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Commodity Innovation Series - Snapshot of opportunities in China's flax sector

80% of China’s flax imports are supplied by Canada.

Market trends

  • Flax is fast becoming a new food item in many diets due to its nutritious content and health benefits.
  • It is a dynamic commodity that can be used in a broad range of products for food, feed, and industrial use.
  • In 2016, health and wellness products grew at a compound annual growth rate of 11% from 2012 to 2016 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9% from 2017 to 2021.
  • With the rise in living standards, a shift towards health and wellness food items, and new food safety standards, China represents a potential market for Canadian flax ingredients.

Flax trade

  • In 2016, China imported US$239.3 million worth of flax, which made up 21% of the world’s market share.
  • Canada is China’s leading supplier of flax, worth US$189.7 million in 2016. This amount was 30% more than China’s domestic product of flax and has been growing at a growth rate of 20% from 2012 to 2016.
  • China is in the process of establishing a food safety standard for using flax as a food source. Once implemented, the use of Canadian flax for food or as an ingredient will be allowed.

Flax in bulk

Of the top five flax importers, China saw the fastest growth rate with 14% (2012 to 2016)
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Country Imports
($US Millions)
Belgium 250,149,154 -3.6%
China 239,314,755 14.0%
Germany 118,330,808 -3.9%
United States 75,463,270 -13.5%
Turkey 69,733,835 5.6%
*CAGR: compound annual growth rate (from 2012 to 2016)
China is the second-largest health and wellness market in the world, worth US$107B in 2016
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USA 44%
China 28%
Japan 13%
UK 8%
Germany 7%

Flax used as an ingredient

Top companies launching the most products containing flax and their top brands in China
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Company Number of variants Top brands
Linyi Jinluo Meat Product 13 Jinluo Wang Zhong Wang
Paddy Time 11 Paddy Time
Jiashili Group 4 Jiashili
Xin Qi Dian Biotechnology 4 Meng Yi Sa Cao, Yuan Wei Dao
Meng Yi Sa Food 4 Xin Qi Dian

New product development is driving growth in the health and wellness market

Top Five Growing Claims

  1. Low/no/reduced calorie
  2. Immune system (functional)
  3. Gluten free
  4. Prebiotic
  5. Low/no/reduced cholesterol

Top Five Declining Claims

  1. Whitening
  2. Portionability
  3. Ethical/human
  4. Anti-bacterial
  5. Low/no/reduced saturated fat

Top Package Types

  1. Flexible
  2. Bottle
  3. Flexible stand-up pouch
  4. Can
  5. Carton

Top Packaged Materials

  1. Plastic
  2. Plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
  3. Metallised film
  4. Coloured glass
  5. Multi laminate

Top innovative markets for flax in the Asia Pacific region

China is ranked 7th in launches of flax-containing products
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Innovation Criteria Australia South Korea India New Zealand Malaysia Thailand China Taiwan Singapore Japan
Relaunch 4 10 5 4 3 4 4 3 4 10
New Product 17 18 17 17 19 17 17 18 17 11
Product Line Diversity 9 8 8 8 6 5 7 8 6 5
Health & Wellness Claims 20 14 19 19 17 18 15 14 15 11
Rating scale: Excellent (20-17), Very good (16-13), Good (12-9), Fair (8-5), Low (4-0)

Factors of consideration

Recommendation for entry

How we can help

View our Agri-FoodTrade Services for information and support to help you achieve your international business goals.

International Trade Commissioners are also an excellent point of contact for export advice and can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions, and local business contacts.

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