Traditionally, dietary supplements were aimed primarily at older generations and children. However, in recent years, younger generations are starting to show increasing demand for their health, creating a high potential for the dietary supplements market in China. This article will analyze a booming market in China: the dietary supplements market. How to market and sell these products in China?
Traditional natural dietary supplements continue to attract attention
Chinese consumers prefer natural dietary supplements, and they tend to trust traditional Chinese medicines. Consumers over 60 age are a group that represents a significant and ideal target for manufacturers, but unfortunately, this group is hard to target with e-marketing promotion tools as they remain very traditional and reluctant to lifestyle changes.
They appreciate Chinese traditional medicine, conveying images of ancestral health, magic, esoterism, and so on … But we don’t have to lose faith as these concepts were exported to the USA (ginseng, goji, reishi, …). We should also convince old Chinese to consume western dietary supplements with an appropriate marketing strategy. Old Chinese are very superstitious. Brand communication for dietary supplements should ride this big wave and promote the products as being healthy and spiritual.
Marketing and communication play a key role in this industry. Nevertheless, if many retailers have websites in Chinese most of them don’t have an integrated digital strategy. Most of them have no Weibo or Wechat accounts. But Chinese people buy products because their friends or opinion leaders recommend the product. The purchase of vitamins and food supplements is often the consequence of a recommendation made by friends or family members in China.
Consumers aged under 40 represent 62% of total buyers of food supplements. Indeed this age group is relatively young and ready to accept new concepts. They often buy food supplements for themselves as well as their parents, grandparents, and children as gifts. Dietary supplements are expensive and often associated with luxury products despite their lack of glamorous 😉 In terms of marketing one should keep in mind the emerging concept of “healthy gift”. This is both a threat and an opportunity. Threat as dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products faces competition from so-called “traditional natural medicine.” Opportunity because China’s population is more and more aware than the western population of the link between diet and health.
Regulation when it comes to dietary supplements in China
Differences between France and China
In France, the official definition of “nutritional supplements” appeared in 1996 in the Official Journal: the aim of a “nutritional supplement” is to overcome a deficiency … Then vitamins, minerals, proteins (except creatine), and some plants are designated as “nutritional supplements”. In China, the official definition of “nutritional supplements” appeared in June 1997. To be recognized as a dietary supplement by the Chinese administration, the product must meet the following 3 criteria:
- Being ingested orally
- Having at least one out of the 22 preventive functions recognized by the Ministry of Health
- Do not be a curative drug.
All supplements sold in China must be tested and approved by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA). Complicated and non-transparent standards and regulations in China have created unnecessary hesitation for many foreign companies to sell their products there. Nowadays regulations in China are on the verge of harmonization.
Communication channels for food supplements in China
Communication is the key factor of success in this industry. Curiously, the first communication channel in China for food supplements is the TV. Many advertisements are placed on television. But we can wonder if it will last because Chinese consumers are more and more suspicious of institutional TV programs. The Internet is the first source of information for those consumers who are looking for accurate information. But regarding nutritional supplement TV spot remains, for now, the main media channel of communication. But no doubt that things are going to change in favor of digitally integrated campaigns.
A growing taste for imported food supplements
Chinese have a growing taste for imported food supplements. Food supplement companies should target the Chinese capitalizing on concern over food security as the Chinese middle-class consumers increasingly conscious about health issues rush to food supplements. Just pay attention to the rich Chinese tourists visiting New York City and you will probably see bags from GNC or Vitamin Shoppe among those from brands like Chanel, Berger-Goodman, or Barney.
The additional cost that Chinese consumers are willing to concede to their health – and the population of China is huge – is synonymous with a potential windfall for major producers and retailers of dietary supplements in the United States and Europe.
This year, the market for vitamin and dietary supplements in China is expected to reach CNY 149 billion (US$22.3 billion). According to JD.com, the sale of vitamins and dietary supplements has been multiplied by 5 since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The increasing solvent demand for awareness regarding health issues, the worsening health problems due to environmental destruction, and the aging population are the three main reasons that explain such a trend.
The leaders in the food supplement industry are still American
The majority of all these supplements came from the United States. Among major American brands in China, there are Amway, NBTY based in New York and Pennsylvania-based GNC.
Despite significant barriers to market access and the difficulty in order to obtain compliance with SFDA the percentage of the annual growth rate of the healthcare products market in China will attract a growing number of other international manufacturers. ..
The children segment of the market
Although sales of vitamins and other health products for adults are booming in China, it is especially true when it comes to the segment of food supplements for children. In recent years, Chinese parents were willing to spend relatively large amounts of money on the health of their children in relation to family income. This is a result of several food and drink scandals in China. GMA worked with several brands like Infant-Advanced Lipids, NANO JAPAN, Analac, Vitabiotics, and others.
For example, Vitabiotics has created a unique portfolio of products at the forefront of scientific developments in key sectors, including nutrition and women’s health. Vitabiotics contacted GMA for helping them to get more Visibility ( DSP), and develop their online presence through Social Media (WeChat, Weibo, Key Opinion Leaders).
Only after one Month, Vitabiotics results were:
- +100% followers on Weibo&Wechat
- +80% engagement
- Traffic increase
Chinese women: a specific target
Chinese women also consume a lot of beauty supplements and/or diet (jojoba, aloe vera, or citrus pills …). Women represent 49% of the total urban population. This population of urban women spends 46 billion RMB on purchases of nutritional and beauty supplements. That’s why many brands focus their attention on this consumer group.
How to Market dietary supplements in China?
E-Commerce in China for Dietary Supplements is the best way to increase your Sales
In China, the process for health Product registration is extremely long, and there is no guarantee of approval in the system. Actually, many brands use E-commerce platforms for selling their product in China, because it does not require a license so long as you gain approval from the relevant cross-border platforms.
Don’t forget that China is the world’s largest connected country, with a huge online population of e-shoppers and online sales infrastructures. In China, the biggest E-commerce platforms are Tmall, JD.Com, and Pinduoduo. If you really want to establish your business in China and increase your revenues, you have to be online and be present on the right and most powerful platforms In China.
Cross-Border is a good “Weapon” for your business
Chinese People travel a lot, so they are more familiar with foreign products. China has changed all regulations regarding the Cross-border market. With cross-border e-commerce, Chinese consumers are able to experience the brand in a local format, They can easily buy from abroad and the product is shelved offshore until sold. The are some advantages of E-Commerce Platforms:
- The shipping times are shorter– same-day or one-day for all tier-one cities, versus two to four days from a Free Trade Zone.
- You are able to offer customers the option to return the product.
- The numbers are simply greater.
Tmall is the best-selling platform
Tmall is the largest and most reputable cross-border e-commerce platform in China, it is associated with good quality and authenticity in the marketplace. A lot of Dietary supplement brands seek to establish a store.
A Tmall.com storefront is essential to the retail strategy of leading global businesses for China’s market penetration. 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.
Tmall.com provides some infrastructure to host your storefront and unfiltered access to hundreds of millions of shoppers.
The Chinese don’t Buy just a name but established & authentic dietary supplements brands
The brand needs to improve its image by featuring its headquarters, and offline stores, and also participating in some events such as sponsored Marathons to promote health. You have to work on your reputation, the best way is to work with a digital agency that can help you to erase all bad comments or images about you. Chinese customers buy established & authentic brands that are engaged to be large players in their country. Thanks to Innovative and intelligent digital marketing you can create a very powerful image online that reflects the real you.
Adapt a QR Code to your business
The QR Code is a powerful method for driving traffic between multiple platforms. Actually, QR take a big part in China because just through a scan with your smartphone you can easily buy an item or download your App. QR code uses a series of codes to re-direct buyers to:
- An app,
- WeChat account
- to the shopping cart page via mobile.
Users can scan directly with their mobile active link from the Tmall mobile browser.
Creating the real Shopping Experience
Creating the shopping experience is important and for that, you need to engage in:
- Targeted Branding
- Creative Chinese Brand Development
- Targeted Ads (DSP/Media Buying)
- Social Media to Drive Traffic (Weibo, WeChat, etc)
- Quality Store formatting and design
The Social Media Campaign is crucial
In China, Social Media means a lot. If you want to be more visible or reach a lot of customers you have to be present on Social media. Not all of them but mainly on Wechat and Weibo which are the most powerful social Network in China.
Wechat is the first most popular Chinese Social Media, with more than 1.2 Billion active users. It’s just amazing how you can take advantage of this. It is not only the most used App, but it also has a lot of functionalities like paying Bills, making a reservation, buying Food, etc. Moreover, WeChat integrated also some Mini Programs that brands can use to expand their business Online.
Weibo is also very popular in China, with more than 650 million active users. You can use it to promote your brand and get more visibility.
Forums and Q&A platforms are the best places where take advantage of recommendations
Social listening is the main driver of purchasing dietary supplements and what are the places where the Chinese go to find information about products and brands?
Zhihu is the answer. Chinese consumers go on this platform when talking about vitamins & health supplements. Zhihu is the most used Chinese Q&A platform similar to western Quora. The brand can use this platform to leverage its community to talk about the brands and products in a good way.
For example, brands can develop:
- Q&A Campaigns (Answering questions, brands can establish a relationship with users and build their reputation this way. It allows them to promote themselves and introduce their products)
- KOL Endorsements enhance a brand’s image and reputation (brands can invite experts or key opinion leaders to answer questions for them. Answering questions on Zhihu allows them to showcase their expertise and connect with both industry experts and general users)
- Zhihu Live (it allows brands to conduct online presentations on specific topics. Brands can have opportunities to provide in-depth knowledge and communicate with users in a more direct way)
- In-Depth Articles (Brands can publish long-form content to gain credibility in their industry which is highly valued by people in that industry).
Collaborate With KOLs to influence Chinese consumers purchasing decisions
Chinese KOLs are very powerful, just through an article, comment, or video they can completely change your business for the best or the worst. They are able to influence Chinese decisions. Don’t lack this opportunity to collaborate with the most talented KOLs in order to become the leader of the market. In this domain, you can trust us. GMA works with over 100 KOLs. We can help you to find the right Kol for your business. We know how they work and we can guarantee you a big successful campaign.
Tmall B2D: Business to Chinese Distributor
This is a new form of distribution. Advantages of this platform:
- The platform is open to foreign companies: No Chinese Business license is required
- Alipay is the most used payment method in China: Payment by Alibaba
- The most famous e-commerce platform Tmall is well-known for its strict door policy: The Perfect Solution for New Brands in China
- Stand-alone Tmall store requires a huge amount of time & investment: Multiply your Sales Channels
Do you want to know more about how to sell and promote dietary supplements in China? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, specializing in the Chinese digital market.