at the Beijing-based Institute of Industrial Economics, which is affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China will place higher premiums on attracting foreign investment and foster a more enabling business climate on a sustained basis, said Wang Wentao, minister of commerce while presiding over a roundtable with a dozen foreign pharmaceutical companies on Wednesday.