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Consumers' appetite grows for healthy food, lifestyle

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-03 09:41

Consumers' appetite grows for healthy food, lifestyle

Chinese consumers demonstrate greater awareness about food safety and ingredients. As a result, many restaurants are catching up with the lifestyle trend by providing organic but expensive edible products. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese consumers have become more concerned about healthy lifestyles and eating habits, which also drives the market to shift to those more natural and healthier food products, according to a report by the United Kingdom-based research firm Mintel Group Ltd.

The report said being healthy is the number one priority for urban Chinese consumers. And 98 percent of the surveyed consumers said they planned to eat a healthier diet in 2015, while 97 percent said they want to exercise more.

About 58 percent of those surveyed said in the past year they had started to eat more fruit and vegetables, while 50 percent have cooked at home more in a bid to achieve a healthier diet. But more than two-thirds of respondents admitted that they failed to cut the amount of desserts and snacks they eat.

According to the report, Chinese consumers demonstrated greater awareness about food safety and ingredients. About 52 percent of urban Chinese consumers now check food labeling before buying a product, paying most attention to whether it contains food preservatives, harmful colorants and other added ingredients.

"Driven by rising incomes and the growing availability of imported and packaged foods, there are more food choices available than ever for Chinese people. Consumers are therefore paying greater attention to ingredients and what exactly they are eating in a bid to make healthier lifestyle choices," said Laurel Gu, senior consumer research analyst for Mintel.

"With this increased consciousness, there is an opportunity for brands to offer healthier alternatives that tap into this appetite for 'cleaner living' and food products," she said.

Industry insiders said some businesses have already sensed the change in consumer behavior and are offering a greater number of healthier products.

During the run-up to this year's Mid-Autumn Festival, various types of mooncakes targeting health-conscious consumers were on sale.

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"Mooncake manufacturers are recognizing that consumers are interested in a healthier alternative to what is usually a heavy, sweet, processed holiday food", said Ailsa Gu, North Asia Insights manager for Mintel.

"They are consequently promoting their use of 100 percent natural ingredients, low-sugar content or healthy sugar substitutes, and low fat as a means of increasing the appeal of their product to a wider audience and also to target those who have health problems such as diabetes," she said.

The report also noted that Chinese consumers demonstrated significant interest in all products supported by claims or suggestions relating to health including those household products and cosmetics associated with health and natural benefits.

"From the point of consumers, we observed that most consumers aged 20 to 49 from first-, second- and third-tier cities show the need for health products. And manufactures also comply with this trend and offer products with different price ranges, depending on manufacturers' brand position and their target consumers," she said.

Consumer Wang Lina believes the perceptions of consumers are changing and people are becoming increasingly aware of healthy products.

"In the past, I didn't pay too much attention to food labels when I bought food products. But now I want to know more about what I actually eat or drink," Lina said.

"Now I care more about the food products' ingredients, not merely their look and taste. Besides, I prefer those food products that are more as nature intended with less food additives," she said.

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