The cultural and human forces shaping the kids’ nutrition space in China.

DSM, a science-based company numbering 23,000 people worldwide and specialising in solutions for Nutrition, Health & Sustainable Living hosted their ‘Bright Kids Conference’ for the ANZ region in September 2019, and Sussex was invited to speak at the conference about the market condition and future trends for kids’ nutrition in China.

While putting together this report we noticed the future trends, which are worth sharing.

General trends and what the future holds for kids nutrition:
Despite the relaxation of the decades-long one-child policy, birth rate hasn’t actually increased as expected. In a recent survey done by zhaopin.com based on over 8,000 mothers, 85% of the mothers polled said they couldn’t afford the cost of raising children. Having said that, the kids’ nutrition category has witnesses consistent growth in the last few years (on key e-commerce platforms at least). Premium products with high price tags are selling really well, and the infant solid foods category is also growing.

It seems that kids’ nutrition is not one area where Chinese parents will cut cost on soon, and they will expect to see a more diverse range of innovative products.

What’s in their shopping cart:

We believe what will end up in their shopping cart are affected by the following factors:

Chinese children’s lifestyle
Chinese children are generally subject to great academic pressure and with it comes a range of health-related concerns. Due to long hours of study, the level of short sightedness among Chinese schoolchildren is the highest globally. Most of them also don’t get the recommended minimum hours of sleep at night. Their digestive health and level of focus suffer.

Correspondingly, nutritional products targeting children’s digestive health, vision, brain health and immunity all rank high on the list. Bone health supplement is another big category- partly because Chinese parents believe this will help their children grow taller.

Where will the market go from here? I think we can again start with looking at lifestyle factors such as:

  • New leisure activities: skiing, horse racing, surfing or bodybuilding? As Chinese families grow wealthier their children will also get exposure to a bigger range of activities. Will they need new products accordingly?
  • Busier schedule: more Chinese students are skipping breakfast or lunch due to their increasingly busier schedules. Snacks and products on the go can give them the crucial nutrition top-up.
  • Childhood obesity: though not an immediate concern, this trend might impact product category growth in the long haul.
  • Emotional management: emotional problems are growing among all demographics in China.

Social Media
By March 2018, 82 millions parents log on to parenting apps to seek all kinds of parenting advice per month. Popular key opinion leaders (KOLs) enjoy celebrity status and some have millions or even billions of followers. (Check out Nicomama and Dr. Cui Yutao as a reference.)

Therefore it should come as no surprise to you that social media should be put into your media mix.

However, not all social platforms have strong monitoring mechanisms over their user-generated content (or even platform-generated content). There’s rising suspicions among consumers of the authenticity of content obtained through social media channels.

Even though social media should play an important role in your marketing plans, it is important not to forget that consumers need strong cues for product quality and safety. Think of ways to re-affirm this through various channels. Younger parents are also more media savvy and are less likely to follow just any social media trend. Forming a genuine connection with them is more important than gaining some site traffic in the short-term through media gimmicks.

The entertainmenisation of brand communication
Parenting can be a demanding task, and Chinese parents consistently report the ‘lack of time’ as one of their top anxieties. The younger generation of parents highly value their free time, therefore reconciling the conflict between their role as ‘parents’ and their independent selves is a challenge for many.

Opportunities exist, therefore, to create entertaining content that’s also educational. Chinese TV networks have produced a string of reality TV shows featuring celebrity parents, who reveal their own parenting ‘secrets’ as well as showcasing products. These shows consistently have high ratings- parents say they trust the information they see on these shows, and would purchase products seen on them.

Partnering with these new forms of ‘edutainment’ programs or creating your own entertaining way of influencing your consumers will help you gain traction in this crucial demographics.

The power of a good story
Marketing is influencing consumers through storytelling, and China is a market where this is especially true. Chinese consumers’ concept of health and wellbeing is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, but Western brands coming in the market have successfully influenced consumers’ view through good marketing campaigns and story-telling. Some of these concepts have worked their way into everyday Chinese lingo, for example, the concept of ‘sub-health’ is created by a multivitamin brand; ‘don’t let your children lose at the starting line’ was also originally an advertising slogan.

If and when you introduce a new product to the market, can you find a culturally relevant way that resonate with the modern day Chinese parents? What are their dreams and fears? What drives them? What expectations do they have for their children?

The bottomline is, having a great product is only half the battle won. You can never underestimate the power of a good story.


Contact us to have a quick discussion about how we can help you position your business and sell to China.

+61 2 81133600
kelly@sussexaustralasia.com.au