At the Healthplex Expo and Natural & Nutraceutical Products China 2023 (HNC 2023), held in conjunction with Hi & Fi Asia-China in Shanghai from 19 to 21 June, Blackmores China shared its observations on the country’s nutra space.
The market value of China’s health foods industry is said to be on the rise over the past few years, increasing from 250.3bn Chinese yuan (USD35bn) in February 2020 to 328.3bn Chinese yuan (USD45.8bn) in February 2023.
Despite these figures and “many claims” that health awareness among Chinese consumers has grown post-pandemic, Kitty Liu, Managing Director of Blackmores Group (China), believes that there is still a significant information gap to bridge.
“Consumers do not fully understand the different nutritional needs, such as types of protein, vitamins and minerals, at various stages of life, and thus do not address these needs sufficiently,” she added.
Based on World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation of a minimum 400g daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the Dietary Guidelines for Chinese Residents (2022) state the recommended daily consumption of fruits and vegetables for people aged 18 and 64 years to be 200-350g and 300-500g respectively.
However, data from China Nutrition and Health Surveillance, 2015–2017 showed that 79.9% of the population were at risk for insufficient fruit intake, and 53% for vegetable intake.
In 2020, it was found that only 18% of working women in China consume at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.
Furthermore, omega-3 consumption is reportedly less than 40g per day, a far cry from the recommended 250g of combined omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
“Since 2017, the Blackmores Institute in China has been collaborating with Tsinghua’s International Centre for Communications to improve health literacy in the country. Through the sales of our products, we have also identified the primary needs of Chinese consumers,” Liu said.
On the same note, Ginger Zhang, Assistant Quality and Product Safety Manager of Blackmores China, told NutraIngredients-Asia that the firm’s fish oil supplements are the top performers in the Chinese market.
“The Superkids Bright Eye Protect is also particularly popular, while Super Strength CoQ10 has been in demand after the pandemic, as consumers are on the lookout for products to maintain their heart health.
“Other best-sellers include Pregnancy & Breast-Feeding Gold, which provide 17 important nutrients needed for both mother and baby from pregnancy to breastfeeding, as well as products for joint health,” Zhang shared.
Call for more responsibility
Although Blackmores is considered a “young brand” with 11 years of presence in China, Liu noted that “many nutrition brands do not last more than three years”.
“There’s no lack of choices in the market, but trust is key for consumers. Long-term promise is more important than short-term hype, especially more and more consumers in their 30s and 40s are looking for nutrition products. Companies should help consumers find what they need and provide the appropriate options.”
In recent years, many brands are utilising social e-commerce platforms to promote their products, with Xiaohongshu seeing the biggest jump in users.
This phenomenon is known as “planting grass” (种草), a slang used to describe brands using key opinion leaders (KOLs) to create hype and influence consumers into buying products.
The advertising revenue of social media platforms has also risen sharply from 44.1bn Chinese yuan (USD6.2bn) in 2018 to 250.1bn Chinese yuan (USD34.9bn) in 2022.
“Online sales on platforms like Tmall, JD.com, and Douyin are rapidly increasing, which highlights the need for tighter supervision.
“Brands need to be more responsible. Amid the noise in the online environment, claims and information — even those put out by engaged KOLs — must be transparent and credible for dietary supplements and health foods to be better recognised,” Liu concluded.