In western countries vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS) is a product category difficult to defined but, in China, there are 27 functions characterizing VDS. In 2017, the Chinese consumed over RMB 115 billion of vitamins and dietary supplements, this is a result of increasing disposable incomes and increasing health awareness of the Chinese middle class. There are now over 350 million middle-class consumers in Mainland China representing the largest dietary supplements market in the world. This year, the market of vitamin and dietary supplements in China is expected to reach CNY 149 billion (US$22.3 billion), with a CAGR of 6.4% in the 2015-2020 period. Actually, according to JD.com, the sale of vitamins and dietary supplements has been multiplied by 5 since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why do Chinese consume vitamins and dietary supplements VDS ?
These products allow consumers’ immune systems and memory to be fortified, blood is regulated, sleep quality is enhanced, and organs are protected. Other kinds of VDS can help people to lose weight, have clear skin, or have higher bone density. In China, the most valued vitamins and dietary supplements are those with functions over the immune system and account for 27% of sales. The sales growth of vitamins and dietary supplements is stable and grows exponentially. Chinese consumers appreciate VDS using modern biotechnology associated with Chinese traditional herbal food. In the past few years, vitamins orientated products became a trend in China. Calcium and protein powder are also valued by Chinese consumers.
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The potential of the VDS market in China
While in developed countries healthcare market is 15% of the total GDP, in China it is only 2%. However, the annual growth rate of health care in the country reaches 30%. By 2020, the market of vitamin and dietary supplements in China is expected to reach CNY 149 billion (US$22.3 billion), with a CAGR of 6.4%.
In regular times, Chinese people are striving to find the best foreign VDS products possible, the current situation is perfect timing for you to boost your presence or get into the Chinese market.
The Covid-19 virus scares the Chinese population (to be honest, pretty much all of us are scared too), especially the elders who know that the virus is more fatal for them. Taking VDS is more important than ever for them to be physically more resistant and benefit from effects already seen above (blood regulation, organs protection, immune system fortification, …).
In the next few months, the Chinese VDS market is an open door only waiting for you to open it even wider. Right now, Chinese consumers are super receptive to anything that can help them to be healthy and improve their health, that is why it is a good time to enter the market.
What are the factors contributing to the industry’s rise ?
- In China, health products are now seen as luxury goods due to a growing trend of healthy lifestyle products.
- The Chinese middle class is more and more health-conscious. Therefore, consumers are turning to healthy products, such as vitamins and dietary supplements.
- The Chinese population is getting older, it is estimated that more than 30 percent of the population will be age 60 or older by 2050. Consequently, the old generation needs to take care of their health. In order to develop a healthy population and reduce medical expenditures, the Chinese government will more and more support vitamins and dietary supplements. Moreover, in China, meals are supposed to be nutritionally balanced and use natural ingredients, suggesting that health foods would be able to be marketed and assimilate well into local traditions.
Even if the Chinese spend 28 times less on VDS compared to Western countries, this market has a high potential due to the increase of the population’s purchase power. Therefore, China is at a pace to become the largest VDS market as the population is shifting towards a healthy and functional alimentation.
The Chinese demand for overseas VDS
Due to the fact that many consumers have been betrayed by Chinese companies, Chinese consumers are avoiding local brands and are more inclined to trust foreign brands. Indeed, Chinese consumers are looking for trustable quality international brands, using high-end technologies and biology knowledge. Consequently, despite a majority of 96% local firms, international brands have grabbed over 70% of the vitamins and dietary supplement market.
VDS companies are further segmenting their products to meet the growing specific demands of their Chinese consumers. Not only are they segmenting by conditions such as memory boosting, immunity enhancement, or pregnancy health, but they are also adjusting their ingredients and foreign branding to merge with local Chinese preferences.
How to sell vitamins and dietary supplements in China?
Regulation to enter the Chinese VBD market
China has strict regulations concerning product registration and licensing for health sector products because you need to obtain the Health Food Approval Certificate from the CFDA. Food products can be labeled as health food if it applies to one of two categories: food with specific health functions, which are the products suitable for consumption by specific groups of people with the aim of regulating different human body functions, or nutritional supplements which are the products that contain dietary ingredients used to supplement nutrients for the human body.
With e-commerce, you can sell straight away without a license so long as you gain approval from the relevant cross-border platforms. Online platforms are becoming more and more utilized by tech-savvy consumers, indeed a clear majority of Chinese purchase are made online and mobile sales growth are growing every year. Because e-commerce will likely become one of the most popular outlets for selling vitamins and dietary supplements, and online sales infrastructure is essential. For example, you can establish your business on Tmall. This is the largest and most reputable cross-border e-commerce platform in China because it is associated with quality and authenticity. As an open platform marketplace, Tmall.com provides the infrastructure to host your storefront and unfiltered access to hundreds of millions of shoppers.
Social Media: Ultimate Weapon for Communication
The Chinese Facebook with over 1 billion daily active users. Essential in Chinese people’s everyday life, this platform is also essential for you when making your promotion. You will be able to share visible content with everyone from your official account and users can share content with all their contacts with their Moments or chat groups (up to several hundred) about you. Your marketing content can quickly be spread in WeChat with the following tools:
- WeChat groups: allows you to initiate discussions and share information about a product or a new release.
- WeChat mini-programs: a mini-app in WeChat, an efficient tool to commercialize, inform or even entertain your audience. You can create a mini-program for different purposes.
- WeChat brochure: A simple website page you can format as you want which allows you to be classic or very original.
- WeChat live stream: a new feature for official accounts making it possible to plan live streaming and invite users to attend it
This is the Chinese Twitter with 500 million monthly active users. It’s a popular platform offering a large audience and is ideal for reaching the target you have set. This app is also focusing on visual content which is perfect if you want to promote VDS products. For example, if you want to promote products that have an anti-acne effect, you’ll be able to show before/after pictures and attractive pictures of your products. You will also be able to promote your product through several channels such as:
- Display ads: ads that will appear on the users’ feed or on the side of his page and will direct him to your homepage by clicking on it.
- Fan Tunnels: efficient and visible headline ad that will appear to an audience you can target.
- KOLs: Certainly the best way to reach your target by cooperating with an influencer thus gaining its followers’ trust and a reliable brand image.
Similar in some ways to Pinterest, Little Red Book is both a shopping and a forum platform. It offers reviews and advice about products from its users. That’s why Xiaohongshu is essentially based on the word of mouth and mutual trust of this online community, which can play a lot in the trust relationship with consumers. Using this platform can help consumers to go purchase your product if they hesitate with competitors’.
Tips to Promote your product on RED:
- Official brand account: the creation of it is essential for the sale of your products when potential customers will be willing to get more information.
- Online-store: setting up your online store on this platform will boost your sales and increase the buying conversion rate.
- Display ads: there are two types of ads in this platform, the one that pops up when you open the app and the one that will be integrated in the user’s feed.
- KOLs: Just as in Weibo, KOLs collaborate with brands to develop users’ engagement and increase brand awareness.
The 2019 short video app boomed in China. Very popular among Chinese youth, you will have the opportunity to reach this audience if you are seeking it. Chinese young people are also used to VDS products and are in love with short video content. Making short video marketing is an efficient way to be visible and get the attention of Chinese people but there here are other ways for your promotion:
- Cheap ads
- Douyin’s algorithm: this app recommends a lot of content to its users by using an algorithm system which you should take advantage of by well defining your target and using well-chosen keywords.
- KOLS: Here again, a collaboration with one or several influencers is a good way to gain brand awareness and users’ trust.
Build Trust First, Then Advertise like Crazy
The market of vitamins and dietary supplements is a niche segment and it can offer your company many opportunities due to social changes in China and the consumers’ health consciousness.
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