This is according to a report published by China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products (CCCMHPIE) together with China's dietary supplement firm BYHEALTH.
Indonesia was the fourth largest health foods importer to China last year, surpassing Japan and only behind the US, Australia, and Germany, based on the full ‘Report on the Development of Vitamins and Dietary Supplements Industry (2023)’ that NutraIngredients-Asia had received from CCCMPHIE.
The amount of health foods imported into China was worth US$5.94bn last year, up 14.6 per cent year-on-year.
Of which, 20.7 per cent valued at US$1.23bn came from the US, followed by US$820m from Australia, US$580m from Germany, US$450m from Indonesia, and US$310m from Japan.
Except for Japan, all the other top four exporters saw their export value to China increased between year 2021 and 2022.
In 2021, exports from the US was US$1.03bn, US$750m from Australia, US$470m from Germany, US$400m from Indonesia, and US$320m from Japan.
The US is traditionally the largest health foods exporter to China, although it was overtaken by Australia for three years consecutively from year 2018.
Vitamins and minerals, glucosamine, protein powder, dietary fibre, and co-enzyme Q10 were the main exports from the US to China last year.
The major imports from Australia also included vitamins and minerals, glucosamine, as well as fish oil, grape seed, and lactoferrin.
The main import from Indonesia last year was edible bird’s nest, while that of Japan were enzymes and collagen supplements.
The prices of health foods imported into China have also increased, especially those from Germany, Australia, and the US, with per unit prices increased by 64 per cent, 20.6 per cent, and 17.3 per cent last year.
“China is currently one of the largest dietary supplements consumption countries, and the import value of imported health foods has been on the rise throughout the years.
“Import value hit US$5.94bn last year, which was 13 times higher as compared to year 2008,” said the report.
On the other hand, China’s health foods export value was US$3.19bn last year, a year-on-year increase of 21.9 per cent.
The US was the top health foods export market for China, followed by Hong Kong, and Malaysia, with export value standing at US$530m, US$400m, and US$140m respectively.
The export values to these three markets also saw a year-on-year growth of 20.2 per cent, 11.4 per cent, and 92 per cent.
Raw materials, especially vitamins, amino acids, and botanical extracts, as well as OEM products were the key health foods exports from China last year.
JD Health saw the biggest revenue climb
Aside from import and export figures, the report also looked at the performance of the major businesses operating in the health foods industry last year.
Out of the 20 major health and nutrition companies analysed, revenue from JD Health revenue had jumped by 52.3 per cent between 2019 and 2022, making it the best industry performer.
During this period, its revenue increased from 10.84bn yuan (US$1.5bn) in 2019 to 46.74bn yuan (US$6.45bn) in 2022.
Bloomage, known for its hyaluronic acid ingredient, is another firm that has grown rapidly from 1.89bn yuan (US$260.43m) in 2019 to 6.36bn yuan (US$878m) last year.
Finished product brand BYHEALTH, on the other hand, saw its revenue climbed from 5.26bn yuan (US$726m) to 7.86bn yuan (US$1.09bn) during this period.
Revenue size wise, Yunnan Baiyao was the second largest behind JD Health with a revenue of 36.49bn yuan (US$5.04bn) last year.
Immune health the most popularity benefit claim
Immune support is the most popularity benefit claim amongst health foods marketed in China through the registration route as of year 2023.
As many as 42 per cent of health foods have made immune support claims, according to information found on State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) database.
The next most popularity benefit claim was “helps to alleviate physical fatigue”, with 16 per cent of approved registered health foods making such claims.
The third and fourth most common claims were helps support reduce blood lipids and helps improve sleep and increase bone density, with five per cent and 4.4 per cent of the products making such claims.