The growing spending power of China's middle class and its increasing interest in healthy food are creating good conditions for exports of Californian almonds, said Richard Waycott, chief executive officer of the Almond Board of California.
Waycott told China Daily on Tuesday that the total volume of California's almond exports to China reached 58.97 million kilograms this year to date, an increase of 21 percent year-on-year.
Based on this trend, he said, China is very likely to regain its position as the No1 export market for Californian almonds this year.
Exports of the nut to China hit a record high five years ago, reaching 104.33 million kg annually. However, consecutive droughts in the subsequent years resulted in lower crop yields at a time of growing demand, consequently pushing up prices and affecting Chinese imports.
Founded in 1950, the Almond Board of California is a nonprofit industry association under the supervision of the US Department of Agriculture.
China has been the board's largest investment destination outside the US in terms of public relations, advertising and consumer education, said Waycott. Last year, it started to work with Chinese retail brands including California Field, Be & Cheery and Qiaqia, and will extend its cooperation to Bestore and Tongnianji in 2017.
Consumers in first-tier cities are the board's current focus in China. Its partnerships with Chinese retailers have established its presence across the country, and it will reach out further to potential customers in lower-tier cities through e-commerce platforms, said Waycott.
"The rising middle class has been part of our growth in China so far. Almonds are becoming much more available, especially with e-commerce. It also fits well with the government's dietary recommendations on healthy eating," he added.
As the world's major producer of almonds, California currently accounts for around 82 percent of global production. Around 71 percent of California's almond output is destined for overseas markets.
Between 2012 and 2017, around 75 percent of almonds in the Chinese market originated from the US.
Fitch Ratings said earlier this month that the shift toward healthy lifestyles is the key theme emerging in China's consumption patterns. As a result, consumers who are becoming increasingly affluent are willing to spend more on health-oriented foodstuffs such as nuts and seeds.