Karen Liu often has a small bowl of hot water to go with her meals. The water, however, is not for drinking. It’s for stripping the grease and excess sodium out of her favorite Chinese dishes.
“I love eating Chinese food, but I don’t want all that oil and extra salt in my body,” said the 26-year-old research analyst in Hangzhou, China. Liu said she also takes nutritional supplements and exercises regularly to stay healthy and fit.
Liu’s degreasing and vitamin-taking habit is not uncommon among young to middle-aged Chinese consumers, who are more wellness and fitness-conscious than previous generations. According to Tmall Global, China’s largest cross-border e-commerce platform and a top gateway for foreign brands to enter the Chinese market, 71% of the health-supplement buyers on the platform are under 40.
The trend on Tmall Global is also happening across the industry. Analysts say that with a booming middle class and an increase in discretionary income, Chinese shoppers are spending more on health products, such as fish oil, muscle gainers, protein bars, edible collagen, vitamins, among others. A Daxue Consulting report indicates the total market share of vitamins in China reached $3.4 billion in 2017, a 32% jump from 2014. The research firm projects that by 2020, the figure could reach as high as $22 billion.
Insights from Tmall Global show Chinese consumers aren’t just buying more, they’re also becoming more selective, demanding and informed. They are no longer buying only from the bestsellers list. They are also carefully choosing the specific supplement that can best target their individual needs, said Eric Li, Tmall Global’s supplement category leader, who is based in Pasadena, California.
An example of this evolution is fish oil. Consumer shopping patterns on Tmall Global indicate many Chinese consumers of fishing oil are spending more time and effort learning the various ingredients offered by different brands so they can zero in on the products that best suit them, Li said.
Alice Dillon, vice president of the California-based Coromega, recognizes the trend, saying that with an array of choices Chinese consumers are no longer passive shoppers.
“Instead, they are increasingly demanding. Therefore brands should revolve around your target consumers and cater to their needs,” she said.
“Tmall Global, as part of Alibaba, stands out from various platforms and has been a symbol for cross-border e-commerce and the middle-class lifestyle. It is where our target consumers visit and shop, so it is where we need to be,” Dillon added.
To respond to the growing number of discerning shoppers, Tmall Global has upped its game to make sure only top-quality brands are invited to the platform, he added.
“Our mission is clear. We want to help top, high-quality brands introduce themselves to the China market to ensure Chinese shoppers have an opportunity to choose the freshest and best imported products.”
At this year’s Expo West, the biggest health and wellness event in the U.S., held in Anaheim, California, Tmall Global conducted an invitation-only seminar for over 100 executives from brands, retailers and trade organizations in the nutrition industry. The meeting aimed to educate and provide them with the freshest insights on China’s cross-border e-commerce opportunity, with a focus on the health-supplement industry.
Musharaf Syed, the CEO of Vancouver-headquartered Herbaland, touted his company’s collaboration with Tmall Global, saying the market insights provided by Tmall Global have accelerated his company’s growth in China and deepened engagement with the consumers there. Since opening a flagship store on Tmall Global last November, Herbaland’s sales on the platform have tripled.
“We believe the quality and the nutritional values of our products speak for themselves. By working with Tmall Global, which enjoys the reputation of bringing fantastic products into China, we are looking forward to generating more growth in this market,” he added.
At the Expo, Herbaland announced the exclusive global launch of its newest product – Vegan Collagen Booster Gummies – on Tmall Global.
Another differentiator for Tmall Global from other shopping sites in China is the platform’s popularity with young consumers, thanks to the team’s ability to choose brands and SKUs that most appeal to this demographic.
Seb Zhang, senior director of e-business at Emergen-C, a wellness brand under pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, said the generation of Chinese shoppers born after 1990s “are facing increasing work pressure and stress and order to “live in the present,” they are more aware of the importance of health with increasing demand for various dietary supplement.”
“Tmall Global draws legions of young, affluent and well-educated Chinese shoppers who want fast, convenient access to trendy and trusted, 100% imported brands – like Emergen-C,” Zhang said.