People Turn to the Bottle for a Daily Fix of Vitamins

Popping pills are becoming the most popular way for Chinese people to improve their health, according to a recent survey.

Carried out in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou by the world leading marketing research company ACNielsen Corporation, the survey found that most people today prefer taking a vitamin supplement over spending time preparing a nutritious meal.

“Many are afraid that medicines will have side effects, but they don’t want to take the trouble to stew soup,” said Barry Tse, senior manager responsible for customized research. “That leaves supplements the best choice,” he said.

For customers, there is a wide variety of things to choose from. According to the survey, the most popular products were calcium, iron, ginseng, vitamin and honey-related products.

“There are more choices as one gets old,” observed Tse. “Children usually only have vitamins.”

According to another ACNielsen survey, tonic and vitamin products top all advertising categories in China, increasing by nearly 58 percent to reach 8.94 billion yuan (US$1.08 billion) last year.

The rocketing trend did take a downward turn late last year as pharmaceutical products and food were more clearly defined and rigid inspections were imposed on advertising such products.

Health-enhancing products have always been a favorite on the Chinese market, particularly during festivals, when many people consider them most appropriate presents.

But “buying them as gifts is no longer the driving force behind supplement purchase,” said Tse.

The survey results indicate that 51 percent of people now bought supplements for elderly relatives. Only 27 percent still gave them away as gifts.

A widespread belief that good health is the prerequisite for happiness is behind the phenomenon, Tse said.

Middle-aged customers who made up the bulk of the purchasers, themselves having experienced lots of hardship in their youth, are most eager to provide the best for their children, according to Tse.

As they get older, their fears about becoming burdens on their children increased. But can these products really be the panacea that many hope for?

“Our survey found that the products bring more psychological comfort than physical benefits,” observed Tse. “The supplements relieved users of the worry of falling sick and built up hopes that they can regain their youth.”

This belief in supplements is particularly strong in people in southern China, who are known for their laborious preparation of dishes and meticulous efforts to lead quality lives.

Still many people are not resorting to these buyings for health. As the survey revealed, the figure for people who said they had never taken any kind of supplement varies from north to south with Beijing standing at 43 percent, Shanghai at 19 percent and Guangzhou the lowest at 7 percent.

(China Daily 03/12/2001)

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