The weight loss craze creates a payoff for gamers

A More Cheers tea drink shop in Yichang, Hubei province. Young consumers are increasingly adopting a low-calorie lifestyle. WANG JIANFENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Young consumers are increasingly adopting a low-calorie lifestyle and driving sales of meals that contain less sugar and carbohydrates while remaining nutritious and delicious, experts said.

“Weight loss”, “workout”, “zero sugar” and “low calorie” have been buzzwords among young people for some time. Chicken breasts, protein bars, and meal replacement shakes all help achieve their ambitions of staying healthy, lean, and energetic. Following this trend, swarms of capital and corporations are rushing to claim their right.

Datapark, China’s leading big data company, said there were 11 investment and financing events in this segment in 2021. As for this year, investment in meal replacements is expected to reach 120 billion yuan. ($18.9 billion), according to oIBP statistics.

Competing companies are of four types, Datapark said. Traditional food heavyweights, emerging internet companies, cross-brands and foreign restaurant companies provide specialty products.

Leading Chinese oatmeal supplier Wang Baobao, protein bar supplier ffit88, shake maker Wonderlab and other all-rounders such as sports tech company Keep all produce alternatives to fit different scenarios.

VEpiaopiao, a popular Chinese brand of Western seasonings, also sells oats. The difference is that it values ​​normal meals more than substitutes, said Gao Fei, director of VEpiaopiao’s innovation center.

Last year, CNLI, China Food and Drinks Fair, COFCO Nutrition Research and TMALL TASTY jointly released the “2021 China Food Consumption Trend Report”. He said weight reduction strategies were further divided as demand for healthy weight loss products increased.

In offices, alternative snacks or milkshakes help workers reduce calorie intake. At the gym, protein bars or ready-to-eat chicken breasts provide bodybuilders with energy before or after training. At home, instant noodles with less fat can be a convenient, tasty and healthy meal, according to the report.

China’s meal replacement market has a shorter history than Western countries, and its penetration rate is only 30%, according to, a leading research firm.

The group added that as the Chinese economy expands and the public places greater importance on healthy eating, the market holds out hope for robust growth. Demand is expected to reach up to 18 billion yuan ($2.83 billion) in 2023 from 6 billion yuan currently.

Reasons for increasing market demand include increasing rates of obesity, higher personal disposable income, and increased awareness of the importance of maintaining health. The engines also include advanced manufacturing technology and growing product diversity, iiMedia Research said.

The potential customer base, 325 million overweight consumers in China, could continue to fuel the market, according to the “2017-2022 Research Report on Internet + Weight Loss Industry Mode of Operation and Market Outlook.”

Technology is playing an increasing role. According to Datapark, patents for meal replacements stand at around 600.

And stylish packaging is becoming a new consideration as posting fancy selfies on social media platforms is a growing fad among Gen Z, said the “2021 Domestic Snacks Market Analysis Report” released by the National Trade Information Center of China.

All of these factors can create a positive model for the industry. To turn it into reality, however, regulatory improvements are a “must”, said iiMedia Research.

More than 60% of consumers believe the industry needs to improve product quality and strengthen market access reviews and regulations. Consumer concerns about overhyped products and consistency of quality need to be addressed, the research agency said.

“Some advertisements are misleading. Vendors boast that once you consume their products, you will lose weight permanently. And I think that’s not true. It depends on your consumption and exercise,” Clara said. , a young fitness enthusiast from Zhejiang Province.

She added that the 70/30 rule is a golden rule for bodybuilders, which basically means that the task is 70% eating the right diet versus 30% exercising.

“You have to combine the two factors.”

Experts have echoed the fact that even though meal replacements contain fewer calories, overeating can still lead to weight gain.

“If people want to lose weight, I recommend that they eat substitutes under the guidance of dietitians or doctors,” said nutritionist Huang Tingwei.

Consumer demand and consumer experience are at the heart of everything. To achieve sustained growth, companies must provide diversified products, offer enough choices that meet consumers’ needs and enrich the user experience, according to VEpiaopiao.

“Meal replacements should just be a choice, and that’s it. People need plenty of varied, balanced nutrition from normal foods. We believe that as long as we control fat intake , salts and sugars, we can lose weight and stay fit,” VEpiaopiao added.

The company continues to pair meal replacements with innovative recipes, through which it hopes to empower users to have a greater sense of control over their lives, rather than getting lost in the rush to lose weight.

Kaifusai Julaiti contributed to this story.

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