Low-calorie meal-replacement products are emerging as big business in China as consumers demand products to help control weight and that also satisfy and offer high-quality nutrition.

Sales of meal replacements in China are forecast to reach 120 billion yuan ($18.4 billion) by 2022, according to market research company Euromonitor International. That’s up from 57.17 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) in 2017.

Most buyers of the products are women, reports China Daily, which quotes an investment manager with Meridian Capital China, Fu Yazhang, as saying many companies selling the products had made good profits in recent years, but this year has seen a boom in sales.

“It can be explained by the pandemic when more people felt they became fatter staying at home, and began to care more about health," Fu said. And he added that the average annual growth of the meal-replacement market was 16% between 2017 and 2020.

The market, however, remains relatively undeveloped, Jiang Xinwei, an analyst with consultants Analysys, told China Daily, adding that there was a lot of room for growth before reaching the same level of demand as seen in countries like the US and Japan.

George Ren, a senior partner and vice president with consultancy Roland Berger China, said that demand was being driven by an evolution in consumers’ attitude to food as the country became more prosperous. The rationale for food consumption had changed from a means to survive, energy and taste, to well-being. 

But, he added, demand and supply were out of kilter. To gain wider acceptance among the public, prices needed to be sensible and proper, and comprehensive product information needed to be available. 

As more products have become available, so too have problems with false or exaggerated marketing claims due to a lack of regulations in the sector, reports China Daily.

Pan Danfeng, director of the nutrition department at Guangzhou First People’s Hospital, told Guangzhou Daily that consumers should learn more about the products’ nutritional ingredients, and pay heed to professional dietitians, adding that, "Eating meal replacement products blindly may lead to malnutrition and create health risks."

Sourced from China Daily