At the beginning of 2020, CoViD-19 shook the world from its usual rhythms and forced distance on people due to remote work, lockdowns, and quarantine. Social activities ground to a halt during Chinese New Year and the following month. This in turn gave people time to slow down and reflect on their consumption and lifestyles. As a highly contagious disease whose severity was strongly compounded by the health and immune system of the infected individual, CoViD-19 reminded people to pay more attention to their own personal health.
The result has been a significant rise in popularity for Health Supplement products on both online and offline sales channels. Those which claim to boost your immune system saw particular increases in consumer attention and sales.
Health supplements sold by international brands to Chinese consumers through cross-border eCommerce were not expected to do very well, due to logistics concerns when CoViD-19 first started to spread worldwide. However, these products surprised everyone with a sales revenue of more than 1.5 billion RMB on Tmall Global (Alibaba’s eCommerce platform for cross-border imports) alone during 6.18, the first major eCommerce sales event following the pandemic.
So what were the best selling health supplements product categories among the cross-border imports on Tmall Global during 2020’s 618 sales event? Which foreign countries were Chinese consumers mostly buying from? What price range saw the most sales? What are some new or emerging best sellers? How did these brands achieve success through cross-border eCommerce? Let’s find out.
Best-Selling Overseas Health Supplement: Category Analysis
Sales Revenue Market Share
Vitamins and minerals are necessary but easily overlooked in some consumers’ diets. Demand for these supplements is high, as ordinary families are already accustomed to including vitamin and mineral supplements in their daily diet. Consumers are less cautious on the whole towards these plant essence and extract products due to their “herbal” and “natural” natures.
Best-Selling Overseas Health Supplement Categories Analysis
The subcategories with a share of total sales revenue exceeding 5% are: Multivitamins/Minerals, Glucosamine (bone/joint health), Probiotics, Calcium, Collagen, Enzymes, Dietary Fiber, Fish Oil/Deep Sea Fish Oil, Whey Protein
The subcategories with shares of 1%-5% are: Thistles, Coenzyme Q10, Lutein, Vitamin C, Other Plant Extracts, Melatonin, Grape Seed Extract, Iron, Vitamin B, Natto Extract, Amino Acids.
The top-selling categories mainly targeted three demographics: families already accustomed to taking supplements daily, children who are concerned for their parents’ health, and sedentary white collar workers or businessmen/businesswomen whose frequent business dinners limit their control of their diet.
Multivitamins/minerals are more popular than specifically targeted vitamins/minerals (e.g. just Vitamin C or just Vitamin B), which indicates that in most cases, people prefer to take vitamins as a supplement to their daily diets, and have no urgent health issue that needs solving.
Products that help fight intestinal peristalsis or solve constipation problems, such as probiotics, some enzymes, and dietary fibers were hugely popular. Consumers who left feedback in the comments section were mostly positive. This trend could have derived from modern white collar workers’ sedentary lifestyle and frequent eating out. As intestinal problems become more and more prevalent, there’s a great chance that similar products will receive even more attention in the future.
Other similar products that help resolve white collar specific problems include Melatonin (insomnia), thistle-derived products (liver protection) and Lutein (eye protection).
Bone and joint health problems are common among the elderly. For this group of people, brands developed glucosamine and calcium products to meet their needs, at the same time promoting toward the middle age population who wish to show care and support to this elderly group.
Country of Origin for Best Selling Overseas Health Supplements
In terms of sales volume, health supplements from Australia and North America took the lead. These two regions have distinctive regional characteristics: Australian products highlight local and natural features, while North American products focus on quality and leverage scientific formulas. On the other hand, both regions have been through extensive periods of development, offering a wide range of products covering almost every major health supplement subcategory, and focusing on popular product features such as “mild” and “easy to absorb”.
Health supplements from Japan, meanwhile, have a different marketing strategy. They tend to focus on Chinese women, and popular products are primarily aimed at slimming and digestion, such as enzyme, dietary fiber, natto, or other featured products (such as Han Fang, Chinese Medical Science).
Product Form Distribution Among the Best-Selling Overseas Health Supplements
Tablets and capsules are two best-selling product forms. Basic health supplements tend to mostly come in these two forms. Modern consumers often have fast-paced lives and careers, and tablets and capsules are convenient both to consume and to carry around. For some people, powder, granule and liquid forms means easier digestion and absorption, but because they are not as easy to consume or carry around as tablets and capsules, they have gradually faded in terms of market share.
Price Range of Overseas Health Supplements
Sales of overseas health products are concentrated in the 50-300 RMB range. Considering the rapid consumption of most products, the Chinese market still displays considerable profit potential for overseas health supplements.
As it is relatively easy to obtain raw materials for multivitamins/minerals, as well as produce them on a large scale, the price for these products is somewhat lower than the other categories. The products with the highest sales volume fall into the 50-100 RMB price range, mostly in single bottle SKUs, while those over 150 RMB tend to mostly be sets.
As plant extract products have slightly complicated production procedures, their selling price appears to generally be higher than vitamins/minerals, ranging between 50-300 RMB on average. As for subcategories, most bottles of thistle supplements cost between 100-150 RMB, and most bottles of lutein cost between 100-200 RMB.
The bacteria/mushroom/microbial fermentation category is mainly comprised of probiotics, enzymes, coenzyme Q10, and red yeast. These are mostly fermented products that require complicated and time-consuming production processes. Compared with other health supplements, the main selling points for these fermented products are their slimming and nurturing functionality. Their selling price ranks the highest among all categories.
Top-Selling Overseas Health Supplements for June
1. Swisse Australia Import Calcium Tablet Vitamin D 150 Tablets Pregnant women VD Calcium Adult Seniors Calcium Supplement (Tmall Global Import Supermarket Direct Sales)
Sales revenue: 5,318,283 RMB
Listed price: 238 RMB
Selling price: 101.06 RMB
“Calcium deficiency” has always been a hot health topic for Chinese people: teenagers need calcium during adolescence for optimal growth and development, adults need calcium before the age of 35 to prevent osteoporosis in the future, and seniors need calcium to alleviate bone related problems in their old age.
Therefore Calcium tablets are one of the most common health supplements for every family. From the product name, we can tell that the target demographic is not limited to adults, but also includes pregnant women and seniors. This product adopts a formula that combines calcium citrate with vitamin D, and focuses its promotional efforts on being mild and easily absorbed, directly relieving consumers’ concerns about side effects or proper absorption.
2. Nu-lax Imported Natural Fruit and Vegetable Dietary Fiber Bowel Clean and Moisture Bowel Movement
Sales revenue: 4,255,270 RMB
Listed price: 128 RMB
Selling price: 85 RMB
This dietary fiber product mainly advertises itself as “purely natural”, and targets sedentary white collar workers and the elderly with weak intestinal function. According to the product instructions, each box has 50 adult doses, yet it only costs 85 RMB. Its great value and great quality helps minimize consumers’ trial-and-error cost.
3. iSDG Japan Imported Night Enzyme 232 Plants Vegetables and Fruits Fermented 120 Pieces/Package
Sales revenue: 6,860,630 RMB
Listed price: 358 RMB
Selling price: 139.57 RMB
Japanese enzyme products began to gain popularity in China starting around 2010, when many celebrities began promoting them, generating huge popularity that has endured until today. This product stands out from other enzyme products with its detailed descriptions of its ancient production methods, and clearly showing its effective ingredients. One box costs 139 RMB and can last for about a month (4.7 RMB/day). This is not a high cost for people who are keen to slim down or improve their look.
4. Swisse Vitamin D + Calcium Women Australia Calcium 150 Pieces Pregnant Women Seniors Calcium Supplement
Sales revenue: 8,298,238 RMB
Listed price: 298 RMB
Selling price: 169 RMB
This product is the same as the top seller, but in a different packaging. Both are sold on the Swisse Overseas Flagship Store.
5. Blackmores Deep Sea Fish Oil Soft Capsule 400 Pieces Omega 3 Australian Imported No Fishy Smell Brain Supplement
Sales revenue: 5,163,954 RMB
Listed price: 289 RMB
Selling price: 138.35 RMB
Blackmores is a health supplement brand from Australia. This product’s core ingredient comes from small deep-sea fish caught in Peru. Yet it has a vanilla and lemon scent instead of a fishy one. People find it easier to consume and the brand’s marketing focuses on this point as well. Each bottle contains 400 capsules which should last for around 200 days (0.7 RMB/day).
The rest of the top 15 best-selling products in this category can be found below:
- Piping Rock Liquid Calcium Tablet Calcium carbonate D3 Female Teenager Vitamin D Women Calcium Pregnant Women Men Seniors
- Australia Swisse Milk Thistle 120 Tablet Work-Overtime Stay-Up-Late Drinking Liver Protection Official Authentic
- U.S. Imported Schiff MoveFree Glucosamine Chondroitin 120 Pills * 2
- U.S. Vitafusion Melatonin Sleepwell Sleep Gummy Melatonin Sleep-Aid Imported
- 10. Jamieson Vitamin C Pill Whitening Imported VC High Concentration Fruit C 120 Tablets
- [Zhao Si Lu Recommend] Unichi Rose Collagen Gummy Bear Whitening Anti Free Radical
- U.S. Princess Luna Probiotic Gynecology Oral Capsules Female Capsules Private Care (3 Boxes Minimum)
- Piping Rock Lutein 40mg Capsule Nearsighted Lutein Eye Protection Pills Not-Blueberry Health Supplement Patent
- Blackmores Glucosamine Sulfate Vitamin Bone Strength 1500mg 180 Tablets Joint Health
- Hua Chen Yu Recommend Cenovis Vitamin C No Sugar Added Chewable Vitamin C 300 Tablets
From looking at growth trends across the entire market, the health supplements industry is steadily maturing and becoming more transparent thanks in no small part to government policy support. This has been compounded by the observable effect of the CoViD-19 pandemic encouraging people to “slow down” and reconsider their diets and buying habits. Plus, the increasing per-capita disposable income also allows Chinese consumers to pay more attention to their own health and development. Overall, the industry growth momentum means observers can be optimistic, and following the easing of lockdowns, the pandemic has seemingly accelerated this growth.
Many brands have proved the practicality of entering the Chinese market through cross-border eCommerce platforms. Now thanks to strong government policy support and growing consumer interest, this sales channel is set to only grow bigger and more mature. If you wish to enter the Chinese market through cross-border eCommerce platforms, or want to build a brand eCommerce website, please click here to contact us.