Chinese Consumers on Healthy Eating

There has been an increase in awareness around health and wellness topics in China, even before COVID. Dingxiang Yisheng “2019 National Health Insights Report” (2019国民健康洞察报告) show that 93% Chinese see personal health as the most important attribute in life (having a happy family and good mental health comes next at 73% and 47%).

Increased awareness in health

Following the National Health Conference in 2016, China’s leaders ensured health became a national priority and announced the Healthy China 2030 Blueprint. In 2019, an action plan was released with 15 specific health-related goals to be achieved between 2020-30. Among these goals include reducing obesity, increasing overall physical activity, etc. These initiatives have helped drive increased awareness of health topics among Chinese consumers. Ipsos recently released a survey report “2020 Chinese adults health management white paper” (2020中国成人健康管理白皮书). 84% of 3,000 survey respondents aged 18-65 from tier 1 to 3 tier cities reported that they pay more attention to their health now. People aged 25 or above show a substantial increase in health awareness, close to half reported feeling satisfied with their current health.

Sports, health supplements and healthy eating, especially Yangsheng (养生) will be the top growth areas in the wellness industry. 57.8% of consumers rated Yangsheng as the key priority when it comes to pursuing health and wellness, according to iiMedia. As with the 70/30 rule, weight loss is 70% the foods you eat, and 30% exercise. Chinese consumers are adopting similar attitudes when it comes to pursuing health and wellness. Ipsos’s “2020 healthy fast food survey report” (2020健康快餐研究报告) stated that 83% consumers rated “having a balanced diet” as one the most important health habits. Among the top 10 health habits, 5 are diet and nutrition-related. For this article, we will be focusing on the diets and eating preferences of Chinese consumers.

Top-performing healthy F&B brands

Ready-to-eat traditional Chinese health products such as Yanwo (燕窝) and Ejiao (阿胶) have been a hit recently. Brands such as Dong’e Ejiao (东阿阿胶) and Xiaoxianduan (小仙炖) have managed to package these ancient premium health products into everyday convenience and have become very well-received among Chinese consumers.

The brand, Xiaoxiandun (小仙炖), has been particularly popular in China among tier 1 female consumers lately. Xiaoxiandun is a Yanwo brand that offers ready-to-eat products via cold-chain logistics. Xiaoxiandun has successfully packaged a top-tier luxury health supplement as a convenient subscription service for consumers. During the 618 shopping festival (from June 1 to June 20), sales of Xiaoxiandun exceeded 245 million RMB, a year-on-year increase of 463%. As for this year’s Double 11, Xiaoxiandun’s GMV exceeded 465 million RMB and beat Swisse to clinch the No.1 title in Tmall healthcare category. Xiaoxiandun is also the first F&B brand on Tmall Double 11 to enter the “100 million club” through livestreaming.

Xiaoxiandun, a health supplement brand in China
Screenshot of different subscription plans from Xiaoxiandun on RED

Local brands such as Wangbaobao (王饱饱) are crushing the breakfast cereal market, beating foreign brands such as Quaker and Calbee. It won the cereal category champion during the 2020 Tmall 618 mid-year shopping festival. For this year’s Double 11, Wangbaobao came number 6 on Tmall’s list of Top 20 GMV under the “coffee, cereal, instant drinks” category. Other local F&B brands that have fantastic performance include powdered food Wugu Mofang (五谷磨房) (number 5 on the same list), sugar-free beverage Yuanqi Senlin (元气森林) (number 9) and meal replacement WonderLab (number 15).

F&B brands that are not traditionally health-oriented hopping on the health bandwagon as well. These can be achieved through new product launches, e.g. mini Oreos with assorted nuts and dried fruits or brand collaborations, e.g. Pacific Coffee crossing over with Dong’e Ejiao for Ejiao coffee.

Oreo's attempt on creating healthy snacks
Screenshot of mini Oreos, assorted nuts and dried fruits on WeChat

For health supplements, consumers tend to purchase international brands through cross-border e-commerce systems such as Tmall Global. Popular foreign brands include Swisse, FANCL, and Shiseido.

Young consumers’ attitude on health

More and more young consumers that are below age 35 start paying attention to health and working to establish healthy eating habits. Young consumers will rise to become one of the most prominent consumer groups. Their preferences would very soon be the main determining factor of what the hit or miss products would be. Convenience, aesthetics, and fun would remain key to a product’s success.

A lot of youngsters have concerns such as hair loss, a sudden cardiac arrest under excessive overtime working and huge stress in life. They are starting to pay attention to sports and eating habits to improve their health. A lot of the times though, what they are doing are only acts of compensation such as eating salad after a hotpot feast, or doing yoga after pulling an all-nighter. This gave rise to another pattern called Punk Health (朋克养生).

The concept of Punk Health

While traditional yangsheng stresses taking time out of your schedule to live a healthier life, Punk Health is more about squeezing in healthy habits into the day to make up for other unhealthy habits. Punk Health is perhaps best described as “putting on the most expensive sheet mask to pull the longest all-nighter”, “adding goji berries to beers and ginseng to Coke”. Some health officials have already spoken against practices of Punk Health as these quick fixes cannot reverse damages done to the body by poor health habits. 

While Punk Health may not bring much concrete health benefits, some brands have acted on this phenomenon and created products that catered to the mindset of consumers. Tongrentang (同仁堂), China’s best-known traditional Chinese medicine brand recently set up a new cafe in Beijing. The cafe sells coffees and milk teas infused with elements of Chinese medicine. Some of the best-selling drinks include Goji Latte (枸杞拿铁), Chinese motherwort and Rose Latte (益母草玫瑰拿铁), Hawthorn and Chenpi (sun-dried tangerine peel) Americano (山楂陈皮美式). Some of these bestsellers can sell up to a thousand cups each day. It’s said that Tongrentang is planning to open 300 stores in the coming year

Punk health coffee shop
Screenshot of Punk Health coffee shop via Weibo (photo courtesy of 小D姑凉)

As Chinese consumers become increasingly aware of health-related topics, more innovations and trends will be on their way. Interested in entering China but struggling to get a good understanding of the market and/or industry? Contact us at ChoZan to help out on your China marketing research and strategy, or deliver custom corporate training for your internal marketing teams. You can also check out our range of FREE resources including reports, mini-books or blogs for more China-related insights.

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