Blackbook Executive

Healthy, well and wise: our new China boom

Forget rocks and crops, wining or dining: the new China boom for local exporters is selling wellness to a growing, wealthy and ageing wise Chinese middle class.

China’s ageing middle class will provide the next export boom market for Australia through soaring demand for high-quality food and health products, a leading industry analyst says.

PwC food and agribusiness advisory partner Ben Craw says health and wellness is a growing industry worldwide and China, with its ageing population, already contributes around 25 per cent of the sector’s global growth.

“Health food in China currently outstrips spend on the standard food market by about three to one,” Mr Craw said.

By 2030, a quarter of China’s 1.38 billion people will be older than 60, and the country’s growing, urbanising middle-class is seeking healthy and, most importantly, safe food products.

A series of food fraud and contamination incidents has affected confidence in parts of China’s food industry and Australian producers, with a reputation for premium organic foods such as high-end yoghurts and cheeses, have a growing “brand halo” opportunity in China, Mr Craw said.

“In China ‘organic’ is perceived to be a safe and trusted food source,” he said.

Dairy giant Fonterra Australia’s managing director Rene Dedoncker said his company has now delivered over 500,000 tonnes of product into China.

The health and wellness trend is moving so quickly that the dairy company is struggling to comprehend what is happening.

“Its almost out of control,” Mr Dedoncker said.

Health supplements are also a boom industry, with about half of China’s population over 65 years of age consuming a mineral or vitamin supplement every day, according to Mr Craw.

China, the home of complementary medicine, is increasingly turning to Australia, its health brands, pristine environment and its strong regulatory regime in a search for reliable and quality health products.

In September Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma was in Melbourne to sign off on deals with local wellness producers including Blackmores and retailer Chemist Warehouse.

According to Fonterra Australia, its food services and consumer sectors have grown 46 per cent in volume in just one year on the back of growing China demand.

“I’d like to tell you we understand all the drivers in that, but we just don’t,” Mr Dedoncker said.

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