China supplements market uncovered (part two): Which health claims can entice Chinese citizens?

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

Young consumers in China found to have higher faith in supplements working on immunity, digestive issues and insomnia. ©iStock
Young consumers in China found to have higher faith in supplements working on immunity, digestive issues and insomnia. ©iStock

Related tags: Dietary supplement

Analysis of the top 20 claims of new health supplement launches in China between 2014-16 shows products targeting female and seniors are on the rise, with claims related to bone, cardiovascular and brain health increasing rapidly. But is this want consumers want?

Data published by Mintel in its China Weightloss and HealthSupplements​ report, actually shows that immunity remains the main health condition that consumers want supplements to help with.

They are then most interested in probiotics, followed by products to help with sleep disorders and fatigue. Interestingly, there appears to be a clear gap in the market for products that can benefit eye health, with 47% of all respondents saying they had poor eyesight, but only 19% of them believing that a supplement could offer any improvement or prevent further deterioration.

“Consumers relate health supplements with improving immunity, helping with digestive problems, insomnia, chronic fatigue and three ‘highs’,” ​said Mintel.

“On the other hand, not many consumers think health supplements can help with poor eyesight and back/shoulder pain, despite the fact that these two are identified as common health issues,”​ the report added.

Young consumers in their 20s were found to have higher faith in supplements to aid immunity, digestive issues and insomnia.

“This is good news for the market as it shows people are more open to the idea of using health supplements as a necessary step of health management, rather than only taking it when getting ill,” ​adds the report.

In terms of the products that are currently been consumed, there is a pretty even split among the supplement groups. Eleven per cent of respondents to a Mintel survey said they took single vitamin supplements once a day, with 26% saying they did so several times a week.

It was similar for multi-vitamins (9% daily, 24% several times a week); minerals (12% and 28%); dietary supplements (9% and 24%) and fortified food (10% and 24%)

“This shows that consumers are looking for more diversified health supplements and their category knowledge is growing beyond just knowing vitamins,” ​said Mintel.

Functional food formats

Chinese consumers also seem willing to consider a whole range of fortified food options, with only a range of 7% to 14% of consumers surveyed not interested in any of the potential formats.

“The typical choices are fairly expectable, with dairy as top snacking format for protein and calcium, juice for vitamins, and biscuits for fibre,”​ the report adds.

Mintel concluded it is imperative for brands to blend into consumers’ lifestyles in China, rather than trying to change them.

They say this is particular true for products that promote weightloss, because supplements are low down the pecking order for people who are seeking to shed some pounds.

“Positioning them as part of a comprehensive weight management programme or essential nutrition supplement to people’s diet has better chance resonating with body shape-conscious consumers. 

“After all, consumers are expecting weight-loss and health supplement products to be more natural, and even more tasty or fun to eat, just like food, drinks or snacks,”​ it states.

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