The report from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products (CCCMPHIE) analysed customs figures on the key dietary supplements imported and exported out of China last year.
The value of health products that China had imported last year was up 12.8% to US$3.4bn, while export value went up 12.7% to US$1.88bn, the commerce association announced earlier this year.
Notably, China’s consumption of health foods is increasingly dominated by consumers from the younger age group.
Citing figures from JD.com, the latest report said that 80.5% of the consumers were between 26 and 45 years old last year.
Two-thirds of them were married and 90.3% of them were from the mid to upper income group.
The consumers have also shown a particular liking for health foods from certain brands.
Australian brands such as Blackmores, Swisse, BioIsland, and GNC from the US have consistently outperformed across different categories.
The following shows the most popular brands across imported vitamins, probiotics, calcium, co-enzyme Q10, and glucosamine in China last year.
The value of vitamins that China imported last year was 5.8% higher than 2018. One in three imported health foods came from Australia, which amounted to an import value of US$167.7m.
Key imported vitamin brands included BioIsland, Swisse, Blackmores, Natures Way, and Ostelin.
The US took the second spot, snapping 17% of China's vitamin import value. GNC was the most popular vitamin brand from the US.
Canada took the third place, with Centrum, Ddrops, and Jamieson as the most purchased brands.
Formats wise, 65% of the vitamins imported into China were in the form of tablets, followed by capsules at 19%, and drops at 12%.
China last year imported probiotics worth US$180m, a yoy growth of 91%, and has became the second largest probiotics market globally, only behind the US.
Ten percent of the world’s probiotics consumption came from China last year, which was about three times lower than the US. Japan took the third place at 7.6%.
There were distinct trends seen in probiotics consumption in China, especially when it comes to the sales channel, target audience, product function.
For instance, Chinese-acquired Australian brand Life-Space was the bestseller on e-commerce, while local Chinese brands such as Biostime and Infinitus dominated the mother-and-baby and direct-selling channels respectively.
In terms of probiotics for children, Life-Space and Culturelle were more popular, while Blackmores, Clinicians, GNC, and Lifespace were the go-to for probiotics designed for women’s health.
Imports from both Australia and the US took up 49% of China's total probiotic imports last year. Italy, Denmark, and France also made it into China’s top five probiotics importing countries.
China imported US$105.5m of calcium last year.
Again, most of the imports came from Australia. The country imported calcium products worth US$66.7m into China last year. The most imported products were BioIsland’s and Swisse’s children’s calcium tablets, and Blackmores’ calcium and magnesium tablet.
The value of calcium supplements imported from the US was 26% of the entire imports. The key imported products were GNC and Schiff’s products.
The US was the largest importer of coenzyme Q10 products into China. In terms of import value, nearly 50% of the coenzyme Q10 imported into China last year were from the US.
Key brands imported were GNC, Natural Made, and Puritan’s Pride.
Australia took the second spot, with Blackmores, Swisse, and Natural Care the most imported brands.
Other notable brands were Doppelherz and NovaSOL, which are both from Germany.
The report noted that there is a good growth potential for coenzyme Q10 supplements especially amongst white-collar workers in China due to its benefits for cardiovascular health and relieving fatigue.
Citing statistics from JD big data, the report noted that consumers from the first-tier cities made up 66% of the coenzyme Q10 purchase. One in three consumers was either a teacher or a white-collar worker.
“China has a high incidence of cardiovascular diseases. The ageing population will also promote the development of the Q10 market to a certain extent,” the report said.
The US was China’s largest exporter of glucosamine supplements last year. Out of the US$116m worth of glucosamine imported into China last year, 77% came from the US, followed by Australia at 20%.
The most imported brands were Schiff’s glucosamine essence vegetarian tablets, Swisse’s and Blackmores’ products.