FI Asia 2017

The four key health concerns driving Chinese consumers to spend more on functional foods

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Sports nutrition is one of the key drivers of China's functional product sector. ©iStock
Sports nutrition is one of the key drivers of China's functional product sector. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition

Demand for functional food and drink has shot up in APAC, particularly in China, where 80% of the population claims to want to make their diets more healthy. And four key health concerns are driving sales.

Speaking at FI Asia 2017 in Bangkok, Mintel’s food science and nutrition analyst Michelle Teodoro said 56% of Chinese residents — aged 20 to 49 — had admitted to increasing their spending on nutritional food and beverages.

Growing health concerns in the country have led many Chinese consumers to seek functional food and drink that they believe can effectively meet their nutritional needs by alleviating existing health conditions and preventing illnesses.

According to Teodoro, energy, digestive health, eye health and lung health are among the most prominent concerns in China.

Boosting energy…naturally

Many Chinese consumers want their functional food and beverages to provide an energy boost, and have a strong preference for sports nutrition drinks that can not only do so, but also deliver post-workout recovery benefits.

Furthermore, the trend towards ‘natural’ ingredients has caught on in China's sports nutrition segment.

Teodoro said, “Consumers prefer ‘natural’ or botanical formulations in energy-boosting products, as they are now more aware of the negative effects of the high sugar content normally found in energy drinks.”

Goods for the gut

At the same time, digestive health has also become a priority for the Chinese, with 42% of consumers between the ages of 20 and 49 expressing a desire for beverages that can aid digestion.

Additionally, 70% would like functional drinks to contain probiotics, thanks to the latter’s reputation for improving gut health (among other functions).

Eye see the problem

Increased usage of electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets and computers has affected the eyesight of many, especially younger consumers.

This has led to a demand for functional food and beverages that can protect and enhance eye health, such as products containing beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and anthocyanin.

Protection against pollution

Environmental pollution has long been an issue in many Chinese cities, and consumers have sought ways to stay healthy despite this.

This has seen many in the country buy functional products that are said to possess anti-cancer, anti-asthma properties.

Antioxidants are considered the best in terms of fighting the effects of pollution, as they have anti-inflammatory characteristics and are also known for helping to strengthen the immune system.

For this reason, functional food and drink high in antioxidants are popular among Chinese consumers, especially those living in heavily polluted areas.

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