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CIIE 2019: China International Import Expo Showcases Diversified Scope of Maternal and Baby Care Products

The second China International Import Expo (CIIE), which was held from November 5th to 10th this year in Shanghai attracted exhibitors from more than 155 countries and regions, 26 international organizations as well as 3,893 companies.

With an exhibition area covering around 360,000 square meters, this grand international gathering is testament to China's willingness to pursue continued opening up of its markets to the world.

This year, the Quality Lifestyle Exhibition Section set many new areas for maternal and baby care products[1] and offered a precious opportunity for international enterprises to test the waters of China's market.

According to public data, China's maternal and baby care market was valued at 2.5257 trillion yuan in 2018 and is expected to reach 3 trillion yuan by 2020[2].

In China's market, trends towards innovation, clean label, premiumization and segmentation continue to drive consumer preference and product development. Imported products dominate the sector, particularly in the infant milk powder, supplementary foods, diapers, nursing and other segments of the consumer goods sector[3], because they are widely tipped to be safer and of superior quality.

Premiumization and demand for top quality driving diaper sales

In the diaper market, foreign brands have gained traction with consumers, especially parents born after 1985s and 1990s. They prefer superior quality diapers that are both breathable and light. Japanese brands seem to tick all these boxes and are becoming their first choice of Chinese mothers. Top brands include KAO, GOO.N, Moony, etc.

Kao, one of Japan's most important consumer-product companies, brought a full range of products to CIIE 2019, spanning from household chemicals, baby products to cosmetics.

Merries diapers have already cornered significant market share in China. According to ECdataway data, as of September 2019, Kao Merries accounted for 13.6% of all diaper sales in China’s e-commerce sector, amounting to a valuation of 2.07 billion yuan, establishing it as the 2nd most important company, just behind Pampers.

Lion, Japan's biggest seller of toothpastes and a major producer of toiletries and household consumer products[4], showcased its professional toothbrush for baby teeth and has product offerings designed for babies of ages 0-8 months and 6 months-2 years and 2 years-6 years. The emergence of more specialized and segmented products shows consumer trends towards professionalization and premiumization.

Clean Label and Product Safety Shaping Consumer Preference and Feeding Back into Product Development

China's new consumers are increasingly demanding clean label products free from chemical additives, allergens and other synthetic materials. Mothers are happy to pay for products which are promoted using clean label terminology such as "safe", "organic", "no additives", "pure and natural", "eco-friendly" and so on.

According to the Ministry of Commerce's report on 2018 China maternal and infant products demand, when consumers choose products, their biggest concern is product safety, which drives 91% of all purchases, this is followed by the characteristics of the raw materials and ingredients used in the product which drives 63.9% of all purchases[5]. Attempts to align product development and marketing with these 2 key trends was visible at many of the baby care and infant nutrition booths CIIE 2019.

For example, Australian brands led by the likes of KidsBliss and Koala Baby, showcased their maternal and child personal skin care products which are plant-based, organic and natural.

The French mother care brand Mustela, which focuses on baby skin care products manufactured using natural ingredients, attended CIIE for the second time.

Technological Innovation

In addition, there are brands exhibiting a diverse array of high quality and technologically innovative products. Tommee Tippee is the UK's NO.1 baby feeding brand and was acquired by Shanghai Jahwa in 2017. This year it showcased two of its star products namely their Nature feeding-bottle and their Anti-Colic feeding-bottle, which integrate humanized designs with innovative technology.

Chicco, an Italian brand with sixty years of worldwide expertise in everything related to baby care and infant and toddler products showcased its range of products including feeding, toiletries, infant car seats, baby strollers, and toys, etc. One highlight was its high temperature resistant glass baby bottles, which are both practical, safe and address Chinese mother’s concerns about phthalates like DEHP, endocrine disruptors like BPA and the possible carcinogenic properties of many plasticizers used in plastic bottles.

Safety is also a key driver of consumer purchasing preference in the children's stationery segment. Founded in the 1960s in Italy, the children's writing and art supplies brand CARIOCA made its first appearance at CIIE, during which it showcased its "Mask Up" face paint. By adopting food grade pigment, the paints are washable, gluten free, and dermatologically tested and verified as safe and hypoallergenic.

At CIIE, the brand entered into strategic partnership with China's largest stationery company M&G Stationery. M&G will be the long-term exclusive distributor of Carioca in China. This move is expected to help the two companies collaborate on further expansion in children's stationery market.

CRIA, a baby and child textile brand in New Zealand which selects high-quality wool and camel hair and processes them into pillows, wool quilts and blankets, also performed well during CIIE.

With the exception of Koala Baby, the brands mentioned above have already opened flagship shops on Alibaba's online shopping platform Tmall and participated in 11-11 Single's Day promotion campaigns.

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