China's consumers fear pollution

24 October 2014

BEIJING: Pollution in China's cities can be so bad that consumers are increasingly searching out products that can help protect them from its worst effects, according to a new study.

The Consumer Trends 2015 report from researcher Mintel, based on consumer surveys in first- and second-tier cities along with assessment of FMCG trendsand contributions from its analysts, identified four "megatrends" that will affect many categories in some way in the near future.

These include, Campaign Asia-Pacific reported, the spread of wearable devices and smart home appliances, the continuing integration of digital across retail, increased use of crowdsourcing, and growing interest in pollution protection.

Mintel reported almost half (47%) of 20 to 49 year olds worried about catching an incurable disease as a result of environmental pollution, while 38% expressed concern about respiratory diseases.

And 40% of the same age group were spending more money on products to protect them from environmental pollution.

The China Economic Review recently noted how officials have frequently declared "a war on pollution" but to little effect, partly because they have taken a piecemeal approach.

The dangers to the population are significant – a scientific study on the leading causes of death worldwide estimated that outdoor air pollution had contributed to 1.2m premature deaths in China in 2010.

Consumers have therefore taken their own steps to cope with the "airpocalypses" that descend on China's cities, buying up functional respiratory face masks. These are now mainstream enough for cosmetics brand Max Factor to have sponsored a pollution mask selfie contest to promote its eye makeup.

Leading fashion designers are tapping into this trend, aiming to turn the unattractive mask into an accessory that can be matched with people's outfits. These have featured in fashion shows from Paris to Hong Kong.

"People are wearing them every day during the winter," Vogmask China Director Christopher Dobbing told Jing Daily. "Before you leave the house you check: phone, keys, wallet, face mask."

Ailsa Gu, Mintel's North Asia insights manager, anticipated more hi-tech developments in the battle against pollution. "In advertising, we'll see more initiatives like billboards that fight pollution, as well as home, office and even shop frontages made from materials that absorb carbon, reflect heat or absorb light to emit it at night," she said.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific, China Economic Review, Jing Daily; additional content by Warc staff