Chinese mothers buying less infant formula but more supplements via cross-border e-commerce: Tmall Global

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese mothers are buying less infant formula but more supplements on cross-border e-commerce, according to “Cross-border Import Consumption Insights Report”.©Getty Images
Chinese mothers are buying less infant formula but more supplements on cross-border e-commerce, according to “Cross-border Import Consumption Insights Report”.©Getty Images

Related tags cross-border e-commerce tmall Infant nutrition Infant formula China

Chinese mothers are buying less infant formula via cross-border e-commerce, while the sales of other nutritional products for infants, such as calcium and vitamins, are increasing.

Titled “Cross-border Import Consumption Insights Report”, the report by Tmall Global and CBN Data studies Chinese consumer behaviour on cross-border e-commerce between year 2016 and 2018.

According to the report, the sales of milk powders on cross-border platforms have been on a steady decline since 2016, conversely, that of nature nutrients climbed.  

“Mothers are paying more attention to adding various nutrients for their babies besides milk powder. Among them, the most popular is the intake of calcium, iron, and zinc trace elements, followed by vitamins and DHA,” ​the report said.

“More mothers are choosing natural supplements for their babies because they prohibit the use of synthetic substances such as pesticides and fertilisers in production, which ensures safety and health,” ​it added.

Probiotics, which is a big market in China, however, came in the 4th​ place while fish oil came in the 5th​ place.

Brands wise, natural food supplements from Happybaby topped the chart, followed by Bellamy’s, Little Freddie, Earth’s best, and Gerber.

Other categories, such as supplementary food, goat milk powder, snacks, and special milk powders remain low in sales throughout years 2016 and 2018.

The report explained that it was more common for consumers to buy Mother-and-Baby products on cross-border import platforms, “since the post 90s have gradually entered their new stage of life as parents and have become the main consumers of Mother-and-Baby products.”

As for infant milk powder, besides brands from Australia, the report noted that those from the US and Germany are becoming more popular with consumers.

On the other hand, DHA was the most popular supplement for pregnant women, even more so than folic acid, which plays an important role in preventing the onset of neural tube defects (NTDs)​ in infants.


The report also studied consumers’ consumption of other product categories, such as beauty-from-within supplements.

In terms of anti-ageing antioxidants, grape seed was the most popular ingredient and saw the steepest growth in sales than anti-sugar ingredients and resveratrol.

On the other hand, collagen was the best-received ingredient when it comes to hydration and whitening, followed by whitening pills and/or liquid.

Supplements in capsule form took up the biggest proportion of sales. Other dosage forms, such as jellies and gummies are also gaining consumers’ acceptance.

Edible oils

Consumers’ pursuit for health goes beyond the intake of supplements and can be seen in their choice of edible oils as well.

Edible oils such as grape seeds, coconut, walnut, rice bran, and chia seeds, took the top five places in terms of the sales of edible oils last year.

These oils are popular for their claims to reduce fat and bring about anti-ageing effects, said the report.

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