Alternative Foods Conquer China

Healthy nutrition is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese. This is clearly reflected in the purchase of alternative nutrition products via online platforms – its volume almost doubled in 2020. Around 75% of online consumers of alternative foods are new customers, and most repeat orders are placed within 30 days.

The reason for the boom is growing health problems resulting from poor diet among the population. More than half of all adult Chinese are overweight, and the demand for alternative foods is correspondingly high. The government has recognized the need for action and is addressing the problem strategically, for example with the Healthy China 2019-2030 action plan.

This dynamic environment offers excellent sales opportunities for Western brand manufacturers of organic products, dietary supplements and nutrition programs that are popular and trusted in China. The various target groups find them mainly in the affluent middle class, which continues to grow. The best sales channels are digital media such as WeChat, TikTok/Douyin or Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu). Here, we also recommend the use of influencers (Key Opinion Leaders, KOLs) who are active in the nutrition sector. Potential licensees and franchise partners include Chinese hotels, brick-and-mortar and digital retailers, and private entrepreneurs. 

To protect themselves from product and brand piracy, companies should carefully review the existing IP situation before entering the market. With a professional preliminary research, existing similar brands can be analyzed. In addition, the trademark should be registered not only in Latin characters, but also in Chinese characters – on the one hand, to be adapted to Chinese culture and to better appeal to consumers, and on the other hand, to ensure better protection. This can prevent a competitor from applying for the Chinese translation of the trademark.

The defensive filing of the trademark in various subclasses, which are not common in the current Nice system, create additional hurdles for counterfeiters. We recommend that the trademark should also be registered in service class 35, which experience shows is the first class occupied by counterfeiters. After registration, the trademark should be used in China to eliminate the risk of cancellation for non-use. However, internal company evidence is not sufficient as proof of use; evidence from the market is required here.

Picture: Unsplash

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