Peter Peverelli reviews some of the latest trends and products in the Chinese marketplace.
The Chinese market for products that preserve or lower body weight has been growing rapidly during the past few years. Famine has been eradicated in most parts of China but up to a few years ago, Chinese eating habits still resembled those of people who did not know where their next meal would come from. Only since the early Nineties, have Chinese city dwellers begun to understand the problems of obesity.
With the introduction of Western values into the Chinese lifestyle, both men and women have started to pay attention to their figure and body weight. This has led to the opening of fitness centres and the increased appearance of slimming aids in pharmacies. A recent survey has shown that one third of the Chinese with weight problems would be willing to spend RMB 500 (USD 62) per year on slimming products. While this may not seem a very high amount by itself, the total present market value of slimming aids is estimated at RMB 19.5 billion (approx. USD 2.4 billion).
Folic Acid Regulation
The China Nutrition Association has proposed that the addition of folic acid to cereal foods should be regulated. Their proposal follows FDA rules, which allows an addition of 1.4 mg of folic acid for each kg of cereals.
A company in Guiyang (Guizhou province) is using a newly developed process to extract active substances from wild roses. The extract, which is high in vitamins C and E, carotenoids and organic acids, can be used as a nutritional additive for foods and beverages.
TV advertising expenditures on energy drinks in China in 2000 was dominated by foreign brands. With an expenditure of RMB 58.6 million, Red Bull alone had a share of 41 per cent. The runner up was Gatorade which spent RMB 47.1 million with a share of 33 per cent. Together they represented 74 per cent of the total TV advertisement expenditure of energy drinks in China in 2000.
Calcium And Magnesium
A research institute in Shijiazhuang (Hebei province) has developed a nutritional supplement that combines a natural calcium source with active magnesium. Magnesium is believed to enhance the absorption of calcium within the human body. Although calcium supplements come in all shapes and sizes, commercial products combining the two elements are still rare. This product can be used as an additive in salt (low sodium salt), dairy products, fruit juice beverages and health foods.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Health has announced stricter rules for health claims on labels for foodstuffs and cosmetics. Such information should be realistic and easy to understand for the average consumer.
Health and nutrition has a high potential for cultural content. When screening authoritative Chinese news sources one sometimes comes across new products that nobody would expect in those type of publications. For example, one would be reluctant to report on health foods claiming to cure cancer. However, every now and then a new product that seems rather naive to most Western readers, is promoted very seriously in China. The following case highlights certain aspects of Chinese thinking.
A dairy company in Shanxi province has recently introduced a new type of yoghurt, literally translated as 'Hangover' yoghurt. A patent has also been applied for. The product was announced in July and recently officially launched with a large celebration in the Chinese capital. During my next visit to China, I will personally test this product and will report on my findings. Stay tuned...
Consultant to the Chinese Food Industry