China, the old Chinese saying "people live on food" has evolved into "people live on adventurous food". New research shows that 45% of Chinese consumers consider themselves "adventurous" foodies- a number that is a third higher than it was four years ago (34%).
The latest food and beverage China study by insights consultancy Kantar TNS reveals that Chinese consumers are constantly evolving. Consumer markets are increasingly fragmented. Post-90’s consumers advocate hedonism, pursue freedom, and are full of "entertainment" spirit, a stark contrast to the post-70s generation, which is more focused on health, balance, and product quality.
Meanwhile, the growing presence of cooking programmes on TV, such as S-style Show(姐姐好餓), Here comes Star Cook(星廚駕到), Twelve Food Styles(十二道鋒味) and the rising number of culinary schools, expose Chinese consumers to a wider variety of tastes. The proliferation of e-commerce makes a greater selection of foods and beverages from across China and around the world now just one click away. As a result, Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and needs in food and beverage are ever evolving, leading to more diverse and more premium requirements.
This means consumers are more ready than ever for new, upgraded products and they are ready to pay more for products with add-on benefits, presenting a market that demands the food and beverage industry to be bold in innovation.
The study suggested that sometimes even the line between food and beverage is not as clear as it once was. When consumers need to refresh, the products they might consider include ice cream, ready-to- drink tea, sports drinks, or even chilled milk.
For food and beverage companies, a critical step to success through innovation is to think beyond category boundaries to focus first and foremost on consumers’ needs. Cross-category product innovations, such as fruit-flavored water, grain milk, and mushroom biscuits, have emerged in recent years, redefining the market as they offer superior solutions to consumers’ needs. Integrating advantages of other competing categories into one’s own product is one of the key directions for future product development.
Marketers must understand nuances in consumer needs, as needs differ for different consumer groups and for different moments.
65% of post-90’s consumers claim that they eat primarily according to their mood, a ratio much higher than that of post-70’s and post-80’s consumers. One of the key demands of these post-90’s foodies is that eating and drinking be fun. Cool-brewed tea "Classmate Xiaoming"(小茗同學) plays to this demand, targeting post-90’s consumers with the promise of something different that provides pleasure and amusement. With "Serious amusement, low key cool brew" as its brand slogan and funny, more novel packaging, "Classmate Xiaoming" has quickly become a hit in the market.
Product brand is becoming a trend—marketers need to treat product variants as brands
Innovation has already gone beyond just the product itself. Packaging, communications, and channel have all become fertile ground for innovation. All-round innovation requires the integration and synergy of these factors, so that the product itself delivers the brand proposition and conveys a consistent message to consumers, while the parent brand provides an endorsement of the quality. Tea π (茶π) from Nongfu Spring is an example.
From its novel name, fun package, and new flavour (Oolong Peach), to its spokesman, each feature of Tea π speaks for the brand name of Tea π instead of for the parent brand Nongfu Spring. Nongfu Spring's other products, such as "Scream"（尖叫）, "Oriental Leaves"（東方樹葉）"茶ea"（打奶茶）, all have their own unique branding as well.
Deepender Rana, CEO of Kantar TNS Great China says, "As consumers getting more segmented and consumption moments better understood, the nuances in consumer needs and consumption upgrade have provided marketers with unlimited challenges and opportunities in the depth and breadth of product innovation."