5 Tips for Food Marketing with KOLs in China

There are 300 million people considered ‘foodies’ in China. This demographic is so important that Taobao recently released a big data report on food and food marketing for 2018.


Here, we discuss key findings from the report and give 5 tips on food marketing in China—and the value it can bring to your business.


Food is the cultural fabric of China

Starting 1 July 2019, Shanghai implemented new garbage-sorting regulations, making it necessary for citizens to separate:

  1. Hazardous waste
  2. Recyclable waste
  3. Household food waste (in Chinese 湿垃圾, literally translated to ‘wet’ trash)
  4. Residual waste (in Chinese 干垃圾, literally translated to ‘dry’ trash)


Companies and individuals must comply or face a fine of up to CNY ¥50,000 (USD $7,200).


This new rule saw many Shanghainese taking to social media to express their exasperation.

“The instructions for sorting rubbish are the most difficult I’ve ever had to follow!”

“Have a think about it: When you can’t finish drinking your boba tea,

in order to dispose of it correctly, you have to:

  • Dispose the ‘pearls’ into the ‘wet’ trash.
  • Dispose the cup into the ‘dry’ trash.
  • Then, dispose the cup lid into recyclable trash.


Let’s not talk about it. I don’t feel like drinking it anymore…”

Source: 廣告狂人

Despite the environmental benefits of proper waste management, people still feel so defeated by the new regulation that they think twice before consuming boba tea, one of the top-selling drinks in China! The fact is though, food is crucial to the Chinese culture and way of life.


Foodies in modern-day China, however, are not necessarily picky about the quality of food they eat; rather, they’re more focused on food with personality, eating exotic and attractive ‘Instagrammable’ food. They also enjoy eating in large groups.


This of course must be coupled with sharing food experiences on social media through blogging, vlogging, and live streaming. After all, who knows you’re such an adventurous foodie when you don’t share that with the world, right?


Online food ordering is on the rise, influenced in large part by social media, where online purchases of food marketed by KOLs has increased significantly, especially within the ‘90s generation on major social channels, such as Douyin.


In 2018, online foodies in China searched most for the Chinese tofu skin snack “la tiao”, birthday cakes, and snack boxes.

Source: Taobao Report


  • Those born pre-‘80s (39 years and older) spent most on online food shopping, followed by post-‘85s (30-34 years) and post-‘90s (25-29 years).



  • 60% of online food shoppers are female.
  • Over 2016-2018, females had a greater online food purchasing frequency than males.

Source: Taobao Report


  • The hungriest night crowd is post-‘95s (24 years and under).
  • The peak periods for online food ordering are before lunch and after dinner.
  • After 10pm, the bulk of online food ordering is done by ‘90s-‘95s (under 29 years), especially during 12am-2am, when the proportion of food orders from the ‘95s (under 24 years) is significantly higher than other generations.

It’s no surprise that China’s love for food and social media has turned many into aspiring foodie KOLs. But being a foodie KOL is more than just dining at the best, Michelin-starred restaurants. Let’s find out more.


Foodie KOL Marketing Tip 1: Incorporate food-travel guides

Ctrip conducted a study on the number of local travel guides requested by tourists. As a whole, the number of requests increased for all types of guides.


In particular, though, the percentage of requests for food guides increased from 11% in 2016 to 24% in 2018, alongside a falling percentage of requests for other types of specialized guides: from 89% in 2016 to 76% in 2018.


While the requests for other types of guides likely decreased because the Chinese are becoming more independent travellers, the increase in requests for food guides signals that many more are looking to satisfy their cravings during their holidays at the best local restaurants.

In-person Guide Requests via Ctrip

Dark orange: requests for local in-person food guides

Light orange: requests for other in-person local guides

The demand for in-person guides has increased along with the prevalence of virtual food guides. Foodie KOLs travel to eat, and virtual guides help readers understand what food they can expect in a given destination and the good places to eat without the hassle of booking an in-person guide.


For instance, KOLs 焦糖布丁丁 and  单眼皮美少女的日常 compiled a list of must-eat foods in Bangkok (Thailand), and Shaoxing (China), sharing with users their must-visit food places when travelling to the destination.

Source: 焦糖布丁丁

Source: 单眼皮美少女的日常

When the food-travel guide looks appealing, many foodie Chinese are compelled to travel just for the food!

Foodie KOL Marketing Tip 2: Show variations of peoples’ favourite foods

It’s no secret that boba tea is a favourite in China. KOL XFun吃货俱乐部 took it one step further.


People thought boba pearls existed only in boba tea. KOL XFun吃货俱乐部 brought a different perspective when marketing the opening of a boba tea shop that features the many different ways of enjoying boba pearls.


Have them on desserts and pancakes, or try having them savoury with your soup and dinners, or even drink them together with your cup of noodles. Or why not show your love with a pair of unique boba tea earrings?

At the end of the social media post featuring these new ways to enjoy boba pearls, KOL XFun吃货俱乐部 encouraged users to pick up their phone to order a boba tea.


A big advantage for foodies and foodie KOLs alike in China is the ease of online food ordering and delivery, serving the 300 million (and growing) online foodie community.

Foodie KOL Marketing Tip 3: Demonstrate the potential of the product

Milk. Our surface perception is that it comes in one natural flavour. But, maybe if we’re adventurous, we try it in strawberry, chocolate, or banana.


KOL 单眼皮美少女的日常is a down-to-earth KOL who shares realistic content and gives users many tips on food and beauty.


In a RED post, she shared the different ways to enjoy milk and introduced the benefits when milk is combined with different food/fruits to give results like ‘fairer skin’, ‘slimming effect’, ‘enriching the blood’, ‘getting rid of constipation’, ‘fuller busts’, and ‘anti-aging’.

 Source: 单眼皮美少女的日常–

Although this is likely a paid advertisement for the milk brand, her tips still ignited user interest, because the ad was subtle, and she related it back to her personal experience of how drinking lots of milk made her fairer.


Many readers commented on how they would try this at home as her fair skin is a sought-after beauty attribute.

Foodie KOL Marketing Tip 4: Write how-to content

How-to tips are always appreciated by readers, from how to eat better for a healthier lifestyle to making that irresistible snack in the comforts of your own home. Even if readers don’t end up executing it themselves, this creates inspiration.

Source: 焦糖布丁丁

KOL 焦糖布丁丁shared how-to tips on cooking, inspiring readers to cook healthily on their own. Such tips encourage beginners, who may feel daunted by the complexity of cooking, to start off from the most basic ingredients.

KOL 菜菜美食日记enticed readers with Taiwan’s famous street snack: ice cream peanut rolls.


She then described a DIY step-by-step of how to create this snack in the comfort of your own kitchen. Just when the steps reached the climax of a beautifully rolled ice cream peanut roll, the post ends with an advertisement for Häagen-Dazs ice cream.


KOL菜菜美食日记 used engagement and the angle of food craving to balance the product advertisement.

Foodie KOL Marketing Tip 5: List your products on KOL’s e-store

China is a champion of fast and easy payment methods (think face recognition as a payment method), making the ease of purchasing products in one click just as important as the product and KOL content.


The easier it is for users to order the product online, the more it encourages their impulse to purchase.

Source: 菜菜美食日记 mini program store

KOL菜菜美食日记 went beyond a simple WeChat account with a mini program that acts as an online store, housing a range of food products, home appliances, and kitchenware.


Sometimes brands may not have their own strong online presence, so they can look into collaborating with foodie KOLs who have online stores.


At Chat Chat, we have built the niche networks and relationships to find the most suitable KOL for your needs. Drop us a line to start KOL marketing and reaching your target foodie audience in China.

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