Chinese consumers face barriers to adopting a healthy lifestyle

12 July 2021 3 min. read

A healthy lifestyle comes at a price: many in China and around the world want to make the switch to healthy foods, although pricing remains a key issue – among other barriers. A new AlixPartners survey elaborates. 

Global management consultancy AlixPartners surveyed more than 6,000 consumers worldwide – more than a thousand each in key markets China, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US. The goal was to check in on consumer attitudes towards health and wellness.

Awareness is no longer an issue at this point: around half of global consumers acknowledge the importance of a healthy lifestyle – only 2% deny it. The challenge now is to push this knowledge into action, with health products – both food and otherwise – occupying only a fifth of global consumer spending.

Chinese consumers face barriers to adopting a healthy lifestyle

“Consumers have a good understanding of what it takes to be healthy and a strong desire to embrace a healthier lifestyle,” said Jian Li, head of AlixPartners’ consumer products practice in Greater China – where the trends reflect global figures. 

The last year has only intensified this trend. Sea changes in consumer behaviour induced by the 2020 pandemic include significant dietary changes among Chinese consumers. In the immediate wake of the outbreak last year, consultancy Oliver Wyman reported that four out of five Chinese consumers had switched eating habits – with fresh fruits and vegetables taking priority.

Yet, despite this momentum, the health revolution has not quite realised its potential. “With many still viewing health-and-wellness products as niche, it is clear that there is some way to go before we see them occupying their rightful share of consumers’ wallets,” said Li. So what keeps healthy living nestled within that ‘niche’ bracket? 

AlixPartners researchers quizzed consumers on barriers to buying health foods and other products, and the biggest deterrent – for over a third of all respondents – was price. Such is the state of global food supply chains that nourishing food is just that much more expensive – putting it just out of reach for a critical mass of consumers. 

Those willing to spend a bit extra want to be sure that what they’re purchasing is healthy – and just over 20% are unable to make that call with certainty. A similar share cite a lack of availability in store as a barrier to buying healthy, while roughly 15% simply don’t like the taste or experience of healthy products.

Brand imperative

According to Li, it’s up to producers and retailers to bridge these gaps. “It is time for brands to move past educating consumers on healthy living and to instead help them to achieve their goals. Demand for healthier products is now so high that, if they’re not doing so already, consumer product companies need to be making health and wellness a core part of their customer proposition.” 

“Brands that thrive will be those who dedicate significant resources to making this shift, with a clear focus on driving innovation and value, and with a transparent and authentic approach to health-and-wellness issues. Consumers are increasingly alert to ‘health-washing’ and expect to be able to buy products that have it all.”