Published on: January 20, 2023
The Chinese government’s increased efforts to boost birth rates to address the country’s ageing population demographics have spurred the willingness of consumers to have more children. Thanks to the second and third-child policies and the easing of homebuying for families with two or more children, the market for products catering to new mothers and their children has been steadily growing in recent years.
Additionally, this new generation of modern Chinese parents is living in globalised cities and is quite different from previous generations of parents in China.
Not only have they seen seen their disposable income significantly rise over the past 10+ years, but most turn to social media, rather than their parents, for parenting advice and recommendations on products. These consumers are less price-sensitive and are willing to pay more for products they perceive to be better quality and safer — especially in this particular product category. As a result, it is estimated China’s mother and baby market will reach US$678 billion in total annual revenue by 2025.
So how can international brands take advantage and thrive in these spaces?
According to data from Chinese e-commerce giant JD, Chinese millennials born in the 1980s and early 1990s account for 70% of the purchase of mother and baby products on their platform (the 2nd biggest in the country).
This generation of millennial mothers is known as “spicy moms” in China. They live their life on their terms rather than simply following traditional norms. They are well-educated and firmly believe in having an identity apart from their family and a right to personal pursuits.
These “spicy moms” have a career, go shopping with friends, pursue various interests, and, most importantly, control the household purse strings. They also see premium brands as investments, rather than costs, and feel that those investments are a necessity for themselves and their kids, which will pay off in the long run.
In the West, the “mini-me trend” is led by the parents’ desire to channel their personality through their kids. In the less mature Chinese market, however, this trend has played out differently.
Chinese millennial parents are dressing their kids in ways they could never have imagined or achieved in their youth. It is far more aspirational than in the West.
There is also a shift in China towards more age-appropriate dressing.
While premium childrenswear in China makes references to adult fashion, adjustments are made to ensure children still dress their age. One of the top trends on Chinese social media platforms is “spicy moms” sharing parent-child outfits.
However, the focus is on making outfits look similar but not identical. Many trend-savvy mothers prefer the children’s versions of outfits to have the same fabrics, prints, and colours, but in different styles.
Additionally, fashion-forward collaborations are an increasingly popular way for brands to give their childrenswear added appeal for millennial parents in China. China’s Anta Kids, for example, partnered with US brand Opening Ceremony for New York Fashion Week to drive interest and sales.
Zhejiang-based sustainable childrenswear brand MaaathKids, on the other hand, chose to collaborate with illustrators around the world.
There is an increasing number of beauty products targeting children born after 2010 in China. According to figures from Chinese marketing research firm Forward-Looking Industrial Research Institute, the market size of skincare products for children in China is expected to reach US$23 billion by 2027.
The market growth can be attributed to the fact that millennials, who have driven cosmetic consumption for the past two decades in China, have an open attitude towards their children using skincare and playing with makeup. As a result, many children born after 2010 in China are true cosmetic natives. They were born into a world with beauty influencers and cosmetic products ingrained in daily life.
The children’s cosmetic sector is a niche sector that used to lack regulations in China. As a result of that history, the Chinese market has become saturated with unlicensed manufacturers and has been hungry for safe, high-quality children’s cosmetics products for quite some time. China’s history of safety scandals among ingestible and topical health, wellness, and personal care products has caused discerning millennial mothers to turn to international brands with a reputation for improved safety and high quality.
Many international brands have seized the opportunity that this demand presents — the children’s care sector on Tmall Global has maintained rapid growth over the past several years. According to French children’s skincare brand Enfance’s report, their sales on Tmall Global in the first half of 2021 increased by 300% compared to the previous year. Other overseas beauty brands such as Alaffia and Aveeno are also actively competing for the mother and baby care market in China.
It should be noted that while safety and efficacy are paramount, today’s parents in China are also scrutinizing a brand’s core category and competency. They are worried and concerned about brands that don’t focus on baby care entering the market and then disappearing after a short period. So, if you’re going to target the mother and baby care market in China, be sure to stay committed to the market and you’ll see that paid off with strong customer loyalty.
Nielsen’s research in 2020 revealed young parents in China are most interested in baby food products that offer features such as organic, additive-free, and all-natural foods. JD’s sales data supported this finding — the organic baby food category achieved 42% YoY growth.
This has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, and the rising awareness of the benefits of organic food amongst Chinese parents, who are increasingly focused on the quality of food their children consume.
While rice cereal has traditionally taken up most of the sales of baby food in China, many brands have started to expand their marketing focus to other subcategories such as purees. In recent years, brands have begun to educate Chinese mothers on the benefits of ready-to-eat purees, and it has paid off, as evidenced by the growth of the category.
The changing lifestyles of parents have seen an increased need for more convenient methods of feeding young children. Thanks to brand education and higher disposable income, the newest generations of mothers in China are looking more and more to feed their children read-to-eat puree pouches.
For international brands entering the baby food category in China, educating new mothers, and recruiting KOLs that fit the brand position is key to success.
Partnering with China’s hugely influential social media stars (KOLs) is one of the most effective ways to build consumer awareness and drive sales.
Danyang Li (aka “Nicomama”), a mother of two with a Master’s in Medicine, is one of the most prominent parenting KOLs in China, with over 40 million combined followers on Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo. Her tips and recommendations have become so popular in China that she has penned six best-selling books.
Partnering with mom influencers like Li is invaluable to helping mother and baby care brands actively engage with China’s digitally-connected mothers. Why? Because young parents in China turn to social media for parenting advice and recommendations on products.
According to a 2021 report from Chinese consumer research firm CBNdata, young mothers in China spend 79% of their time online. A large portion of this time is spent shopping for their children and seeking tips on parenting, health, and baby food.
Consumers born in the 1980s and early 1990s have gradually become the mainstream parent group in China, and their parenting concepts and related consumer behaviours have all undergone big changes over the past 10+ years.
In the past, the knowledge of raising a child was passed down from generation. Now, even in lower-tiered cities, parents can easily access modern parenting knowledge through social networks and e-commerce platforms.
As household income levels continue to rise, Chinese parents’ sensitivity to price is also decreasing and decision-making is also becoming more diverse. Moving into 2023, the market for products catering to young mothers and their children will continue to steadily grow, providing a massive opportunity for international brands in China.
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