Tips for international success: “You have to work at China speed”

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | MarsYu
Getty | MarsYu

Related tags China SANSE Sports nutrition

European sports nutrition brands can be nervous of entering the Chinese market but an expert in this field is set to provide her tips for finding success in this fruitful market.

Zarina Kanji, business development and marketing, for Tmall, health & wellness and food & beverage brands at Alibaba Group UK & Nordics, the Chinese multinational technology company specialising in e-commerce, will give a presentation on the secrets to finding success in China during NutraIngredients' virtual Sports and Active Nutrition Summit Europe (SANSE) taking place next month (12-14 October).

In a preview to her talk, she tells NutraIngredients that many SMEs are nervous of expanding into China but the opportunity there is huge.

In November 2020, Alibaba launched its Export Recovery Report having conducted an analysis of 1,000 British small and medium-sized enterprises’ attitudes towards export, the survey showed many small businesses are unsure about how to tap into overseas trading opportunities.

“Looking particularly at China, the world’s largest e-commerce market, only 7% of small British businesses with export plans are eyeing China as their next international market, versus 23% who would consider Africa, 37% North America and 52% Europe.

“Expanding into any new market carries a level of risk. Looking at the current global landscape however, China is the world’s largest online retail market, it has been the first to recover from the covid-19 pandemic and China’s total online retail sales grew 10.9% in 2020.”

Alibaba's TMall Global platform enables international brands to enter the Chinese market.

The platform includes more than 29,000 international brands from 87 different countries across more than 5,800 product categories and more than 80% of the brands on the Alibaba site are making their debut in China through the platform.

European sports nutrition brands already using the site include: Glanbia, THG, Vitabiotics, Holland& Barrett, Grenade, PhD, and Science in Sport.

Kanji says its often the size of the market that creates nervousness.

“But I think that is what is so exciting about selling in China. We have 912 million annual active consumers in China, and when a brand opens a flagship store on Tmall or Tmall Global it has instant access to real time data about bestselling products and customer demographics which enable working in a test and learn manner - to try something out, get quick results, and then either build upon it or change strategy.”

Revealing the keys to success for European brands entering the Chinese market, Kanji will discuss the importance of moving at ‘China speed’.

“A key success factor is to work at China speed. It’s very different from rest of world speed. You have to move very quickly because the market is evolving at a rate that you don’t see anywhere else in the world.”

In her talk, Kanji will provide her insights into the biggest consumer trends in the Chinese market right now, such as the ‘health is wealth’ trend which sees consumers investing in their long-term physical and mental health.

“The meal replacement category is also a growing market with the category forecast to grow 30% this year. It’s something used for weight loss as well as for convenience for time-poor consumers.”.

She adds that the e-gaming market is extremely popular too, meaning there are many consumers looking for supplements that look after their cognitive health as well as their eye health.

“There is a huge opportunity for European sport nutrition brands, in China it is not only fitness fans who are purchasing sport nutrition products, they are also being sought by consumers with busy lives to consume as an on-the-go healthy snack, by esports players to fuel gaming sessions, and by women consuming sport nutrition drinks, bars, or shakes as meal replacements because they are looking to maintain or lose weight.”  

The stage is set for some of the industry's biggest names to speak at this years SANSE. But don’t take our word for it! Take a sneaky peak at the agenda​ for the summit and then register​!

The event will take place from 12-14 October, with two sessions each day - 10.30am to 12.30pm CET (9.30am to 11.30pm BST) followed by 3.00pm to 5.00pm CET (2.00pm to 4.00pm BST).

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