woman looking at juice in store

Snacking in China: Chinese Consumers and Healthy Snacking

Part 1 of our new 3-part series on healthy snacking in China reveals perceptions around healthy snacking and the top snacking choices among Chinese consumers today.


  • A high percentage of Chinese consumers consider themselves to be active or healthy. 
  • In China, consumers perceive dairy-based and protein-fortified products to be the healthiest. 
  • The increased consumption of healthy snacks in China presents many opportunities for protein snack brands. 

Consumer Research Explores Healthy Snacking in China

Snacking is playing a big role in the daily lives of Chinese consumers. While factors such as comfort and reward are important drivers of snacking, consumer choices in snacks reveal health is also on consumers’ minds. Our latest proprietary consumer research study, which gained insights from 800 Chinese consumers, explores trends and opportunities in healthy snacking in China.

Download our Snacking Guide to understand key global trends in snacking.

Results from our research will be shared in the following 3-part series:

  • Part 1: Chinese Consumers and Healthy Snacking
  • Part 2: Protein and Its Role in Snacking
  • Part 3: Snacking Preferences and Barriers to Growth

In Part 1, we look at the consumer landscape in China, as well as consumer perceptions around healthy snacks, consumers’ preferred snacks, and changes in snack consumption in the past year. 

Understanding the Chinese Consumer

China’s consumer landscape indicates a large proportion of consumers are likely to be interested in healthy snack options. 46% of Chinese consumers are identified as active lifestyle consumers, while 27% are healthy lifestyle consumers. Another 12% are sports performance consumers. 

Activities range from walking, yoga, and hiking for healthy lifestyle consumers to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), spinning , and strength training for sports performance consumers. Weight management is an important motivation for all three groups, while performance is a driver for both sports performance and active lifestyle consumers.

Consumer Landscape in China

Consumer Category Activities Motivation
Sports Performance (12%) HIIT, spins, strength training Performance, weight management
Active Lifestyle (46%) Walking, yoga, running, strength training Performance, mobility, weight management, cognition
Healthy Lifestyle (27%) Walking, yoga, hiking Mobility, physical maintenance, weight management
Inactive Lifestyle (15%) Cognitive exercises Maintenance

Chinese Consumers’ Perceptions of Healthy Snacks

We also probed to understand which snacks consumers consider to be healthy and unhealthy. The results show dairy-based and protein-fortified products come out ahead as the snacks Chinese consumers are most likely to identify as healthy. Yogurt leads, with 78% of Chinese consumers perceiving yogurt as healthy, just ahead of milk at 76%.

woman eating yogurt at desk

Bars are also seen as healthy, with two in three consumers perceiving cereal/protein/energy bars as healthy. Over half of Chinese consumers perceive a number of other protein-fortified products as healthy, including protein-infused water (56%), protein shakes made from powder (54%), and ready-to-drink (RTD) protein shakes (53%).

Download our Protein Guide for insights on formulating with protein to address today’s trends.

Healthy Snack Consumption on the Rise in China

Our research also shows consumption is on the rise for the same products that Chinese consumers consider healthy. 42% report consuming more yogurt over the past twelve months, while 41% are consuming more dairy milk. Consumption is also up for cereal bars (36%) and protein/energy bars (35%). In addition, 33% are consuming more protein-infused water, and 30% are consuming more protein shakes (both from powder and RTDs). 

This positive correlation between the snacks Chinese consumers perceive as healthy and those they are consciously eating more of indicates a bright future for healthy snacks in China (especially dairy and protein snacks). Interest in protein is shifting protein snacks toward the mainstream as consumers become more focused on their health.

Opportunities in Protein-Fortified Snacks

Despite the perception of protein-fortified snacks as healthy and the high proportion of Chinese consumers focused on health and fitness, there is a significant penetration gap for protein-fortified snacks. 46% of Chinese consumers report they did not purchase a protein-fortified product within the past three months.

bars and honey

Breaking it down, our findings show these non-purchasers include 30% of active lifestyle consumers, 13% of healthy lifestyle consumers, and 8% of sports performance consumers. Part 2 of our series will follow up with a deep dive into the role of protein in healthy snacking in China. 

As a global leader in nutritional ingredients, we are committed to providing our customers with the insights and ingredients they need to meet today’s food and beverage trends—including functional dairy solutions and functional ingredient solutions  for healthy snacks. Contact us to learn about formulating the healthy snacks consumers want.

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