Parents from these developed cities are willing to do their own research and have a better understanding of individual nutrients, says the brand.
In contrast, parents from tier three cities and beyond are most likely to purchase multivitamins and the usual ‘hero’ products, such as vitamin C and DHA.
The brand, owned by of Australia firm Pharmacare Laboratories, runs its children’s supplement portfolio under the sub-brand Kids Smart.
Based on its market insights, the company has launched three supplements with only one or two nutrients in China this year.
They are 1) Kids Smart iron and vitamin C chewables, 2) Kids Smart Liquid Zinc, and 3) Kids Smart Zinc chewable.
“Such standalone nutrient nutraceutical for kids needs to have a very specific concept. If you look at the China market, BioIsland has launched a zinc product, French brand Eric Favre also has a zinc liquid, which is also selling very well in China.
“I guess this is because zinc is in deficiency in the Asian demographic and parents are more educated about the functions of zinc. There’s a lot of global brands that have zinc only products for the Asian market,” Airing Wang, head of marketing China - China, told NutraIngredients-Asia.
She said that Chinese parents understood that zinc could help to improve appetite.
The Kids Smart Zinc Chewable, meant for children two years old and above, contains 15 mg of zinc amino acid chelate, which is equivalent to 3mg of zinc per chewable tablet.
The banana-flavoured chewable makes the claim “supports healthy immune system function and cognitive development in growing children.”
Targeted at kids one year and above, the pear flavoured liquid zinc contains 0.5mg of zinc per mL.
On the other hand, its iron and vitamin C chewable contains 5mg of iron and 50mg of vitamin C.
Wang explained that vitamin C was added to aid iron absorption. The strawberry-flavoured chewable claims to “help support energy levels and healthy growth and development.”
She added that zinc and iron were some of the nutrients commonly deficient in Chinese kids.
A 2017 report by China’s National Institute for Nutrition and Health and Nestle said that micronutrient deficiency was a problem amongst Chinese children.
In children age four to six, the dietary intake of zinc in 24.2 per cent of them were below the Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), while that of iron and calcium was 9.7 per cent and 97.1 per cent respectively.
There was also a large number – over 95 per cent – who had calcium below the EAR.
A move to personalisation
The demand for specific nutrients also reflected the trend of parents seeking personalised nutrition for their kids, Wang said.
“If the parents have no idea what do their children need, we also have multivitamins. But I guess the parents that we are talking about here are modern Chinese parents, they are more knowledgeable and well-educated.
“They want to spend time and are willing to spend time to explore what is specifically needed for their kids. And so, we are talking in the concept of personalised nutrition, where everybody needs different nutrients.
“This is why products with single or duo ingredients are actually performing very well in China, because those parents are well-educated about personalised nutrition…And the majority of our consumers are from tier one, tier two cities,” she said.
In contrast, parents in tier three cities are more focused on essential needs.
“They are the people buying multivitamins and basic nutrients like vitamin C or DHA – the core nutrients, rather than iron, zinc, and those new innovations.”
Since the launch early this year, she noticed that the iron and vitamin C product has been more popular than the zinc product.
“I think this is because the iron product is more unique. You don't see many competitors with the iron product in the [kids nutrition] market.
“There’s a few competitors that have launched zinc products. That's why [for us], the iron product is currently performing better than zinc.”
These products are also sold in Australia, and other Asian markets such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines.
“These [Asian] countries have needs that are quite similar to the Chinese consumers, and so those products have also received great popularity in those countries as well.”
Wang also noticed that parents in China are no longer seeking only immune-related supplements but are taking a more holistic approach – including encouraging their kids to exercise and buying supplements for aimed at physical growth to support their children’s overall health.
“If you look at the whole Asia, particularly in China, there has been a lot of emphasis on the physical exercise, and the government wanted the people to go out and send their kids to do more physical exercise.
“We realise this is an upcoming trend…Immunity is not just about what you have consumed, but also your physical health and whether you exercise or not.
“Therefore, we also have some new innovations that focus on building the physical health such as [the aforementioned] iron and zinc products.
“They are not directly related to the immunity benefit, but they help to strengthen the children's growth development…And if you have a strong body, your immune function will also become better.”
In terms of new product development, the brand, which is heavily focused on nutraceuticals in the gummy format, is also working on a new burstlet range for its kids nutrition range.
Calcium and DHA fish oil are its traditional bestsellers, with lutein for eye health also on the rise.