Meal replacement trends in China

With obesity suggested and accepted to increase the risk of severe symptoms and complications of COVID-19, 44 per cent consumers in China are interested and actively buying food and beverage (F&B) specifically designed to support fitness/exercise. These health-conscious Chinese consumers are turning to the meal-replacement trend for combating weight management issues and availing proper nutrition, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

With most gyms closed and outdoors activities discouraged, consumers are seeking other means to manage their weight, stimulating demand for dietary products, such as meal replacements. Most meal-replacements claim to be low in calories and provide 3-6 hours’ satiety, which can help consumers lose weight without feeling hungry or risking infection by doing outdoor exercise.

“The COVID-19 outbreak fuels the consumers’ health concerns, including weight-related issues. That obesity can potentially amplify the pandemic’s symptoms motivates some shoppers to take steps towards improving their fitness. GlobalData’s research shows that over four out of five (84 per cent) Chinese consumers are extremely or quite concerned about their physical fitness as of December 2020, aligning with the National Health Commission’s report, which reveals that more than 50 per cent of adults in China are classified as overweight and 16.4 per cent as obese,” Lihong Zheng, innovation researcher at GlobalData, said.

Meal replacements have substantial potential of attracting a wider audience during the pandemic, as they are often marketed to combine low-calorie content with an addition of nutrients vital to maintaining health and immunity. Following the success of popular meal-replacement brands, such as Smeal Noto, Misszero, well-known beverage brands, Pepsi, Nestle and HEYTEA, have also launched meal-replacement products to capitalise on this trend.

Zheng continued, “Rising health-related concerns will motivate many consumers to make informed decisions regarding weight control. In China, 44 per cent consumers are interested and actively buying food and drinks specifically designed to support their fitness and exercise routines; a further 40% are interested but not buying yet. As meal-replacements are carefully developed using scientific research with balanced nutrition contents being precisely described on the packaging or the website, these products align well with the consumers’ personal health issues and needs.”

According to GlobalData’s latest COVID-19 recovery survey, two thirds (63 per cent) of shoppers in China said that tips on personal health and wellbeing are the information they would like from brands during the pandemic period. Furthermore, 57 per cent of shoppers in China would like guidance about a products consumption or usage, including health credentials or the effectiveness of its ingredients.

“The pandemic brought health-related concerns centre-stage, consequently contributing to the rapidly rising sales of meal replacement products in China. Positioned as a simple yet science-based way to lose weight naturally, meal replacements fulfil shoppers’ emerging requirements during the pandemic, creating growth opportunities for diet food brands,” Zheng said.

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