An Asian clean label surge: Majority of Chinese consumers check front-of-pack claims

12 October 2018

Seven out of ten Chinese consumers check front-of pack claims and logos, according to the results of a new Innova Market Insights consumer survey. The news comes amid a market dynamic where Asian consumers are more conscious than ever about making responsible food choices and increasingly want to know what is in their food and how it is produced.

The study found that 88% of Chinese consumers preferred food and beverage products that claimed to be more sustainable and planet friendly, compared with 55% in the US and 52% in the UK. At the same time, the use of ethical human, animal and environment claims for Asian launches as a whole had a CAGR of 54% over the 2013- 2017 period.

“Asian consumers are more aware than ever of the ingredients and claims appearing on labels, particularly those on front of pack,” reports Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “This is predominantly driven by their strong concern for food safety following several food scandals in the region relating to undisclosed contamination.”

The combination of clean labeling and a healthy image has helped the Asian dairy market move forward in recent years, for example. Although dairy products tend not to be traditional fare in Asia, NPD and sales values have both grown to the point where it is second globally after Europe for both. China, with annual dairy sales of $40.1bn (2016), is now the second largest single market after the US on $54.1bn (2018 estimate).

Clean label claims, such as organic, no preservatives and all natural, are some of the fastest growing in the region, with Innova Market Insights data indicating that no additives/preservatives was the leading health claim for Asian dairy products and the number three positioning overall in 2017, used for 16% of launches. Other health claims are also popular, with low fat and digestive/gut health used for 12% of launches each, and there is also growing use of protein content, energy/alertness and added calcium claims, as well as ongoing interest in vitamin and mineral fortification.

Yogurt has been particularly successful, with sales in China set to overtake those of milk for the first time. China’s dairy giants have been successful in developing the spoonable yogurt market, despite it being a relatively new product to the country, by focusing on its nutritious image. It is moving into staple status, with that now given as the primary reason for purchase across the major Northern and South East Asian markets, ahead of it being healthy. Across both subregions, over 60% of respondents stated that their yogurt consumption increased because of the health benefits associated with it.

“Today’s consumer displays a high level of mindfulness about wellbeing and the environment overall,” concludes Williams. “So it is no surprise that consumers are becoming increasingly mindful in their food choices, wanting to know what is in their foods in order to make decisions about health, sustainability, and ethical issues.”

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