Alibaba’s health platform reveals China’s biggest and fastest-growing supplement categories

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sports nutrition Amino acid Nutrition China

Ali Health's international director Daniel Yiu highlighted the top performing supplements.
Ali Health's international director Daniel Yiu highlighted the top performing supplements.
Whey protein, enzymes and collagen products take the top three spots in China’s cross-border e-commerce sales, according to the international director of Ali Health, part of the Alibaba group.

They are then followed by isolated soy proteins, compound vitamins, dietary fibres and fish oils. Calcium, glucosamine and grape seed extract make up the top 10

Daniel Yiu was speaking at the China International Nutrition and Health Industry Summit in Shanghai, organised by the US-China Health Products Association.

He said data showed that consumers were far less price sensitive when it came to cross-border e-commerce consumption.

“The consumers’ average package size is RMB250-300 for cross-border,” ​he said. “The basket price is far less when products come directly into the China market and people buy here.”

He said cross-border now accounted for a quarter of the entire e-commerce supplement share.

“And it is still growing,” ​he added. “We think this year will be better than last. We are seeing more growth through category specific sectors – such as sports nutrition. These are higher price tag, repeat purchase products. The other areas performing well are more geared to specific functions, such as joint health.”

In terms of the fastest-growing subcategories, he said propolis – a compound produced by bees – came out on top, followed by branch chain amino acids, L-carnitine, whey protein and soy protein. Next up was soy isoflavones and then omega-3s.

He said it was no surprise many of the products were linked to sports nutrition products.

“People are far more savvy now,”​ he said. “People want sports nutrition products for before, during and after exercise.”

Yiu went on to give the following tips for companies looking to succeed in e-commerce.

He said consumers in China were still fascinated with strong brands, suggested that females aged 25-40 were key influencers for the rest of the family when it came to buying decisions, and that pricing was key, but not necessarily a purchasing driver.

“Also, don’t forget that social media platforms are vital and that vertical shopping sites are taking a bigger stake in the cross-border e-commerce market. Content marketing is also really critical,”​ he added.

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