Procedure of Setting up a Food BusinessRegister Requirements: supervised
Corporate Structure: flexible
Market Access: openness
Industries: e-commerce, trading, licenced
Minimum Capital: see below
Company Types: LLC, WFOE, JV
Licensing Time: 35 – 45 workdays
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Multiformity of Establishing Food Industries:

Food industry is a supervised and licensed business type in mainland China, suitable for foodstuff business and management ( purchase and sales ), such as beverage, alcohol ( liquor, wine ), coffee, meat, dairy products, agricultural products, fruits, vitamin, and so on. Corporate forms apply to catering, bar, food counter, coffee shops, dessert shop, bakery, traders, exporters, importers, franchisers and other relevant food trades.

Due to the multiformity of food industries and different industrial forms mentioned here in before, therefore, you have to prepare different documents and required legal files submitting to supervision department known as CFDA ( CHINA FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION ). Food licenses and special permits are required for Chinese local enterprises operating selling and purchasing activities by offline shops or online business ( B2B, B2C ). Relevant permits apply to different food businesses and approved after the business license and certificate of registration of foreign invested enterprises have been issued ( corporation has been authorized and existed legally ).

Following guidance collected by SMEsChina teams for your reference in terms of the latest food industry access and supervision laws on licensed industries published in 2019, Chinese new year. With the simplification of commercial environment, the process is not any more difficult, whole procedure can be done comfortably and smoothly.

This guidance include:
1. Procedure and steps
2. Popular food businesses
3. How to get started
4. Requirements and documents

Let’s go ahead.

Procedure and steps of Setting up a Food Business

Whole process needs 35 – 45 working days for general food companies, if your Chinese enterprise is going to operate international transactions, in this case you have to apply for additional procedure for obtaining import and export permits. If you intend to register a Chinese parent company and open branches ( coffee shop, bar, restaurant, etc. ) in different cities and streets, also you have to apply for an independent food permit and business license for each branch.

Those points are telling you that multiple commercial models need different approaches of business registration depending on your actual situations, maybe you have to spend longer time to obtain licenses and permits. You can contact SMEsChina teams to get a details Proposal and commercial planing suggestion. Here SMEsChina provides a standard brief procedure with step by step for different food enterprises.

Step 1. Company Registration

Register business license needs 20 workdays, learn more: How to obtain incorporation certificate of business registration
Import, export licenses need 10 workdays
Bank account needs 5 – 7 working days

  • 1). Start the process of company establishment
  • 2). Obtain business license and company chops
  • 3). Obtain certificate of registration of company
  • 4). Open corporate bank account in time
  • 5). Meanwhile hiring staff ( health certificate )
  • 6). Certificate of international trading ( if needed )
  • 7). Certificate of the Customs registration ( if needed )
  • 8). Certificate of inspection, electronic port cards ( if needed )

Step 2. Apply for Food Permits

After above Step 1 completed, then start below process
Each licensed permit needs 20 working days
Items: 2 – 8 need warehouse and actual shop(s)

  • 1). Food distribution and business license ( required )
  • 2). Liquor sales license ( if needed )
  • 3). Dairy products sales license ( if needed )
  • 4). Catering service license ( if needed )
  • 5). Public hygiene and fire control ( if needed )
  • 6). Meat sales license ( if needed )
  • 7). Frozen refrigerated food ( if needed )
  • 8). Fresh products import permit ( if needed )

Step 3. Physical / Actual Shops

Above Step 1 completed, then start below process
Business license of each branch needs 10 workdays
Each independent license needs 20 working days

  • 1). Register independent business license
  • 2). Register independent food license
  • 3). Apply for independent bank account
  • 4). Independent qualification of taxpayer
  • 5). Independent liquor sales license( if needed )
  • 6). Hire local staff, open social insurance account ( and obtain a health certificate )
  • 7). Other independent licenses and permits
  • 8). Notice, branches can not register import and export permits

Popular food businesses in mainland China

As a rule of thumb, all foreign brands and traders can establish a food business in mainland China, you can select corporate type as WFOE, JV, Partnership, or other limited companies. But here in before has been mentioned repeatly that different commercial forms and product types affect the whole procedure of registration and schedule of completion.

What are supervised foods, all food products have been produced and processed, and product features have been changed to other morphologies. For example, coffee bean be processed to powder, cow be processed to charqui, grape be processed to jam or drinks, etc. All of these prepackaged foods need to obtain a food business permit.

Fruits, fresh flowers, if the process of selling fruits and flowers are not be changed their morphology and shapes, you do not need to register food business licenses ( no any processing ), such as Chile cherries, kiwi fruit, etc. If an apple be processed to a hot pie, or to be salad, same way, flowers be processed to dry flowers and to be a tea or drink, those situations you have to apply for a food business license.

Tea, need to apply for food permits because leafs will be processed to dry tea, and be applied to processing of drinks or other food raw materials.

Edible agricultural products, same methods need considerations, like fruits and flowers mentioned here in before, you should think that if potatoes be processed to chips, or basil be processed to basil sauce.

Aquatic products and sea foods, most of them be packaged and jump into distribution channels after be processed and obtained food licenses. But sometimes have some case-by-case situations, such as brown crab, king crab, Boston lobster, etc, those fresh foods do not need to be processed during the whole purchasing and selling activities and finally sold to consumers directly, in this case, also do not apply for food business permit, only apply for the sea foods for your business scope.

What is frozen and refrigerated foods, some special products must use refrigeration equipment to transport, such as milk, chocolate, cold drink, raw meat, an so on. You can operate daily transports through local forwarders, Customs brokers or other cold-chain logistics. But you have to apply for a frozen and refrigerated food permit first ( rent a physical/actual warehouse more than 50 square, plus one Chinese employee at least ).

Must register a manufacturer, some special foods must be manufactured in mainland China and obtain production permits of special foods issued by local food regulatory institutions, such as diet foods, health care products, formula foods, infant formula milk powder products. That means you have to rent a factory first.

Warehouse required, apply to frozen and refrigerated foods, alcohol ( liquor, wine ), dairy products, raw meat. You can look for an agent to operate daily Customs clearance and transports, also these logistic agents can provide small warehouse to storage products.

Pet foods, voluntary application food license and it is not compulsory, but importers ( purchase from oversea ) must apply for the registration and filing of imported feed issued by AQSIQ ( Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine ) and obtain import registration certificate issued from MOA ( Ministry of Agriculture ).

Retail shops, this topic depends on your decision, if you intend to open different branches and shops in other Chinese cities or streets to develop your business, you have to register independent business license, bank account, food license and other needed permits for each shop ( branch ).

How to get started step by step

In fact, SMEsChina teams particularly good at carrying out whole processing of registering food license to our customers from all over the world. Because these food enterprises and cases may give satisfactory service fees, in addition, a series of subsequent value-added services be repeated purchases after you runing and operating the businesses.

SMEsChina teams have great confidence to assist your food business company obtaining legal approval and whole process will be done comfortably and smoothly.

Whatever your foods are, you can rent a physical office, warehouse in mainland China, or if you want to get bonded functions, also you may choose to register your business in Chinese free trade zones.

OK, 7 steps to start up business:

What requirements and documents need to submit

Because different foods need providing different requirements and documents depending on the supervisory scope of licensed industries, here SMEsChina lists some popular topics for your better understanding.

Commonly required, corporation has been approved to obtain business license and company seals, foreign invested and owned business entity ( WFOE, JV, Partnership, LLC ) has approved a certificate of registration of foreign enterprises.

  • 1). After hiring local staff ( 1 at least ), and staff has obtained health certificate issued by local hospitals.
  • 2). Letter of intent for purchase and sale orders with the corporate stamps, cargo list and copy of production license and copy of business license of manufacturer.
  • 3). Transport instruction and agreements ( contracts ) signed and stamped by your company and logistic agent.
  • 4). Products safety responsibilities and letter of commitment.
  • 5). Import food need providing certificate of the Customs clearance and inspection records for the latest transaction.
  • 6). CV, photo and ID of general manager and storekeeper.

Look for a registered address, general food business industries need to rent commercial office more than 50 square metre, actual shops more than 20 square metre, other special foods need additional warehouse more than 50 square metre such as frozen and refrigerated foods, alcohol ( liquor, wine ), dairy products, raw meat.

Standard corporate structure, your company can be as, WFOE ( wholly foreign owned enterprise ), FICE ( foreign invested commercial enterprise ), JV ( joint venture business ), LLP ( limited liability partnership ) or other structure of company depending on your structure of shareholder(s).

Investment Capital, general food need the minimum registered capital 20,000 USD or EURO, special foods need more than 500,000RMB ( 75,000 USD around, you can link foreign exchange department to check the rate: ).

Value-added services for e-commerce businesses

Corporate bank account, one-on-one full services providing account opening and internet banking setting up though SMEsChina accountants department, and help you opening online payment tools.

Secretarial services, assisting corporations to register local trademarks and bar codes, also providing mails and letters forward services. Through our services help more foreign brands launching online businesses with simply and smoothly.

Market opportunities, whatever businesses you look forward to expand in Chinese market, China is a huge market and attracting more and more small business management enterprises to be here to set up companies with simply and quickly process of establishment.

Residence permits, once you own a local enterprise, you can hire foreign staff and obtain working visa and resident permits. And your China corporation can issue an invitation letter to foreign staff from immigration office easily.

Online marketing, a number of foreign business entities are choosing to deliver advertising in Chinese platforms through local existed corporations, as the largest e-commerce market, online marketing is the the most effective approach to get focus. A Chinese company, can open and register online market platforms ( such as JD, T mall, Taobao, Amazon, Alibaba, etc. ) and payment tools ( such as wechat, alipay ) easily and quickly ( you must be approved to obtain local business license and corporate bank account ). Food business once be approved to issue food license and permit, you can do business by online platforms ( b2b, b2c ). Learn more: ICP Permit and Licence

If you are hesitating that if this industrial guidance is right for your purpose, or you are considering other business plannings, you may use this useful link China foreign investment industrial guidance catalogue , to get more reference. If you wish, you may get in touch with SMEsChina online teams directly.

Get help deciding how to establish a business in China

SMEsChina offers a wide range of corporations services through the years of practical experience in areas of company formation, licenses application, tax consultation, annual audit, government inspection, virtual office services, human resources, secretarial management services, online marketing strategies, residential visa, registration of bar codes and trademarks, and other solutions of corporate running and maintaining to our global customers.

Ready to establish your food business in mainland China? SMEsChina teams are here.

Learn more: Company Incorporation of Non Residents

Ready to Start and Launch a Business in China? So Are We.

SMEsChina teams focus on the growth of enterprise and providing a variety of business solutions in the area of strategy consultancy, WFOE setting up services, business registration, company formation, incorporation of domestic invested enterprise, finance and audit services, HR and payroll, corporate bank account, resident permit, immigration and visa, trademarks and legal compliance.

China is attracting more and more foreign companies, SMEs,entrepreneurs, startups, brands to invest and establish their business entities through reforming various laws and regulations actively. More than 47 million companies and small medium enterprises have registered their business entities in mainland China and over 3.5 million new enterprises are incorporated during each financial year with comfortable process of registering companies. Here SMEsChina is sharing our knowledge and business insights to global enterprises and companies for better learning the regulations and rules of China corporations running and corporate maintaining. All reference and guidance collected by SMEsChina Teams in accordance with the latest implemented laws of the People’s Republic of China on Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises ( WFOE ), Joint Venture ( JV ) and Limited Liability Company ( LLC ), Limited Liability Partnership ( LLP ), and other relevant and officially promulgated regulations and rules on the corporation formation and registration of industrial and commercial enterprises and related IP laws, immigration and resident policies ( VISA ), tax laws.

SMEsChina teams happy to work around you and look after your daily China operations confidently and smoothly. Check if setting up a private company is right for you, if you have everything to set up a business in Mainland China, you can get in touch with our teams to get more useful information and online guidance.

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