By: Dr. Richard King
Health related companies in the West have a great opportunity to expand into China over the next ten to twenty years. China has been shifting away from being an agricultural society, to large populations living in cities. This has been happening at an unprecedented rate. Living in crowded urban centers, with the availability of richer food, and a less active lifestyle is creating new health related problems for these populations. The health related issues that the current and following generations of Chinese will face are already well known in the US; heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease and so many others are beginning to be seen in the country in growing amounts. Concerns over health and well being are coming to the forefront. This leaves a great opportunity for our American companies to lead the way in health related products.
American health and wellness companies such as Amway have been selling health related products in China for twenty years. Amway had to change their business model to a store front operation, which is a different model than what is offered here in the US. Herbalife and NuSkin, both well established companies are also heavily invested in the country. All of these health and wellness companies have seen amazing increases in their businesses in China, quarter after quarter. However consideration must be paid to the fact that they are already established brands in the US which has a certain cache in China.
The question might be then, is there room for smaller players in such a challenging and diverse market such as China? What does it take to develop a successful business selling to the Chinese consumer? What strategies are the most successful in developing this large market? The answer is the old standard, many companies find business partners in China. This strategy has its roots in the days when China first opened it’s door to Western businesses. However even now this strategy makes sense, since the governmental regulations within China are complex and the culture is very different than the culture of the US. Knowing how to get through the maze of cultural and governmental trials quickly means a better chance of success.
Other keys to success in the Chinese market come from extensive market research. As the Chinese consumer becomes more aware of what is available for them, it is important to target the market and to understand what their needs may be. For now branding is an important tool to connect to the intended demographic. Many younger Chinese are living in cities for the first time, working long hours, and are without the traditional support of family and friends. New friends are being made and new ideas are being explored. Brand loyalty is strong in China, as it provides stability in a changeable landscape.
California is well positioned to drive exports to China over the coming decade. We have the expertise and the products to enhance the wellbeing of the Chinese people. We are in a fortunate place, and have a great opportunity.