Health Food Regulations in China

China is one of the most promising and developed countries in the world. Thus, it represents a wonderful market to conquer for foreign companies. Chinese consumers are more and more concerned about their health and are paying attention to the food they eat. Therefore, the health food industry has been in constant growth these past few years. However, as it has generated a greater demand for health products, the Chinese government had to regulate this market in order to avoid sanitary and health issues for its citizens, by implementing strict regulations for companies wanting to sell health products in China.

The Health Food Market in China

Health Food: A promising market

In China, health food and products are usually defined as products that have specific health functions or supply vitamins or minerals. With the goal of regulating the body’s function, healthy food can be considered suitable for specific groups of people. However, the purpose is to cure disease and should not have any acute, sub-acute, or chronic health effects on one’s body.

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With a growing purchasing power, Chinese consumers tend to be more concerned about their health and that’s why the health food market is booming. In fact, the total sales of health food in Mainland China are expected to reach 330.7 billion RMB at the end of 2021, with an 18.5% increase compared to 2020.

Understanding Chinese consumers

Following some serious scandals in the Chinese food market, Chinese people have become more concerned than before when it comes to food, and especially in terms of health products. The Chinese government considers this market as a serious and important issue, and that’s why many regulations were introduced these past few years. The purpose of these regulations is to avoid any health safety issues and scandals. The main target of these health products is the elderly audience. According to a survey from the China Healthcare Association, the elderly accounts for more than 50% of the health food market.

The Health Food Market During the Covid-19 Pandemic

For many Chinese consumers, eating health products is a simple way to improve their general health and well-being, meeting nutritional deficits and providing a feeling of self-medication (even if it is not the purpose). During the Covid-19, for example, a lot of people were purchasing health products in order to ‘protect themselves from being infected and for their immune system.  Moreover, given the emphasis on traditional medicine in China, vitamins and herbs are highly appreciated by the majority of the Chinese population.

Health Food in China: A Very Regulated Market

According to the Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (published in 2016), companies wanting to sell healthy food in the Chinese market have to apply and obtain a health food registration certificate. For domestic health food products produced in China, the registration is conducted by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR, former CFDA), while, the filing is under the responsibility of the Provincial Administration for Market Regulation. As for imported health foods that are produced in overseas factories, both the registration and filing are conducted under the SAMR. Meanwhile, overseas companies must have a permanent Chinese representative office, or they can also appoint a Chinese agent to deal with registration or filing and obtain such certificates. If you want more information on this subject, you can contact us and an expert will answer all of your questions.

Food Security: A national priority

According to a recent survey, 77% of Chinese consumers are considering food security as a national priority. And that is normal considering the fact that some serious food scandals happened a few years ago. In order to control and see the evolution of these regulations, China’s food security & Food safety Strategy Summit is held every year in order to talk about the effects of these regulations and adapt them if necessary.

In 2016, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) emphasized that the focus of China health food related regulation review and reform had to follow the development and formulation of health food raw materials directory.

More recently in 2020, Chinese authorities have issued a series of regulations on health food products in order to support the implementation of the dual-track system of health food registration and filing. You have to know that the government is still working on these regulations which means that all the regulations have not been published yet. Following the recent ones, the Chinese health food industry is expected to have another high-speed development by the end of 2021.

How to export your health food products?

Registration Procedure for Imported Health Food

If you want to export your health food products in China, you will need to complete the following procedure in order to do so. Take note that the process takes time, so will have to wait for the license to sell your health food.

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The time required for the process between the application and approval of your health food and the price will vary according to the function claims.

Labelling requirements

There are many things to know in order to be able to sell your health products in China. In fact, you will need to respect a few prerogatives such as:

  • The package of your product should indicate clearly who can use your product
  • Mention the accurate labeling of active ingredients and their contents
  • You should not mention other effects than the following effects (listed below). You also have to take note that you will not be able to mention that your product can treat any disease
  • The functions and ingredients must be consistent to the effects and purposes your product is supposed to provide

Health functions approved in China

If you want to sell your health products in China, you will have to complete the registration procedure in order to be able to claim that your products have the following functions. You have to take into account that China’s regulations are really strict, so you will have to prove and demonstrate the efficiency of your product.

Selling your health food products in China

Once you will your license in order to export your products, you will have to develop your brand image and reputation. Then, you have to know that the majority of the Chinese population is purchasing products through online platforms and websites. So, the next step is for you is to create a Chinese website.

Having a Chinese Website

Having a Chinese website in China is mandatory if you want to sell your products in China. It is even more important for companies selling health products as your consumers will need to understand the description of your products in order to buy it. Moreover, not only it will increase your SEO on Baidu, but you will also be able to link your website to your Wechat Official Account for example.

E-Commerce Platforms

As you already probably know, almost every Chinese consumers are purchasing their products on e-commerce platforms. Thus, selling your products online is mandatory if you want to succeed in China. However, the choice of the e-commerce platform you will be using in order to sell your health food products will depend on many factors. You can contact us in order to talk about your project and perspectives in the Chinese market.

Advertising your health food

You have to know that advertising in China is very different from advertising in western countries. On top of that, advertising healthy food is even more complicated in the Chinese market.

China’s Advertisement Law

In China, the way your brand appears and communicates its message to its target audience goes far beyond its content. In fact, it is essential to understand how your ads are going to be perceived both by Chinese consumers and the government. In September 2015, the Chinese Government updated its advertising regulations to protect the interest, health, and safety of its citizens by limiting brands to do fake promotional campaigns. This amended Advertising Law was in fact the first major revision since it was introduced in 1995. Under this new law, on top of the 49 existing laws, 26 were added defining advertising guidelines. This is why it is important to stay informed and updated with Chinese laws and regulations to successfully advertise without a hitch in China. Moreover, you have to know that some “extreme” words are prohibited in China when doing advertising.

If you want to be sure that your advertising campaign respects the Chinese laws, you can look at this document: Advertisement Law of the People’s Republic of China. So, you will have to take into account both China’s Advertisement Law and the regulations on health food products.

The importance of e-reputation in the health food industry

In one of the most connected and digitalized countries in the world, your e-reputation is more than ever essential for your business.

Gaining Chinese consumers’ trust

Whether you’re already established abroad or willing to create your company in China, you have to understand that China is a different world. You can be famous in your home country and totally unknown in China, which is a big problem as China is a marketplace based on the company’s reputation.

For a long time, China was considered as the country of counterfeit, and fake products. But it is not the case anymore. So, your clients will need to trust you before developing any kind of business relationship, whether it is for buying your product or distributing it. Therefore, Chinese people will look on search engines for information about your company, for customer’s reviews, check on social media, etc. If you are not familiar with the Chinese market or if you don’t know how to manage your e-reputation in China.

Our services

Exporting health food products in China can be quite complicated and time-consuming for foreign companies. So, if you have a serious project, please contact our team for an in-depth consultation about the Chinese market. As a Digital Marketing Agency, we analyze the needs that will drive the implementation of your business model. We execute digital strategies and provide various services for your business in order to give you the best of the Chinese market.

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