The brand under DSM’s consumer health company i-Health Inc entered the China market in 2014.
Since then, it has expanded its offerings and currently sells 14 product SKUs via cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) into China.
Speaking with NutraIngredients-Asia, the company revealed insights it has observed in China’s probiotic market in recent years, as well as the health areas it is focusing for new product development.
The brand first entered China with products for infant and kids health. Today, while probiotics for kids health is still its core business, it is seeing fast growth in products for adults.
“The market for Culturelle’s adult market is growing and this is in line with the overall category growth in China, where the adult probiotic market is also emerging,” said Carrie Yang, marketing director at i-Health, Greater China region.
“For Culturelle, the Health and Wellness SKU for digestion and immunity is the bestselling probiotics for adults in China…Currently in China, digestion is the biggest category and it is considered a ‘traditional’ category, while immunity is closely-tied to the digestive health category.”
The Health and Wellness SKU comes in a blister-pack capsule SKU and contains 15bn CFUs of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
“At the same time, we also see that products for weight management and women’s health are catching up very quickly, and this also reflects the wider category trend.”
She was referring to the products Metabolism + Weight Management and Women’s Healthy Balance.
Metabolism + Weight Management contains 12 CFU bn of a multi strain blend, including the Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis CECT8145 trademarked BPL1.
On the other hand, Women’s Healthy Balance contains five clinically proven strains, namely Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus crispatus LBV 88, Lactobacillus rhamnosus LBV96, Lactobacillus gasseri LBV 150, and Lactobacillus jensenii LBV 116.
“We are strategising our portfolio by riding on the category trends. And so, we consider our women’s health and weight management products as our hero SKUs as well so that we can deliver potential growth in these areas,” she said.
The company’s observation also reflects the recent probiotic category development in China.
In the latest report by Technology for Mobile and Online (TMO) Group and Health Products Association China (HPA-China), Princess Luna, a probiotic for women’s vagina health was the number one fastest growing product in Tmall in December 2021.
New solutions, growing awareness
Asked the reasons behind the fast-growing women’s intimate health and weight management probiotic market, Yang explained that consumers were paying more attention to these health areas.
“I think there is no 100 per cent answers to that, but when we were doing the trends analysis, it could be because the Chinese female consumers are paying more attention to women’s intimate health.
“Probiotics is an effective and safe way to deal with the symptoms and for our products, we have the clinical studies to show that it can balance the vaginal pH and solve symptoms related to vagina health.
“On the other hand, weight management is a traditionally massive market in size and these days, consumers are seeking different ways for weight management. Previously, it might be through dieting or consuming milk shake, but now, it is through probiotics.
“We do a lot of marketing campaigns in the social media, especially for weight management. We name our probiotic ‘the slim strain’ in our marketing and this is going viral on the social media mainly also because our product is impressive,” said Yang, adding that the product was marketed on platforms such as TikTok.
Most of the consumers are from the first and second tier cities, while there is growing penetration into the lower tier cities.
With experience in both adult and children’s probiotic market, the company has noticed that branding is of high importance to both consumer groups.
“To the adult consumers, they are more concerned with functional benefits of the products and the benefits that they are looking for are more diverse, as compared to kids and infants.
“However, for both adults and children, branding is very important, because consumers tend to find a big brand name assuring, more trustworthy and credible.”
Probiotics for oral, liver, mood, and beauty were identified as some of the emerging categories in China. These are hence the areas which the company is focusing on for new product development.
“We see that there is a growing momentum for products targeted at liver related benefits, although the market size is still very small.”
Together with the global team, the China team has developed a new probiotic for mood.
“We have some almost ready products which we did together with the US marketing team, where we came together to see if our consumers share the same needs…And it turns out that mood is on top of the list for the US consumers.
“We have a very unique strain, which we named as the ‘keep calm’ strain, which could help people get to sleep more easily,” Yang said.
As for the liver health product range, she said that it was still work in progress.
Aside from exploring different health benefits, the company is also exploring new retail channels.
It currently sells its products via CBEC but Yang said the firm was exploring the offline channel by selling its product as a food, which would allow the firm to bypass the need to go through the ‘blue-hat’ registration.