New research from Mintel reveals urban Chinese consumers are becoming more focused on their health and overall fitness, even as lifestyles get busier. The market research firm shows three in four (76%) consumers have developed a habit of doing sport and fitness activities.
Brands interested in targeting health- and fitness-focused consumers would do well to educate users on the benefits of their products and services, as well as offer multiple solutions for the varying needs of different fitness levels and interests. Simplified and visually-attractive symbols and short, punchy claims printed on food labels can also grab more attention, compared to standard nutritional tables.
Most popular of the top three most common sport/fitness activities done in the six months to May 2017 are running and jogging (39%). Walking (6%) comes in a distant second. Rounding out the top three is yoga (5%). Further down the list are swimming and basketball (4% respectively). Cycling and fitness programs in gyms came in at 3%, respectively, according to Mintel’s Trends in Health & Wellness China 2017.
By comparison, 68% of U.S. adults who exercise at least monthly saying they walk regularly, compared to three in 10 who run/jog or participate in body weight exercises (30% respectively) as part of their fitness routine.
Improving health most common motivator
When it comes to the motivation behind fitness, health trumps looks for the majority of consumers. Improving overall health (64%) is the most common motivator for urban Chinese consumers who exercise regularly, while looking better is a motivator for 44%. Nearly four in 10 (39%) consumers say reducing stress is their primary reason for exercising, Mintel reports.
“As the importance of emotional health is increasingly acknowledged, more consumers are eating healthy food and participating in sports/exercising not just for health but to induce happy feelings,” says Alina Ma, senior lifestyle analyst at Mintel.
When it comes to exercise preference, research shows that activities requiring a higher level of physical movement and strength, as well as outdoor sports, are more appealing to men, while activities that build flexibility and tone body shape, including many indoor sports, are more attractive to women, Ma says.
“Brands interested in targeting health- and fitness-focused consumers would do well to educate users on the benefits of their products and services, as well as offer multiple solutions for the varying needs of different fitness levels and interests,” Ma explains.
Looking beyond professional health services
Urban Chinese consumers are also taking a more active role in their health and looking beyond professional health services. Consumers are just as likely to go to public hospitals (41%) and physical examination centers (39%) as they are to search for free information online (38%) when they want to be examined and diagnose a health condition. The fourth most common way is self-diagnosis based on their own experience (36%), according to Mintel.
Compared to 2015, fewer surveyed consumers think that they are suffering from different types of health issues in 2017, such as eyesight issues which dropped from 47% to 37%, insomnia which dropped from 31% to 27%, and digestive problems which dropped from 28% to 23%, reports Mintel.
”Urban Chinese consumers report feeling healthier today than they did two years ago, while a good number of them are more interested in holistic and non-medical health management approaches,” Ma says. “At the early stage of their learning curve, information channels that cost consumers less money and time are preferred.”
Paying close attention to healthy eating
Aside from physical fitness, urban Chinese consumers are paying close attention to healthy eating. In terms of reading food labels, symbols (e.g. organic certification) and short, punchy claims (e.g. free from known harmful elements) seem to have grabbed more consumers’ attention compared to standard nutritional tables. No additives/preservatives (16%), organic (9%) and low/no/reduced sugar (5%) are the top three health-related claims most used in the global food and drink market from January 2016 to June 2017, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).
When considering the differences between men and women, Mintel research shows that surveyed men tend to pay more attention to additives/preservatives (55%) and genetically-modified ingredients (49%), while surveyed women are more keen on fat content (43%), sugar (41%), sodium (29%) and unsaturated fat (30%).
This indicates that many women appear to have an aversion towards fat, echoing the finding that 42% of women cite losing weight/fat as the motivation for doing sports and fitness activities, compared to 34% of men, according to Mintel.
“Simplified and visually-attractive symbols and short, punchy claims printed on packaging can grab more consumers’ attention than information provided in nutritional tables,” Ma says. “However, Chinese consumers can be quite tricky, creating big challenges for brands to keep products updated with claims that suit consumers’ needs.”