China's health foods market is small compared to developed nations but it is set to grow rapidly with government encouragement and rising incomes.
Currently, the annual output of China's nutrition food industry is worth CNY120 billion compared to about U$180 billion on a global level. However, it is expected to achieve a growth rate of around 15 per cent in the next five years, said Yu Xiaodong, the director of the Centre for Public Nutrition and Development at a health industry expo held earlier this month.
Yu told visitors to the centre's first expo in Shanghai that Chinese people spent an averave U$11.53 on health foods each year, 20 times lower than the typical spend in Japan, and a sixth of the average European consumer's annual purchases.
¡°There are a lot of problems related to malnutrition in the countryside and unbalanced nutrition in the city. Diseases caused by these problems have triggered a great financial loss every year, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of GDP,¡± the Economic Information Daily reported Yu as saying.
Zhou Haichun, vice director of the centre, told AP-Foodtechnology.com that nutritional supplements and nutrient-enriched foods currently make up much of the health foods market.
But he added that ¡°there is a large demand for the whole-nutrient food which contains a lot of the necessary vitamins and minerals, especially for children and pregnant women. Currently in China there aren't many companies producing this kind of food¡±.
Some of those producing supplements include Shanghai-based Gold Partner and 21 Vita from Hangzhou while dairy leader Mengniu and soymilk firm Vivi Group both market nutrient-enriched food.
¡°The average growth rate of this industry is about 8-10 per cent but it may speed up to 15 per cent in the near future,¡± said Haichun.
¡°According to an investigation on Chinese people's health conducted last year, there are severe problems with diet which are leading to some diseases and malnutrition. It is urgent for them to change their attitudes and adopt healthier and more balanced diets. That's why there is a huge market for this kind of health food.¡±
He added that since 1995 the government has been trying to raise public awareness of the necessity of better nutrition by doing publicity and offering technical assistance to food producers.
¡°What's more, the promotion of nutrition food has also been included in the 11th five-year plan, which will certainly stimulate its further development,¡± said Haichun.