Waitrose is to export to China for the first time from 18th April after reaching an agreement to sell products online with the retailer predicting it could become its biggest international business in the next three to five years.

It will be the first time the UK supermarket has exported to a country via a website platform only and will give the world’s fastest growing ecommerce market access to products and ranges, including Waitrose Duchy Organic, Waitrose Baby and later this year, essential Waitrose and Waitrose 1*.

Waitrose products will be sold exclusively through the Royal Mail store on Tmall Global, an online marketplace operated by Alibaba Group.

Tmall is China’s largest third party online platform for brands and retailers to connect with hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers. Waitrose has arranged the deal through Avenue51, who runs Royal Mail’s store on Tmall Global. 

The Royal Mail store specialises in championing British companies and Waitrose will be one of its highest profile brands to date. There will be a dedicated Waitrose page within the Royal Mail’s online store with information about the brand for its new customers in China alongside the product listings.

An initial 30 products will be available from the Waitrose offer, including biscuits, tea, coffee, cereals and nuts as well as beauty, baby and organic ranges with more lines set to be added shortly after the launch. 

Shoppers will be able to choose from favourites like the supermarket’s Earl Grey tea and Waitrose Duchy Organic Shortbread to the ever popular own label Baby bottom butter. 

A report researched and compiled by e-retail analysts, Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), in 2014 highlighted the potential of the Chinese online market. It estimated that less than half of China’s 1.36 billion population was using the internet, despite it already being the world’s largest ecommerce market. In addition, the number of mobile internet users in China had grown by more than eight times in the last five years and was expected to surpass 700m this year.

Waitrose commercial director, Mark Williamson, said:

“The potential for Waitrose in China is huge and although it’s a relatively modest start it’s our ambition to see it become our biggest international business in the next three to five years. We are proud that Waitrose is recognised around the world for quality and excited to be reaching new markets.”

Richard Snowdon, international director at Royal Mail, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Waitrose to the Royal Mail store and to offer its products to Chinese consumers. Our Tmall Global shop front brings British brands together with hundreds of millions of shoppers in China. For British retailers and exporters, Royal Mail offers an accelerated opportunity to access the China market and for consumers, we provide a distinctive range of quality British products delivered right to their door.” 

Amee Chande, managing director, UK/Ireland & Nordics, from Alibaba Group, said:

“Chinese consumers seek out high quality British brands and Alibaba is happy to provide the platform for Waitrose to introduce its products to China’s homes and kitchens. Waitrose joins a number of leading British brands already available through the Royal Mail Store on Tmall Global and we hope that many others will follow given the potential that China offers to their business and the demand that exists for British products.”

Chao Liu, chief commercial officer of Avenue51, added:

 “Avenue51 is proud that Waitrose has chosen to partner with us to drive the expansion of Waitrose’s business into China via e-commerce.  The Chinese market presents the world’s greatest opportunity for retailers such as Waitrose and businesses like Royal Mail, which are seen as desirable and aspirational brands by hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.”