While still being in its initial stage of development China’s sports nutrition market is nevertheless a fast-growing market showing some of the greatest potentials for the coming years. And this means just one thing: the best moment for international brands to enter and establish themselves in the market is now.

China’s sports nutrition market overview

China has the second-largest sports nutrition market in the Asia Pacific, after Japan, with $329 million in sales.    Let’s have a quick look at the market environment:


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  • Chinese people are more and more health & fitness conscious. There is of course influence from western culture, and also a growing middle class (circa 707 million people), and to a large segment of millennials (400 million ) that are starting to care about their lifestyle a lot more.
  • With the Olympics being held in East Asia (2018,2021,2022) for several years, we see the region’s growing interest in sports and fitness;
  • Consumption trends: nowadays,  sports supplements are not exclusive to bodybuilders and/or high-level athletes. The idea of a Fit-lifestyle is growing, and so does your target audience.
  • By 2025 the Fitness and Sports industry in China is expected to reach $786 billion USD.
  • Sports nutrition the fastest growing niche market in the industry with a recorded growth of 42% in 2018.
  • Online sales account for 84% of this segment
  • Foreign brands Sports Nutrition Brands are the best-selling brands;

Moreover, the Chinese government, with their 2016-2020 National Fitness Plan is aiming to increase sports participation and improve fitness among the population, in addition to expanding sports infrastructure.


Sports drinks consumption is increasing in China

In China, 70% of people between 20 and 49 years old consume sports drinks, while 65% consume energy drinks. The most common motivations are to:

  • Relieve fatigue
  • Boost hydration

The flavor and nutritional content are considered the most important purchase factors when it comes to choosing which product it’s better to buy.

It is important to mind the product quality because Chinese customers are highly sensitive to natural and high-quality products, while innovative and interesting flavors are appreciated more and more.

The predominance of a busy, on-the-go lifestyle in China’s urban centers makes sports and energy drinks products that have a huge potential on the Chinese market.


The rise of esports in China offers a great opportunity to Sport nutritions brands

China will soon overtake South Korea as the second-largest esports market after the US in 2019.

Esports, also known as electronic sports, is a form of sport competition using video games. Esports often take the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams. They became one of the main hobbies for Chinese Millenials.

The rapid growth of China’s esports industry has made sports nutrition for gamers a promising opportunity. Sports nutrition that contains ingredients with eye and cognitive health benefits is essential when addressing the nutritional needs of gamers because as we all know, a lot of hours in front of a laptop can affect your eyes.


How can foreign sports nutrition brands enter the Chinese market?

As we saw before, online sales account for 84% of the sports nutrition products sold in China. Before starting to sell on the Chinese e-commerce platforms, your products must be known in the Chinese market otherwise no one will buy your products. If you do not build a good reputation around your brand, your products will remain unknown to the consumers.


When a product is “Health” related, e-reputation comes first

E-reputation should be the base of your marketing strategy when doing e-commerce in China, whatever platform you choose.

In order to be visible on the market, the first step that we suggest you do is to have a Chinese website on Baidu. Baidu is the most used search engine in China, with 70% of queries, and it offers many tools that you cannot miss.

A high-performance website in China must:

  • Be in Chinese. A simple translation is not enough because the content must be localized and adapted to Chinese culture and tastes;
  • Your website has to be hosted in China/Hong Kong or neighbor country to increase its loading speed;
  • Contain information about your company and a big focus on storytelling and on the quality of your products.
  • Identify the effective keywords that Chinese consumers use when they look for products similar to yours and work on ranking on those keywords with regular original content and backlinks;
  • Combine a good SEO & SEM strategy.


Baidu SEM: an efficient strategy for your sports nutrition brand

When we speak about Baidu SEM we mean search engine marketing. Here’s a list of all the tools you can use to rank your website in the highest positions:

  • Baidu Display Network Advertising is an advertising banner service offered by Baidu that allows you to invest in ads that appear on external sites and earn money based on the number of clicks on the ads.
  • Baidu PPC, is a way to increase the visibility and presence of a brand on the search engine.
  • Baidu Tuiguang, is the Chinese equivalent of Google Adwords, the platform dedicated to SEM activities. Consisting of a Search part, and a Display with about 600,000 sites affiliated with the Baidu network.
  • Baidu Brand Zone, is a sort of mini-site that appears at the beginning of the SERP(Search Engine Result Page). Show information about the brand and its products.


Baidu Seo: Backlinks and PR

Baidu Zhidao, Baidu Baike, and Baidu Tieba are part of the Baidu ecosystem. They are excellent tools to drive traffic to your website and obviously because they belong to Baidu they tend to rank higher.

Backlinks & PR are some of the most cost-efficient solutions when it comes to building your e-reputation in China and at the same time boosting your website ranking on Baidu. They help to build credibility and to get more visibility.

The purpose of the backlinks is to give some importance to the pages in terms of popularity and authority. Backlinks are links between a receiving page, called a landing page, and another donor page called a resource page. Through these links the landing page receives and gets value from the page the link came from.

PR is a marketing tool that excludes Paid ads. It consists of having an authority profile talking about your company. It can be media (newspapers, blogs), KOLs, or even the community.


Zhihu: the right platform to increase awareness of your sports nutrition brand

Zhihu is a Q&A platform that brings together a community of educated and informed users seeking information and knowledge around a specific topic. It doesn’t only offers question and answer services, but also focuses on publishing articles, round tables on various topics as well as online debates.

Over time, Zhihu has become a rather important platform for brands to create their own brand awareness in China since it also allows the creation of official company accounts.

Sports nutrition brands can use it to educate Chinese consumers about their products and their better usage.


Xiaohongshu: the e-commerce platform for small and medium sport nutrition brands

The more visible you are the better your brand awareness gets. The more a consumer sees you, the greater he/she will think about your brand when in need of an item like the one you sell. A higher online presence is also key to build trust.

Once you have built your reputation in China, you can start selling your products on cross-border e-commerce platforms.

For small and medium enterprises, we suggest Xiaohongshu. It is social commerce, that combines the e-commerce and social media functions together. It is growing a lot in recent years, especially in the health food sector.

It is based on a “content-driven” model, which gives great importance to content. It was born as a shopping guide. It mainly attracts consumers who reward quality and authenticity. For this reason, it represents an opportunity for international brands.

To sum up, using this platform you can both buy products and see the reviews and the experiences of other consumers.


Tmall: the e-commerce platform for big sport nutrition brands

Tmall is the Chinese most famous e-commerce platform. Since it has quite expensive fees, we suggest to use it only for big brands. It is the leading B2C e-commerce site in China.

It is a generalist platform, which offers each kind of product from more than 100.000 brands. You can find products of all kinds, from beauty to mechanics.

The brands are visible on Tmall in the form of graphically customizable flagship stores.

Once that you are registered on Tmall, each supplier can take care of his own “store”. It must manage the promotion of its brand, the delivery of its goods, the management of the customer service, etc. It is quite similar to having your own website. However, brands can benefit from the Tmall interface that will give you visibility and credibility with Chinese consumers.

To conclude on Sports Nutrition brand in China + Distribution:

If you are looking to build a Distribution network in China, the previous steps will be as necessary. Indeed,  no Chinese distributors would consider working with your brands if it’s unknown in China. Whether you want to sell in China directly or work with distributors, your number one step should always be your brand’s awareness in the country.

gma agency

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a digital marketing agency that is expert in helping foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. We can help your brand increase sales in China, thanks to our services like:

  • Advertising
  • Baidu SEO&SEM
  • Social Media
  • PR
  • KOL & Influencers
  • E-commerce and cross-border e-commerce
  • Distribution


Read more about the Sport market in China

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One Comment

  1. Hello,
    I am a Chinese importer and we would like to represent and sell a western Nutrition brand to China.
    PM me with your brand information

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