Press Room

New Eating Trends in China: the Healthier the Better

As consumption upgrade continues in China, consumers are willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients and are actively seeking all natural, organic foods, creating room for sales growth for food manufacturers and retailers

Chinese consumers are increasingly opting for specialized diets that address their desire to eat organic, low-fat, low-carb, or eliminate ingredients based on food sensitivities, allergies or personal convictions. Approximately 70% Chinese respondents in Nielsen’s new Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey said they follow a diet that limits or prohibits consumption of at least some foods or ingredients, which is higher than that of global average (64%). Besides, 82% of them said they were willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients, also much higher than the global average (68%). 

“Consumers want to eat in ways that address real dietary concerns, but they can’t do it alone. They need help from food manufacturers to offer products formulated with an eye towards food sensitivities and other specialized diets, and they need help from retailers to stock shelves with a proper assortment of foods that cater to a wider variety of consumer needs,” said Yan Xuan, president of Nielsen Greater China. “This is a significant opportunity for food retailers and manufacturers, but even within individual markets, health and wellness is not a one-size fits all approach. Retailers and manufacturers need to identify high-potential segments and the drivers of engagement for these consumers and, then tailor their messages and products accordingly.”

To Eat or Not to Eat, the Why behind the Buy

As Chinese consumers’ health awareness is on the rise, they are paying closer attention to the ingredients in the food and drinks they consume (79%). Generally speaking, Chinese consumers prefer low fat (35%), low carbohydrate (35%), low sodium (35%) and sugar conscious (23%) foods. Consumers wish there were more all natural (67%), organic (55%) and genetically modified organisms free foods (52%) on shelves. The most undesired ingredients are artificial ingredients such as artificial flavors (73%), preservations (73%), colors (71%), sweetners (58%); antibiotics or hormones in animal products (63%); and genetically modified organisms (57%).

Most consumers choose not to purchase foods and drinks with certain ingredient because they believe it is harmful to their health. What’s more, consumers also regard foods as natural medicines. Approximately 73% percent Chinese respondents said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension.

Key to Future Success: Addressing Consumers’ needs

Consumers’ growing needs for healthy foods gives rise to great opportunities for food manufacturers and retailers to generate more growth, as 77% Chinese consumers feel more positively about companies that are transparent about where and how products were made/raised/grown (73% globally); 70% Chinese respondents prefer to shop at retailers that offer a variety of products for special dietary needs (57% globally). However, consumers’ upgraded needs are not fully met yet, since only 40% respondents are satisfied with the current healthy food choices.

“The consumption upgrade that is taking place in China features growing pursuit for health and safety. According to our research, safety and healthiness have already become the top two attributes that affect consumers’ decisions on what to buy. Price will no longer be as important as quality and healthiness, as the urbanization in China continues, the middle-class population grows, people’s life quality improves and young people are becoming the major consumers. Therefore, food manufacturers and retailers should seize this opportunity and adjust marketing strategies accordingly,” said Yan Xuan, president of Nielsen Greater China. 

“Chinese consumers want to buy foods that can make them healthier, but they can’t do it alone. It’s important for food manufacturers and retailers to foster a healthy-diet-friendly environment, providing enough quality foods on shelves.”