BCG: China's Healthcare Explosion

Liao WuSurvey finds health and wellness market is poised to reach nearly $70 Billion by 2020

Chinese consumers are the most health-conscious people in the world, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group. The report, “From Insight to Action: Capturing a Share of China’s Consumer Health Market” offers nine insights and six strategies that can help guide companies seeking to capitalize on this growing market.

BCG’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight surveyed some 2,600 Chinese consumers aged between 18 to 65, from both middle and affluent classes, and from large, medium, and small cities across the country. The BCG research revealed Chinese consumers are increasingly health conscious, buying a wide variety of products to treat common ailments, boost their energy, and strengthen their immune systems.

According to the report, some of the reasons for this growing trend include rising incomes, the stress effects of urbanization, an aging population, and the country’s ongoing issues with food safety and quality.

“Almost half of the Chinese consumers we surveyed said they feel sub-par because of lifestyle factors, such as work pressures, family obligations, and long work hours,” says Carol Liao, a Senior Partner with BCG and coauthor of the report. “Common complaints were insomnia, fatigue, lack of energy, obesity, and frequent illness.”

Other insights from the report reveal that traditional Chinese medicine is popular with consumers of all ages, not only the older generation. Chinese consumers often lack knowledge about health and wellness treatments and don’t trust their claims. Brands are powerful, and their reputation matters. Most consumers make final purchase decisions on-site, and although the Internet isn’t an important purchasing channel for vitamins and over-the-counter treatments just yet, it is fast emerging as one.

For manufacturers of health and wellness products, Chinese consumers present an increasingly attractive market, according to Chun Wu, a BCG Partner and coauthor of the report.

“But before jumping in and committing valuable resources to secure a foothold, most companies are wrestling with a variety of strategic issues, such as which consumer segments to target, what products to offer, how city size affects consumer behavior, and which distribution channels to use,” Wu says.

Meanwhile, the report suggests that companies seeking to make inroads in China’s highly competitive market choose their battlefields wisely, focusing on segments that play to any advantages in scale, brand strength, product efficacy, or expertise.

Companies must also build their brands; educate and inform consumers; manage retail outlets aggressively, get ready for e-commerce—especially to sell vitamins and supplements and understand the role that city size plays in consumer behavior.