The company is well-positioned to achieve its target, having launched six new products by the end May.
They include a sleep aid oral spray, a sleep aid tablet, a elderberry gummy, two probiotic products, and a brain health product.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Michelle Feng, head of consumer care marketing at Nestle Health Science China, said the firm would focus more on immune-related health foods, especially probiotics, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To meet this demand, the firm launched Garden of Life’s ‘Dr Formulated’ Platinum Series Immune+ probiotic in China in early May. The product, developed by renowned neurologist and human microbiome specialist, David Perlmutter, contains 90bn CFU of live probiotics.
Before the launch of this product, the firm was already selling other ‘Dr Formulated’ probiotics, such as those for women’s health, gut, and mental health in China.
“Due to COVID-19, consumers are looking for evidence-based products, which is seen in ‘Dr Formulated’ probiotics, and that is why we are launching the product.
“Also, the product is popular in the US. In the US’s natural foods market, one in three probiotic products purchased comes from Garden of Life,” Feng said.
With a total of 12 probiotic strains, the product consists of widely studied probiotics strains L. acidophilus NCFM and L. rhamnosus GG to support the immune system.
Besides meeting the demand for immune health products, launching a probiotic is also a way to leverage on the category’s fast-rising status in China.
“In China, probiotics is a fast-growing category, growing at double and even three digits. As such, there lies a lot of potential growth opportunities in this category,” she said.
According to China’s e-commerce giant JD.com, probiotics, alongside sleep aid supplements, antioxidants, infant nutrition, and Foods for Special Medical Purpose (FSMPs) were the fastest growing categories in the past two years.
Quality of life
Chinese consumers these days are not only interested in health foods that can improve physical wellbeing, but also those for the mental health, Feng pointed out.
This is the reason why anti-stress and sleep aid products are growing in popularity.
“Previously, people just search for functional products, for example, if you want to improve your eye health, you will look for lutein for eye health.
“Now, people are searching for products that can make them feel relaxed because they are feeling a lot of pressure and mental health is becoming more important than before.
“They want products that can help them sleep well, eat well. Its more about the spirit, not only the physical health,” she said.
The other popular category is beauty-from-within, largely targeting the female market.
“This is why we changed the position of Garden of Life. Previously, they are more focused on men and we changed it to make it more appealing to women.”
Bringing premium online
Similar to the US, the brand also positions itself as a premium brand, targeting consumers who are interested in non-GMO and naturally derived health foods in China.
In the US, Garden of Life is only sold in premium natural health foods store ‘Whole Foods Market’.
However, sales in China are mostly conducted via the cross-border e-commerce platforms due to regulatory restrictions on imported nutraceuticals, which Feng said was also a beneficial tool to get a quick sense of consumers’ demands.
“The CBEC is really different from offline retail. We can launch new products quickly and can also get the consumers’ response directly.
“And so, we are planning to launch about 10 to 12 SKUs from the Garden of Life next year,” she said, adding that Garden of Life has over 500 SKUs in the US.
Besides introducing imported brands, Nestle Health Science China will also develop its own health foods, but the launch will only take place later down the road.
“We are not launching China-exclusive products in the first few years as we want to test the market and find out the category that best suits us.
“For the next five years, we are planning to launch China-exclusive products, but there should be some patented innovation for the China market.”
She said the firm would try to launch most of its new products before second quarter each year to prepare for the major shopping event of the year – the Double 11 festival.
“In China, the first wave of new product launch is in April, where companies can test the market response and make adjustment for the ‘Jun 18 (618)’ shopping event.
“The second wave is in May and June in order to make preparations for the Double 11 event.”
Nestle Health Science acquired Garden of Life about three years ago and since then, there are close to 50 SKUs made available in China via the major cross-border e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global, JD.com, and Kaola.
An average of 20 new SKUs has been introduced each year in the past two years, with sales growing at “high speed”, Feng said.
In last year’s Double 11 shopping event, the brand took only four hours to beat its 2018 full day sales record.
Of which, the best-selling product is the ‘Once Daily Women’s’ probiotics under Garden of Life’s ‘Dr Formulated’ series.