Two or three years ago, it felt like we had at least one article in every weekly Skinny about another food or health disgrace in China. Although the scandals don’t reach the headlines as frequently these days, Chinese consumers are no less trusting of food & beverages and health products that touch the local supply chain.
Chinese consumers’ lack of faith wasn’t helped by a string of exposés in recent weeks including 17,000 tins of counterfeit baby milk formula, a popular herbal supplement maker banned for excessive levels of arsenic and the infamous vaccine scandal; all of which spread like wildfire on WeChat and Weibo and have consumers taking extreme measures to avoid local products, again.
The scandals will further reinforce the allure of safer foreign products – particularly those bought directly from an overseas source through channels such as cross border commerce. This will help lessen the impact of last week’s new cross border taxes and other discouraging policy, although some pundits are predicting that the scandals could lead to further tightening of ecommerce and cross border regulations.
The uncovering of the poisonous herbal supplements, fake vaccines and infant formula come at a time when China needs all the genuine help it can get to be healthy. Aside from the obvious air, water and soil pollution contributing to soaring cancer and obesity rates, many of China’s health issues are somewhat self-inflicted. With 23.8% of Chinese adults physically inactive, coupled with unhealthy diets, Chinese diabetes rates grew almost ten-fold in a generation. Amazingly, China now has a higher diabetes rate than the US – the land famous for fast food drive-thrus, corn syrup and bottomless buckets of Coke.
Although Chinese across all segments are increasingly turning to healthier foods and demand for healthy lifestyle products and services is soaring, the global fast food giants are still backing continued growth in their fare. McDonalds is planning to add 1,300 new stores in China, and Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell will be bringing more cheap, processed TexMex to the Middle Kingdom. With a market the size of China, there’s room for most things.
On a healthier note, China Skinny’s Mark Tanner will be in Melbourne on April 28 chairing the China Digital Conference. Mark will be joined by an excellent line up of speakers providing actionable take-aways about how to best utilise integrated digital channels to win in China. More information here. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.