The probiotic market in China has been on an upward trajectory with the consumers’ increasing awareness of health. According to Chinese Probiotic Market Analysis Report in 2022, the size of the industry continuously increased with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.75% from 2017-2020. The market size reached RMB 88 billion in 2020 and was estimated to grow to RMB 106.5 billion in 2022. Euromonitor indicates that the Chinese probiotic market will continue to rise with an annual growth rate of 11-12%.
Currently, probiotic products on the Chinese market can be divided into health food, functional food, and ordinary food. Health food refers to the registered food that is allowed to be claimed with specific health functions, which was authorised blue hat sign. Functional food is the food with the claim of having specific health functions but did not registered or have blue hat sign. There is no definition of functional food in the regulations.
The sales volume of probiotic health and functional food on the Taobao and Tmall platforms reached RMB 6.32 billion, with a year-on-year increase of 28.2%.1 Probiotics covers a wide range of functions, such as those helpful to digestion, anti-aging, allergy relief, etc. In terms of product form, probiotic powder is the most common product type of health and functional food, while the market share of probiotic gummy and jelly is continuously growing.
Representative Products of Probiotic Health and Functional Food on the Chinese Market
Life Space Probiotics Powder
Regulating intestinal microflora and improving immunity
Unichi Pre & Probiotics Gummy
Balancing the micro-ecology of intestinal microflora and improving diarrhe
WonderLab Oral Probiotics
Helpful to keep fresh breath and clean bacteria between teeth
Beneficial to reduce nose sensitivity and improve susceptible constitution
In terms of ordinary food, probiotics have been widely applied to dairy food products like yogurt, milk powder, beverages, ice cream, etc. According to the statistics of the Ali platforms in 2021, the sales volume of probiotic milk powder was increasing noticeably while that of probiotic yogurt was declining. In 2021, the sales volume of probiotic milk powder reached RMB 300 million on the Taobao and Tmall platforms, with an approximately 20% YoY increase. Additionally, since October 2021, its market size has surpassed that of probiotic yogurt and became the largest category in the probiotic dairy food market.
Notes: Products like probiotic yogurt and other dosage forms can also be registered as health food with functional claims if meeting the regulatory requirements.
Different Types of Dairy Food Products Containing Probiotics
Attracted by the market potential of the Chinese probiotic industry, many Chinese dairy enterprises are not only making strategic layouts on products, but also paying efforts to the R&D of probiotic strains. In 2021, lactobacillus rhamnosus MP108 got the permission to be used in baby foods. It is the first approved bacterial strain, fully researched and developed by a Chinese company called Bioflag, a subsidiary of Ausnutria. In 2023, Yili’s three patented probiotic strains, namely, BL-99, K56, and ET-22, participated in space microgravity experiments conducted by International Cooperation Center of China Aerospace, which expects to use the special space environment like microgravity, extreme temperature difference, and high radiation to cultivate new strains in different directions.
Whereas, due to the comparatively late start of China’s probiotic industry, the R&D of probiotic strains has not entirely satisfied the personal demand of Chinese domestic consumers. For a long time, 90% of probiotic strains in the Chinese market relies on imports, and related technologies are also controlled by foreign giants. Chinese domestic enterprises still need to make more efforts to the R&D of probiotic strains.