It may not surprise you that China’s sprawling megacities, covered in concrete, traffic and pollution, have not produced the world’s most fit and healthy citizenry. What is newsworthy however is the speed to which things are changing, as attendants to last week’s FIBO CHINA trade show in Shanghai can attest. For three days over 20,000 fitness fanatics poured into the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center to see the latest cutting-edge gym equipment, a cornucopia of health vitamins and nutritional supplements, and fiercely contested international bodybuilding and athletic competitions. The global fitness industry has picked up on the move towards healthier lifestyles in the Middle Kingdom and China Skinny was there to tune in to this toned up crowd.
A thirty year staple of the trade show scene in Germany, this was the fourth time FIBO had come to Shanghai and brought the world of fitness brands to China’s doorstep. Now occupying three full exhibition halls, the significant growth of the event has trended on the rising popularity of active and healthy lifestyles amongst China’s urban consumers. Growing up more aware of their unhealthy environment and with cash to burn, Chinese millennials in particular are putting more of their time and budget into sports & fitness. This uptick has spawned significant growth across a range of fitness, health and nutrition related business sectors.
The Good Old Gym
The first floor exhibition hall featured one of these growth sectors: gyms. Currently around 26 million Chinese are formal members of a fitness studio. That is about half the number of the USA or Europe, which both have significantly longer gym traditions. In fact, in five years, China is forecast to have over 70 million gym members and become the largest gym-going nation in the world. Looking across the trade show, it was apparent how some companies would attempt to attract this next generation of gym consumer: fitness personalization and technology.
Thusly, at the centre of the main hall was FIBO’s first-ever Smart Training area, a virtualized fitness zone where trainers set targets for members to stretch and sweat in an augmented reality boot camp. It was a video game meets gym experience that wowed the crowd. In the surrounding area were an abundance of EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation), fitness apps and wearables brands showcasing how busy Chinese consumers could hyper track, monitor and maximize the effectiveness of training around their busy schedules. They may leave the gym but their gym will never leave them as they pursue their ideal bodies.
Niche group fitness classes were also out in full force. Spinning classes, dancercise and boot camps play on the increasingly important social element of working out for Chinese young consumers. It is important for them to have a sense of belonging within a brand tribe while posting pictures of their workouts and progress on social networks like Wechat and Weibo.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger
China’s burgeoning appetite for health-boosting vitamins and dietary supplements was seen on FIBO’s second floor as row upon row of chiseled foreign bodybuilders flexed pecs and pushed protein powder samples onto wide-eyed onlookers. While the Chinese have taken traditional herbal remedies and supplements for centuries, the demand for western-style vitamins and supplements has just taken off. According to Euromonitor the market will be worth CNY168.1 billion by 2021 as more Chinese consumers pop pills to maintain their health and prevent disease. Brands entering this sector will have to tailor their marketing effectively to stand out from the pack while navigating an ever-evolving regulatory environment.
What is clear is that the attendants at FIBO are all firm believers in China’s fitness boom. Health is the number one concern for Chinese consumers nationwide, and as living standards improve so have their expectations for exercise effectiveness and broader self-fulfillment.