Huge opportunities for health brands as Chinese get healthy and physical

Health awareness among Chinese consumers has been rising steadily for the last few years. As China’s middle classes have seen their disposable incomes increase in size, so too have their waistlines, leading to an increase in overweight people.


A report by McKinsey revealed 30% of Chinese adults (or 320 million people) are overweight, while a further 6% are obese. The issue has led the Chinese Government to pledge initiatives geared towards diet, exercise and access to healthcare services, as part of the ‘Healthy China 2030’ plan.


It’s also helping to fuel the health and wellness boom that is growing across China as consumers increasingly seek out health products and experiences.


The trend is already being reflected in purchasing trends – as sales of gym memberships and natural products have increased, conversely sales of instant noodles and sugary soft drinks have declined.


With 65% of respondents in the McKinsey report stating they are deeply concerned about health, there is clearly a wealth of opportunity for health-related brands.


China’s healthcare market is expected to be worth more than $1 trillion by 2020, which means there are huge opportunities for Australian and New Zealand brands to leverage this healthy appetite to boost sales in China.


With everything from vitamins and supplements, protein powders and juices, natural and organic products, fresh food and drinks, fitness-related products, exercise clothing, workout equipment and even technology products, set for potential success the opportunities for savvy brands are endless.


UMS have prepared some tips for marketers and brands looking to embrace China’s health-conscious consumers.


1.Trust and Authenticity

When Chinese consumers seek out healthy and natural products, they look to overseas brands which they believe to be more trustworthy and authentic than some Chinese products. Australia and New Zealand have built strong reputations for authentic, high-quality, natural products, which gives brands from these markets a head start. Chinese consumers are big researchers and they will look for brands that promote their origin stories and can showcase healthy credentials and trustworthy ingredients. Brands looking to engage with Chinese consumers should be prepared to share this content detail and ensure it is available on their local language website.


2.Embrace KOLs and health-related communities

It’s impossible to market to Chinese consumers without addressing the important role of KOLs. These highly influential individuals have amassed huge audiences of loyal followers and their endorsements are lucrative business. Working with the right influencers will enable your brand message to go direct to your ideal target market. Engaging these KOLs and communities with dedicated offers and promotions is a great – and low cost – way to generate awareness of your brands and products and encourage trials.


3.Partner with relevant apps

Health and fitness apps are booming in popularity and partnering with these platforms can be an effective method for reaching large audiences. Apps such as Keep, which is one of China’s biggest and most popular fitness and workout apps, would be an excellent fit for brands looking to engage with gym-going, active and health-conscious individuals. Brands can work with these apps to create dedicated content and or promotions to provide product demonstration in order to drive awareness.


4.Offline activities and events

China’s digitally connected consumers are so active that many marketers forget that e-commerce accounts for just 18% of total retail sales in China. In other words, the majority of Chinese consumers still spend a lot of time in bricks and mortar stores, which provides some excellent opportunities to host offline events and generate brand awareness and product trials. Food and drink brands, and particularly health-conscious brands are turning to offline activations to put their products into Chinese consumers hands – literally.


5.Understand your audience

China is a huge and diverse market and consumers think very differently about this category than other markets. The McKinsey report revealed consumer definitions of health vary significantly with some believing it means eating only natural or organic foods, while others believe it mean fresh ingredients or less oil and taking supplements. It’s also important to understand the different motivations for consumers, for example many health supplements in China will promote the product benefits as making a person look younger rather than making them feel better or have more energy. Understanding these differences and the consumers that subscribe to these different definitions is crucial to understanding the most relevant audience for your brand and products.