Consumers in China are increasingly concerned about daily health management and their own immunity, which is increasing spend in healthcare products, according to new research from Mintel.

Usage penetration of vitamins and supplements increased from 48% to 57% from late February to early May this year. At the same time, 90% of surveyed consumers agree that COVID-19 has made people more aware of the importance of immunity.

Catherine Liu, Health and Wellbeing analyst, Mintel, China, said that thanks to improved access to health information, the importance of ‘immunity management’ has become mainstream, with many households investing in a variety of approaches to staying healthy.

“Additionally, the outbreak of COVID-19 has also fuelled consumer demand for better immunity management, expanding from medicines to food therapies, and we have also noticed that the importance of having a strong immunity has moved beyond vulnerable groups such as children or the elderly and is now an important factor for normal healthy adults,” she added.

Chinese consumers were already increasing their investment in health care prior to the pandemic. The per capita consumption expenditure of healthcare products (excluding medical services) was RMB 1,618 (US$237) in 2019, accounting for 5.2% of total per capita consumption expenditure (RMB 31,160/US$4562). Total healthcare product expenditure increased by 9.0% in 2019, surpassing the growth of overall consumer expenditure (7.2%) in the same period.

Embracing both Western and Chinese traditions

Chinese consumers are embracing a combination of Western and Chinese (Traditional Chinese Medicine) nutrition to improve immunity. According to Mintel data, multivitamins (82%) are the most agreed upon nutrients that surveyed consumers associate with immunity, followed by protein (70%), probiotics (63%), ginseng (70%), propolis (63%), cordyceps (57%) and other herbal ingredients have also gained high approval.

Consumers within specific age or gender groups tend to prioritise ingredients to ensure they choose the relevant one for immunity management. Mintel data shows that women are more concerned about protein and iron, men are more concerned about zinc and selenium, and consumers aged 18-24 are more interested in ginseng and ginger.

Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD) shows that the percentage of China’s newly-launched immunity-claimed food and drinks featuring specific dietary choices have been slowly growing over the past five years. For example, the use of ‘low/reduced sugar’ claim in immunity-claimed food and drinks only rose from 1.2% to 2.3%.

"From the brand product perspective, highlighting the health benefits of single nutrients front-of-pack can more effectively target specific customer groups. Non-generalised claims of a product as being nutritious would be more relevant," said Liu.

Integrated product-service solutions will be the key

Consumers now have a relatively comprehensive understanding of the manifestations of low immunity, with 80% of respondents already citing susceptibility to colds and fatigue as manifestations of low immunity, while digestive discomfort (54%) and skin issues (44%) were also frequently mentioned .

From the perspective of daily health management, more than 95% of the respondents believe that a balanced nutritional intake, adequate sleep, a positive mental state and regular exercise are important to improve immunity. At the same time, 95% of surveyed consumers agree that balancing nutritional intake, good personal hygiene, sleep, a positive mindset and regular exercise is important.

“Consumers are turning to a broader range of professional health experts for immunity management advice, and integrated product-service solutions will also be a market opportunity point in terms of how brands can more comprehensively offer credible products and services to consumers," said Liu.

Fieldwork by Mintel was conducted in March 2020, in four tier-one cities, six tier-two cities and three lower cities of 3,300 internet users aged 18-59, in China.

Sourced from Mintel