Health becomes Chinese consumers’ No.1 priority

Amid growing concerns about the impact of unhealthy lifestyles and poor eating habits amongst Chinese consumers, the autumn season has seen multiple products targeting health-conscious consumers entering the market. The trend is reflective of findings from Mintel’s recent research into consumers’ attitudes to health that established being healthier is the number one priority for urban Chinese consumers. 98% of those surveyed said their top priority in the next year is to eat a healthier diet, with exercising more coming in a close second at 97%.

The research found that in the past year 58% of those surveyed had started to eat more healthy fruit and vegetables, while 50% have cooked at home more in a bid to achieve a healthier diet. Conversely two-thirds of respondents (69%) admitted to failing to cut the amount of desserts and snacks they eat.

Tellingly, consumers also demonstrated greater awareness about food safety and ingredients. 52% of urban Chinese consumers now check food labelling before purchase, with food preservatives, harmful colorants and other added ingredients being cited as the factors they are paying most attention to.

“Driven by rising incomes and the growing availability of imported and packaged foods, there are more food choices available than ever for Chinese people. Consumers are therefore paying greater attention to ingredients and what exactly they are eating in a bid to make healthier lifestyle choices,” says Laurel Gu, Senior Consumer Research Analyst for Mintel. “With this increased consciousness, there is an opportunity for brands to offer healthier alternatives that tap into this appetitive for ‘cleaner living’ and food products”.    

This shift to all natural “cleaner” food is part of a larger trend throughout China’s consumer goods market towards promoting healthier alternatives. The research demonstrated significant interest in all products supported by claims or suggestions relating to health – including those household products and cosmetics associated with health and natural benefits.

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Mintel observed three key trends being adopted by brands to capitalize on this general shift:

‘Minus’ Propositions: By removing ingredients perceived to be harmful, such as preservatives (in food products), or chemicals that are perceived to be pollutants or hazardous in the case of household goods, these products aim to assure consumers that they can receive the same functionality without perceived harmful effects coming from an ingredient common to the product. This season’s mooncake innovations, with low sugar and more natural fillings, fall into this category.

Nutritious snacks: Satisfying demand for snack foods, these food products substitute high calorie or fatty ingredients for healthier alternatives such as fruit and vegetables, which are aimed to create the perception that the snack product is healthier than other packaged foods. Vegetable chips and sweet snacks with naturally sweet ingredients such as sweet potatoes are all a part of this trend.

Functional Natural Ingredients: With an added health benefit, usually based in traditional medicine, products such as sugar-free drinks with ingredients like ginseng or chamomile. 

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