Chinese consumers seek to improve immunity healthy, Mintel study finds

In the post-COVID era, consumers are increasingly concerned about daily health management and the mutual influence of various sub-health issues and their own immunity. Meeting people’s needs for improving immunity has become one of the key market issues. The latest research from Mintel revealed that Chinese consumers are increasingly investing in health care, the per capita consumption expenditure of healthcare products, excluding medical services, was RMB¥1,618 (US$238) in 2019, accounting for 5.2% of total per capita consumption expenditure at RMB¥31,160 (US$4,576). Total healthcare products expenditure increased by 9.0% in 2019, surpassing the growth overall consumer expenditure in the same period.

Meanwhile, usage penetration of vitamins and supplements increased from 48% to 57% from latte February to early May. 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 well-being analyst, Mintel China, commented: “As a result of 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 but also is now an important factor for normal health adults.”

Chinese consumers have also been embracing a combination of Western and Chinese nutrition to improve immunity health. According to Mintel data, multivitamins are the most agreed upon nutrients that surveyed consumers associate with immunity at 82%, followed by protein at 70%, probiotics at 63%, and ginseng at 70%, propolis at 63%, cordyceps at 57%, and other herbal ingredients have also gained high approval. More particularly, consumers within specific age and gender groups tend to prioritise ingredients to ensure they choose the relevant one for immunity management. For instance, Mintel data revealed 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) highlighted that the percentage of China’s newly launched immunity claimed food and drinks featuring specific dietary choices are growing slowly in the past five years. For example, the use of low- or reduced-sugar claims 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,” Liu suggested.

Furthermore, 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 and skin issues were also mentioned more frequently. 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, positive mindset and regular exercise is important.

“Upon recognising the importance of lifestyle habits, many people feel they are not doing enough. In particular, consumers find difficulty in managing enough sleep and an exercise routine, despite strong awareness of their desirable outcomes,” Liu concluded. “Consumers are turning to a broader range of professional health experts for immunity management advice, and integrated product-service solutions will be a market opportunity point in terms of how brands can more comprehensively offer credible products and services to consumers.”