Dietary supplements in China: From immunity to physical appearance benefits

Dietary supplements for both inner and outer health

Since Chinese consumers are very receptive to anything that can help them be healthy and improve their inner and outer health, the nutritional supplement business has seen a rapid increase in demand in China. China’s dietary supplements industry has developed rapidly in recent years and by 2019 became the second-largest market in the world as well as the largest market in Asia. The Chinese market is full of business potential, as people’s awareness and demand for health continue to grow. The demand is increasing, not only for dietary supplements that strengthen the immune system or the memory of the consumer but also for types of dietary supplements that can help people lose weight or have fair skin. A revolution for the Chinese cosmetic market opens the way to numerous opportunities for companies in this sector.

The demand of dietary supplements in China is driven by:

  • increasing consumer purchasing power
  • increasing consumer health-awareness
  • the ageing of the population as consumers look to prevent age-related conditions
  • skin issues due to the rising pollution

Dietary supplements are one of the top-performing product categories on the Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall. As a matter of fact, during the recent 618 Shopping festival, dietary supplements sales have seen a growth of +120% on this platform.

Chinese dietary supplements consumers groups and behavior

The dietary supplements market is fragmented by several consumer groups, all inclined to invest in substitutes in order to achieve a better quality of life.

Women consume more dietary supplements than men

Women are mainly looking for slimming and anti-aging products, however, they have different needs based on their lifestyle.

The women group can be divided into: “White-collar workers” & “Young mothers”.

  • White-collar workers & dietary supplements

Alopecia and insomnia caused by over-stressed working have become increasingly common to white-collar workers.

To satisfy their demand, recently GNC, the American company selling health and nutrition products, launched customized dietary supplements for various occasions to help white-collar workers to obtain better mental and physical health.

  • Young mothers & dietary supplements

As young mothers, they buy more and more nutrients for their babies. Natural origin is a determining factor in their purchase decision. Vitamins like calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins, and omega-3 are preferred.

Teenagers represent a large proportion of dietary supplements consumers

This segment of the market is particularly interested in dietary supplements that can improve school performance. For the generation born after 1990, the fashionable product is konjac powder, but the high-protein milk of black rice, black beans, and black sesame are also appreciated.

The elderly people rely heavily in dietary supplements

They consume certain foods according to their deficiency to avoid the disease, but also for physical appearance, in particular women.

GNC recently introduced products with higher standards in terms of quality, purity, and activity to meet the needs of the elderly to enjoy a healthy life. These products help the elderly to:

  • improve sleep quality,
  • weight loss assistance,
  • protection of bones and joints,
  • improve immunity.

What are the new trends in the dietary supplement market in China?

Increasing demand for quality dietary supplements in China

Consumers have started to pay more attention to health and tend to pay more to purchase quality dietary supplements. The increasing demand for health is bringing dietary supplements into a booming business.

Chinese consumers prefer dietary supplements with long-term validation and strict quality control. The demands in the new era have set a higher standard for products.

Since this increasing interest in quality products, what companies should do, in their marketing strategies, is to underline the quality of their products. For example, GNC China pointed out that GNC always aims at providing high-quality, safe, and reliable dietary supplements to its consumers. In addition, its partnership with Remintongtai indicates its ambition in China market while also enabling Chinese consumers a more convenient way to obtain high-quality dietary supplements.

Current lifestyle drive demand for dietary supplements in China

Consumers are looking for ways to improve their nutrition, without invading the comfort of their lives. Numerous factors such as:

  • urban pollution,
  • lack of time for healthy cooking,
  • sedentary lifestyle and the appearance of being overweight,

are detrimental to the quality of life creating new health problems to take into account.

Dietary supplements to improve physical appearance

Kinds of dietary supplements are used to improve physical appearances, such as facial skin or body musculature.

Indeed, strong and muscular bodies are gradually becoming the norm in China. The proliferation of content on social networks that enhances the benefits of healthy and disease-free supplements further encourages this trend.

In addition, this kind of a dietary supplement is in line with the trend of “nutricosmetics”, a neologism used in the cosmetics industry for foods that improve appearance. They promise detoxification of the body, beneficial effects on skin, hair, nails, fight weight and cellulite.

Whar are the main dietary supplements sold in China?

Some dietary supplement products allow consumer’s immune systems and memory to be fortified, blood is regulated, sleep quality is enhanced, and organs are protected. Other kinds of products can help people to lose weight, have clear skin, or have higher bone density.

In China, the most valued dietary supplements are those with functions over the immune system and account for 27% of sales. However, as we said before, new trends are coming up like dietary supplements to improve physical appearance.

In China, cereals, black sesame, alfalfa, red and black beans, and nuts are all popular supplements. In addition, new “superfoods” like chia seeds are growing in popularity. It is possible to find these supplements in various forms such as capsules, pills, sachets of powder, ampoules of liquid, etc.

Dietary supplements in China can be divided into two groups:

  • those that play on health
  • those that improve the physical appearance

How to enter in China’s dietary supplements market?

China’s strict regulations on dietary supplements

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.

Product registration and licensing for the healthcare sector is an extremely lengthy process, even if applications are successful it can take up to 3 years to process and there is no guarantee of approval in a system where strict regulations are constantly changing.

Cross-border e-commerce is the solution!

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’s purchase are made online and mobile sales growth are growing every year.

Thanks to the powerful cross-border e-commerce, international companies have been able to bypass mainland regulations on health products and avoid local taxes. As a consequence, they can be competitive in terms of price with domestic products.

Because e-commerce will likely become one of the most popular outlets for selling vitamins and dietary supplements, and online sales infrastructure is essential.

What are the opportunities for brands in the China’s dietary supplements market?

Because of the many cases of abuse (poor quality) and food scandals, the Chinese people often prefer to turn to foreign brands considered more reliable. Trust in Chinese brands is very low, therefore, foreign brands are welcomed.

However, brands to win in this market should focus on creating a good marketing strategy by localizing their content and using Chinese digital platforms.

How to promote your dietary supplements in the Chinese market?

Branding in China is everything, it is the only way to be successful in this huge market, therefore, what are the steps to follow to create strong branding in China?

Open an account on Chinese social networks! This is the first step that you have to do to promote your products in the Chines market. Why? Because Chinese use only Mainland channels and they spend a lot of time on these platforms.

The Chinese being very predominantly on social networks, it is not possible to ignore a targeted communication. Consumers are always researching the products they want to buy, and most of the information is available on these channels.

WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, and the Q&A platforms Zhihu are the best social network to promote dietary supplements products.

How to promote dietary supplements on Chinese social networks?

The brand image is essential, and the name given to the product should not be chosen lightly. The name should not go against Chinese cultural beliefs and should include sounds close to the terms “health”, “well-being”, “form”. In addition, a good e-reputation is essential!

Brands using these social networks should focus their marketing strategies by highlighting some aspects:

  • The Chinese want to know exactly what they ingest, therefore being transparent in the communication about the ingredients used is highly recommended,
  • When it comes to health products their benefits need to be grounded in science, particularly in China with a strong culture and appreciation towards the sciences,
  • The Chinese rely on the recommendations of their peers before buying a product and want to be sure of its effectiveness,
  • Emphasize quality through high-quality raw materials and formulas.
  • Collaborate with KOLs, Chinese people rely a lot on them, in particular in this sector

For example, By-health, the Chinese leading brand, significantly adopts a strategy of concentration on single key products, focusing on a category through consumer education and marketing activities.

In the same way, GNC launched its new dietary supplement products highlighting the use of high-quality raw materials and formulas.

Don’t forget to create a Chinese website!

Brands that want to enter the Chinese market should understand that Chinese consumers don’t buy products they don’t know.

Create a Chinese website to be visible among Chinese consumers is essential for branding in China. Of course, it should be created on Baidu, the Chinese Search engine.

In addition, to be visible, your Mandarin website should be hosted in China because Baidu knows only Mandarin and gives priority to websites hosted in China, so they are extremely important for your SEO ranking.

Your content should be localized to the Chinese market, so for example, the Chinese website culture is different from our culture. You need to adapt your content and design to the local expectations: Chinese consumers are looking for a site with a lot of information, as opposed to the simple layout of western websites.

Brands can also take advantage of Baidu SEM tools to be more and more visible among Chinese consumers.

How to sell dietary supplements in the Chinese market?

Companies can choose to sell products through e-commerce platforms like Tmall, JD.com Pinduoduo, or specialized sites such as iHerb.com or Kuailedo.com. However, as we said before companies should follow strict regulations, therefore, cross-border e-commerce could be the best solution.

The most suitable cross-border e-commerce platforms to sell dietary supplements are Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, and Kaola.

Tmall is the largest and most reputable cross-border e-commerce platform in China

Tmall is associated with quality and authenticity in a marketplace often associated with fakes, therefore it widely satisfies the current consumer’s need for high-quality dietary supplements. In fact, the buyers on Tmall need to verify that the store and products are genuine.

There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:

  • Companies with China in-country business operations can apply to Tmall.com.
  • Companies with overseas licenses are eligible for Tmall Global.

Operating a Tmall.com storefront is much like operating your own B2C website, offering autonomy from design to operations to fulfillment and logistics.

GMA provides a wide choice of marketing and promotion solution to help you grow your business in China. We offer a complete panel of solutions: digital, marketing and distribution services for consumer goods, in beauty, cosmetics, healthcare products, and fragrance. Contact us!

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