Health and wellness trends in Asia
Health and wellness are fast becoming the new lifestyle status symbols of the millennial set in Asia. Herein we examine which five, in particular, are revving up their fire across the region.
1. Natural Beauty
Thanks to rising fears about synthetic, fake and unhealthy ingredients, higher disposable incomes amongst economically prosperous urban dwellers and a near obsession with obtaining perfect outer beauty, Asian consumers are increasingly willing to spend on brands that offer clean, natural and organic products. In this cultural climate, it's no great surprise that 70% of Asians prefer organic products to generic ones. Furthermore, the Asia-Pacific cosmetics market — comprising China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and India — is expected to grow by 4.02% annually, reaching US$126.8 billion by 2020. And when you take into further consideration that almost half of global skin care sales are already happening in Asia, that's a big piece of the pie. Lastly, a trend within a trend is the rise in male consumers who care about their skin; this area of peak interest is opening a new Asian market, as brands seek to cater to men as well as women.
Growing in popularity across Asia nowadays is a plant-based lifestyle, known as 'veganism', which is a way of minimising harm to all animals by abstaining from such products as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, wool, fur, silk and leather. In China alone, the vegan market is expected to grow by 17% over the next three years. Down in Hong Kong, the local vegetarian/vegan restaurant scene has already doubled over the past few years, and 22% of the population adhere to a plant-based diet on a regular basis. In fact, everywhere across the region can see a boom in vegan retailers and plant-based food and beverage purveyors. There seems to be no end in sight for this trend, with international brands like Beyond Meat Burger (Bill Gates-backed) and Pret A Manger betting on big sales by expanding rapidly into the region. Added to that is a distinct trend in the hospitality/travel (hotels, resorts, spa, wellness centres) sector also introducing vegan, as well as gluten-free, options.
3. Wearable Tech
The root of this trend can be traced back to biohacking, a movement that believes in experience-based learning, as a way to attain and maintain health. The most prolific example of this maxim at work is wearable tech (aka fitness tracker), which exists to monitor our heart rates, sleep, calories, activity and so on. The market for these technological devices has exploded, with global sales expected to hit US$3 billion this year, further skyrocketing to US$34 billion by 2020. In Asia alone, the market grew by 51% last year, with 42 million fitness trackers and smartwatches sold. In general, the region is considered the world's fastest growing market for wearable tech. Why? Two theories persist: firstly, the Asian market always adapts faster than anywhere else to the latest tech trends and innovations; secondly, the region already has an inherent interest in video games, and fitness trackers thrive on the eagerness of people to engage in the gamification of their fitness and well-being. Whatever the reasons, there is no denying that China, Japan and Korea can't get enough of them.
Dating back to 3,000 B.C., and with its popularity increasing by leaps and bounds year-on-year, it's no great surprise that India's Prime Minister recently called it the country's most "significant cultural export". In Asia alone, this ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice is already a US$6 billion annual business, thanks to studios, events (e.g., retreats, teacher trainings, etc.) and products popping up at a fast rate across the region. As impressive as that sounds, globally this market is worth a staggering US$80 million, with the United States – the world's largest yoga market per capita – alone accounting for US$16 billion. Put another way, as of now 36 million people practice yoga in the US, or roughly 10% of the population, in China, that figure is only 10 million and .5% respectively. Besides revenue from classes, the most hotly contested area of money generation is on the apparel battlefield, with many big international retail brands like Lululemon betting big on the region, aggressively expanding into Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and China (via Tmall).
5. Organic Food
Similar to veganism, organic food and clean food sources are on the rise too. Across the region individuals and families are increasingly distrustful that their food supply is safe, this is no truer than in China, a country with a local history of tainted food scandals. Case in point, half a million food-related safety violations were reported in January-June 2016 alone. There, as in other tech-savvy countries, this has pushed the millennial (aka digital) generation to focus on qualified brands with verified supply chains. Across Asia, two-thirds of consumers already believe that so-called "superfoods" can treat ailments. Organic plays right into that mindset. As of now, there are a plethora of food start-ups and existing businesses scurrying to meet this demand. For example, India boasts the world’s highest concentration of organic producers; China is the world’s largest importer of organic food products; and innovative countries like Thailand have experienced a surge in local online brands stepping up to meet the demand, like HappyFresh and PaleoRobbie.