China / Society

Consumers show increasing health awareness

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-28 07:38

The battle against bulge and people's growing health awareness will breed new market opportunities as three-quarters of Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for healthier food, according to a survey by the global market research firm Nielsen.

The survey found that nearly 45 percent of the Chinese respondents consider themselves overweight, and a higher percentage of Chinese consumers not only regard healthy ingredients as important in the foods they purchase, but are also willing to back up their opinion with their wallets.

The Nielsen Global Health & Wellness Survey polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries last year, trying to identify how consumers feel about their body image and the steps they are taking to become healthier.

Chinese consumers are taking charge of their health, according to the survey. Up to 81 percent of Chinese respondents read packaging labels carefully for nutrition content, while nearly 70 percent said they trust the health claims on food packaging.

"Consumers' rising health awareness and pursuit of healthy attributes, as well as corresponding purchasing behaviors, mean greater business opportunities for manufacturers," said Kiki Fan, senior vice-president of Nielsen China.

The survey found that Chinese consumers believe the top desirable attributes in food are "fresh", "natural" and "minimally processed". Foods made from vegetables, fruits and organic ingredients are also regarded as important in their purchasing decisions.

In addition, consumers said they were looking for functional foods providing benefits that can either reduce their risk of disease and promote good health. About three in 10 seek foods that are high in fiber, high in protein and have whole grain, or foods with ingredients that meet their special health needs.

Chinese consumers are also willing to pay a premium for healthy food, with 45 percent of Chinese respondents saying "all natural" is very important, and 47 percent are willing to pay a premium for these kinds of products.

Similar trends can also be found in organic food (39 percent and 40 percent), whole grain food (28 percent and 31 percent), gluten-free food (19 percent and 24 percent) and calcium-fortified foods (26 percent and 27 percent).

These figures are also backed up by Nielsen's recent Chinese Consumer Confidence Index, which showed health had overtaken income to become the top concern of Chinese urban consumers

Nielsen's retail tracking data show that while the overall food market only grew 5 percent year-on-year, the categories with health concepts outperformed other categories significantly, with an annual growth of 15 percent in sales value by the third quarter of last year.

"With the increasing disposable income of Chinese consumers and their stronger pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, we believe the health-driven trend will continue to be a key highlight in the Chinese food market for 2015. No matter if it is retailers or manufacturers, whoever takes action to ride on the trend will have a greater chance of winning the hearts and minds of more Chinese consumers," said Fan.

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