China’s fitness market goes from strength to strength. The Middle Kingdom’s population of gym-goers is growing at a rapid clip, with around 20 million serious gym-goers and gyms expanding in high double-digits. And there’s still plenty of room to grow – it’s estimated that only 3% of China’s population has a gym membership, compared to around 20% in America and 14% in the UK.
At AgencyChina, we’re into fitness. Whether its running shoes, sportswear, yoga pants or whey protein, we’re all over it. Here’s what we think you should be watching out for in China’s fitness market this year.
1. Yoga Boom Continues
Young affluent Chinese females have embraced yoga and, in doing so, have set off a boom in yoga studios and athleisurewear.
At last official count, there were 10,000 independent yoga studios inside the country and over a million yoga enthusiasts. However, there’s still plenty of growth in the tank. Indeed, yoga’s success in China has taken Lululemon – the face of yoga globally – to new heights. The company reported 70% growth in its China sales last year.
So where does yoga’s appeal lie?
First, China’s yoga enthusiasts are attracted to yoga’s mix of benefits – from improved muscle tone and cardiovascular health, to ache prevention and increased vitality.
Next, there’s the social element. Yoga’s class-based format works well for colleagues and friends who share a common passion for fitness and wellbeing. Yoga studios and brands have tapped into yoga’s social DNA, organizing classes, events and retreats through China’s ubiquitous social media platform, WeChat.
Last but not least, there’s the place yoga-related clothing plays in contemporary fashion. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d now that sweatshirts and yoga pants aren’t just worn to the gym. The same goes in China too.
The competition for consumer spend on athleisurewear will continue to heat up this year. Alongside international heavyweights like Lululemon, Nike and Adidas, domestic brands such as Nei Wai are looking to corner the market.
Increased competition will bring a desire for the best fabrics and improved performance. This is where niche brands can come into play. If you’re an athleisurewear and compression clothing specialist, you can click here to schedule a free consultation with us to size up the market and find your target audience.
2. New diets and supplements to support changing body image standards
Chinese body image standards are changing. In one 2003 survey published by the Journal of Hebei Institute of Physical Education, “an almost-emaciated, willowy physique” (a nice way of saying sickly thin) was cited as the ideal female body shape. Today, many women are focusing instead on being healthy and strong.
It’s a similar state of affairs for guys too. As more women get into fitness, they expect potential boyfriends and future husbands to be lean and athletic, like superstar swimmer Ning Zetao.
To support these body transformation, China’s sports nutrition market is evolving at a rapid pace. Euromonitor data estimates China’s market for sports supplements, protein powders and power bars will reach half a billion US dollars by 2022.
Of that pie, the most dynamic area is protein powder. Analysis from Nutraingredients Asia and Euromonitor, as well as our own in-market observation, suggests that this market has shifted from the fairly niche demographic of bodybuilders to everyday men and women who want firm abs or beach bodies, beauty and health.
That broader audience translates into a need for more pleasant taste and convenient, easy-to-prepare formats. As the audience profile matures, niches such as plant-based or sustainable propositions may also come into vogue.
3. In-home exercise market warms up
Not all of China’s exercise enthusiasts go to the gym. You’ve probably heard that China’s has vast number of marathon enthusiasts, but you probably don’t know more exercise is being done at home.
Currently, 5 million treadmills and exercise bikes for home use are sold in China each year, and industry insiders expect that figure to double in the next two or three years.
Treadmills and exercise bikes aren’t the only thing that make up home gyms. Our analysis of e-commerce data and qualitative research, including hundreds of in-home interviews, has shown that China’s in-home exercise market is full of potential opportunities – from compact and adjustable dumbbell sets, to yoga mats, to exercise balls, all the way to made-to-measure storage solutions for exercise equipment.
Propelling more exercise in-home is China’s favorite exercise app, KEEP. It’s taken a page from Peleton’s playbook and is moving from software to hardware, manufacturing exercise bikes for the home. If it can convert just a small percentage of its 100 million-strong user base over to its in-home exercise bikes, that could potentially kick-off an (in-home) cycling craze in China.
So, what comes next? We’re watching and would love to let you know. Sign up for our monthly updates and we will keep you posted!