Immunity-boosting products gain in popularity
Young people buying high-quality healthcare, cosmetic goods to avoid work fatigue and keep COVID-19 blues at bay
Liver-rejuvenating tablets, multivitamins, grape seeds, collagen, lutein and lycopene tablets are all familiar fare to Li Yunxi, a product manager at a Beijing-based internet company, who took them all recently after working late into the wee hours.
After ingesting all the tablets, the 27-year-old woman fought off drowsiness and carefully applied eye cream from La Mer, priced at 1,800 yuan ($278) for 15 milliliters, around her tired eyes before finally hitting the hay.
“Taking healthcare and cosmetics products seemed to be the easiest way for me to maintain my health and beauty. When I have to stay up late to work, they make me feel that it is an effective remedy,” she said.
Li is part of a growing group of young Chinese consumers — most of whom were born between 1991 and 1995 and are now staring the 30-year-old milestone in the face — willing to spend a lot of money on healthcare products, including supplements and vitamins, anti-aging cosmetics and electronic healthcare gadgets.
The new consumption frenzy is a trend featuring younger consumers who are opting for high-quality goods and are not afraid to pry open their wallets wide.
While working hard at their jobs, these young consumers consider such products as essentials and believe they prevent illness and premature aging, thereby spawning a huge market in China.
China will become the secondlargest market for healthcare products with sales revenue expected to hit 330 billion yuan this year. Consumers born after 1990 have become the main consumption driver over the past three years, according to market consultancy CBN Data.
A report issued by the Sootoo Institute said 21.9 percent of people born after 1990 in China use healthcare products over long periods. Half use such products occasionally. Those who never take healthcare products only account for 3.9 percent of the demographic.
“The anxiety of maintaining good health among consumers born after 1990 is stronger than other age groups because they are mostly only children in their families. As this group of young people gradually take on life and work burdens, they feel a greater sense of crisis,” said Cheng Yanbo, an independent internet and gaming analyst.
Currently in China, people born in the 1990s exceed 188 million in number, accounting for 14.1 percent of the country’s population.
Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China, said: “Another driving factor is that young people are increasingly facing healthcare problems, even serious diseases like cancer, with more pressure from life and work. Such pressure forces them to care more about their health. Also, widening social media channels increase their anxiety and make them more aware of their health.”
Chronic conditions such as insomnia and obesity are becoming more common among younger Chinese used to staring at handsets late into the night.
A report from the British Medical Journal said the prevalence of diabetes in China has reached 2 percent among people aged 18 to 29, and stands at 6.3 percent among those aged 30 to 39.
Yu added that after the COVID-19 pandemic, young consumers increasingly realize that improving health should be a priority.
“It was the pandemic that made me pay more attention to health, especially my immune system, on a daily basis,” said Qi Tian, 30, a software engineer in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
“It is also COVID-19 that allowed traditional Chinese medicine to take center stage,” he said.
Instead of taking pills or tablets, Qi added that he prefers products that are convenient and tasty. For example, he now drinks a cup of vitamin C every day, which comes in different fruity flavors. He also drinks water with red dates, mulberry or other flavors during work breaks to boost energy levels.
Among the most popular healthcare products for those born in the 1990s are donkey-hide gelatin, or ejiao, red dates and honey. In terms of effects, these young consumers care most about enhancing immunity.
During last year’s Singles Day shopping gala, health exam services, human papilloma virus remedies and instant bird-nest soups were the most popular health-related products for consumers under the age of 25 on e-commerce platform Tmall.
On JD Health, the healthcare subsidiary of Chinese tech giant JD, vaccine services and oral-health services have increased by 20 times and 12 times, respectively, last year compared with that of 2019.
Buoyed by the growth momentum, a slew of Chinese companies are innovating their healthcare products and transforming them into sought-after snacks for the sake of convenience to attract young consumers.
Pharmaceutical companies like Guangzhou Pangaoshou have launched individually packaged black sesame portions, believed by many industry insiders to be good for hair health.
Dong’e Ejiao Co Ltd also launched a product believed to enhance immunity. It uses low-temperature vacuum continuous drying technology to turn traditional ejiao blocks into individually packaged ejiao in small bags.
Behind the moves are also the country’s efforts to support the healthy growth of new consumption and business models in order to boost consumption amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tong Ren Tang Group Co Ltd, which was founded in 1669 and used to mainly target middle-aged and elderly consumers, is offering coffees infused with herbs such as licorice, monk fruit and cinnamon.
“We need to keep pace with the changing times. Our herbal drinks have been highly recognized by young consumers,” said He Junshuai, director of brand management for healthcare services at TRT Group.
“We also aim to meet the soaring demand for healthcare services from young consumers and therefore we established the innovative coffee. By exploring the youth market, we hope to remedy the shortcomings of a traditional pharmacy,” he said.
Zhao Ziqiang, chief operating officer of e-commerce business at TRT Group, added that such products all sold well with young people increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy dietary regimen.
“As consumption levels increase, the standard for consumer products will be higher,” said Wu Shichun, founding partner of Plum Ventures.
“New supply chains, new designs, new marketing strategies, new channels and new target groups such as Generation Z will be the next hot investment spot,” Wu said.
Wang Wei, head of the Development Research Center of the State Council’s Institute for Market Economy, said in an interview that spurring new forms of consumption, such as healthcare and online education, will stimulate innovation.
“China is shifting from highspeed growth to high-quality development, and consumption, as the ‘stabilizer’ and ‘ballast stone’ of Chinese economy, is becoming increasingly important,” she said.
“What’s more important is that the rapid growth of consumption and its contribution to China’s economic growth are mainly driven by the consumption upgrade and innovation, with new consumption models becoming an important driving force and growth points of the economic development.”
It was the pandemic that made me pay more attention to health, especially my immune system, on a daily basis.”
Qi Tian, a software engineer in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province