Popular Chinese nuts and seeds include peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Chinese consumers spend approximately 10% of their total grocery bill on snacks.
October through April is the highest consumption period for seeds and nuts. When the weather becomes warmer during May through September, consumption decreases.
China has traditionally been a large consumer of sunflower seeds. People within all social and income levels eat them. The main reasons for the popularity of sunflower seeds in China is the tradition of eating them and the economical price in relation to other available nuts. American sunflower seeds do not compete directly with locally produced sunflower seeds. They have their own market niche. There is a significant difference in quality when you compare U.S. confection sunflower seeds to locally produced sunflower seeds. The main consumers of American sunflower seeds tend to be in the middle and upper classes. They like the quality of U.S. seeds and are willing to pay a higher price for them.
Chinese sunflower seed roasters also prefer U.S. sunflower seed quality. They like seeds that are large, have dark black color and no scuffs on the shell. Roasters process sunflower seeds either by dry roasting or steaming them. The seeds are sold salted or seasoned with different flavors.
Sunflower seeds can be purchased in supermarkets, state-run stores, snack shops and "mom & pop" stores. Seeds can be purchased in retail packages in various sizes or bulk. Increasingly, consumers are purchasing snack foods in retail packages versus bulk. Primarily, sunflower seeds are consumed at home. Most of them are eaten while watching television, one seed at a time. This consumption pattern is similar to the Spanish market. The highest consumption periods are during social events and holidays, such as Chinese New Year.