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Asia Pacific: Chinese city dwellers are more mindful of their health, report

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Research from Mintel reveals that 76% of urban Chinese consumers surveyed have developed a habit of doing sport and fitness activities.

Running (39%) is overwhelmingly the most popular sport/fitness activity (includes jogging), followed by walking (6%), yoga (5%), swimming and basketball (4% respectively), and cycling and fitness programs in gyms (3% respectively).

In the US, however, walking is the most popular type of exercise as 68% of US adults who exercise at least monthly say they walk regularly, compared to 30% who run/jog or participate in body weight exercises.

Improving overall health (64%) is the most common motivator for urban Chinese consumers who exercise regularly, while looking better is a motivator for 44%.

Some 39% of consumers say reducing stress is their primary reason for exercising.

A total of 3,000 internet users in tier 1-3 Chinese cities aged 20-49 participated in the survey conducted in May 2017.

“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.

“When it comes to exercise preference, our 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.”

“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.”

Aside from physical fitness, urban Chinese consumers are also paying close attention to healthy eating.

In terms of reading food labels, symbols (eg organic certification) and short, punchy claims (eg 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 Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Mintel research shows that male respondents tend to pay more attention to additives/preservatives (55%) and genetically-modified ingredients (49%), while female respondents 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.

“Simplified and visually-attractive symbols and short, punchy claims printed on packaging can grab more consumers’ attention than information provided in nutritional tables,” says Ma.

“However, Chinese consumers can be quite tricky, creating big challenges for brands to keep products updated with claims that suit consumers’ needs.”