Chinese consumers looking for healthy products

In the post-COVID era, consumers are increasingly concerned about daily health management and the mutual influence of various sub-health issues and their own immunity. Meeting people’s needs for improving immunity has become one of the key market issues. The latest research from Mintel, the expert in what consumers want and why, reveals that Chinese consumers are increasingly investing in health care, the per capita consumption expenditure of healthcare products (excluding medical services) was RMB 1,618 in 2019, accounting for 5.2 per cent of total per capita consumption expenditure (RMB 31,160). Total healthcare product expenditure increased by 9 per cent in 2019, surpassing the growth of overall consumer expenditure (7.2 per cent) in the same period.

Meanwhile, usage penetration of vitamins and supplements increased from 48 per cent to 57 per cent from late February to early May. At the same time, 90 per cent of surveyed consumers agree that COVID-19 has made people more aware of the importance of immunity.

Catherine Liu, Health and Wellbeing analyst, Mintel China, said, “As a result of improved access to health information, the importance of “immunity management” has become mainstream, with many households investing in a variety of approaches to staying healthy. Additionally, the outbreak of COVID-19 has also fuelled consumer demand for better immunity management, expanding from medicines to food therapies, and we have also noticed that the importance of having a strong immunity has moved beyond vulnerable groups (such as kids or the elderly) but also is now an important factor for normal healthy adults.

Embrace both Western and Chinese traditional way
In fact, Chinese consumers are embracing a combination of Western and Chinese (TCM) nutrition to improve immunity health. According to Mintel data, multivitamins (82 per cent) are the most agreed upon nutrients that surveyed consumers associate with immunity, followed by protein (70 per cent), probiotics (63 per cent), and ginseng (70 per cent), propolis (63 per cent), cordyceps (57 per cent) and other herbal ingredients have also gained high approval. Of course, consumers within specific age/gender groups tend to prioritize ingredients to ensure they choose the relevant one for immunity management Mintel data shows that women are more concerned about protein and iron, men are more concerned about zinc and selenium, and consumers aged 18-24 are more interested in ginseng and ginger.

Mintel GNPD(Global New Product Database) shows that the percentage of China’s newly launched immunity claimed food and drinks featuring specific dietary choices are growing slowly in the past five years. For example, the use of ‘low/reduced sugar’ claim in immunity claimed food and drinks only rose from 1.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent.

“From the brand product perspective, highlighting the health benefits of single nutrients front-of-pack can more effectively target specific customer groups. Non-generalized claims of a product as being nutritious would be more relevant,” Catherine suggests.

Integrated product-service solutions will be the key
Actually, consumers now have a relatively comprehensive understanding of the manifestations of low immunity with eighty percent (80 per cent) of respondents already citing susceptibility to colds and fatigue (70 per cent) as manifestations of low immunity, while digestive discomfort (54 per cent)) and skin issues (44 per cent) were also mentioned more frequently. From the perspective of daily health management, more than 95 per cent of the respondents believe that a balanced nutritional intake, adequate sleep, a positive mental state and regular exercise are important to improve immunity. At the same time, 95 per cent of surveyed consumers agree that balancing nutritional intake, good personal hygiene, sleep, positive mindset and regular exercise is important.

Catherine concludes, “Upon recognizing the importance of lifestyle habits, many people feel they are not doing enough. In particular consumers find difficulty in managing enough sleep and an exercise routine, despite strong awareness of their desirable outcomes. Consumers are turning to a broader range of professional health experts for immunity management advice, and integrated product-service solutions will also be a market opportunity point in terms of how brands can more comprehensively offer credible products and services to consumers