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Has Douyin Become the Next Big Channel for Supplement in China?

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Since the pandemic, China's vitamins and dietary supplements market has experienced robust growth, and sales through digital channels have been expanding continuously. The market size of consumer health products in China was USD57.1 billion in 2023, with an e-commerce penetration rate of 42%. In this evolving market, Douyin, as China's most popular short-video platform, has quickly risen to become a popular platform for purchasing health products.

Douyin becomes the second most popular online retailer of consumer health products in China

According to Euromonitor International’s E-Commerce system, for the categories of vitamins and dietary supplements, weight management and wellbeing, and sports nutrition, Tmall marketplace is the online retailer with the highest sales. However, Douyin marketplace surpassed JD direct sales starting from Q2 2022 and has since maintained growth momentum, steadily holding the position as the second largest platform from 2023 onwards. Apart from the sales peaks during Tmall's Double 11 shopping festival each year in Q4, during Q1-Q3 2023, Douyin marketplace's sales also gradually approached those of Tmall. In Q4 2023, the year-on-year growth rates for sales on Tmall marketplace were 13%, while for those on Douyin marketplace it was 55%, and on JD marketplace it was 6%.Chart showing Quarterly Sales by E-Commerce Retailers in China, 2022-2024

Health-related content on Douyin accurately caters to consumers’ interests to drive purchasing occasions

Douyin, which serves as the Chinese analogue to TikTok, has become a dark horse in the Chinese retail e-commerce market since the launch of its own online retail platform since 2021. Douyin’s focus on short-form video content allows merchants operating on the platform to easily match a Douyin user’s video preferences with their own product assortments. This means that, rather than the typical search-and-click experience, Douyin relies on inspiration to trigger purchases, often driven by influencers. Consumers who do not have a clear demand for health products are inspired to make health-orientated purchases through video content and livestream.

In China, social media platforms and influencers are trusted sources of health-related information.

47% of respondents from China consider bloggers/social media influencers as extremely or moderately trustworthy for health information in 2023, higher than the global average of 34%

Source: Euromonitor Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded February 2023

Moreover, 27% of respondents in China selected social media as an information source that influences their decision to take dietary supplements in 2023, which was also higher than the global average of 16%.

Douyin and digital-native brands mutually reinforce each other to drive market opportunities

The rise of Douyin as an e-commerce platform has provided emerging brands with a new way to reach consumers. A comparison of the top five brands in sales on Tmall and Douyin yields distinct results. Brands that perform well on Tmall have usually already established a strong presence in traditional offline channels for over two decades, such as Swisse, By-Health, and Yanzhiwu. In contrast, among top brands on Douyin, brands like WonderLab, Nutrend, and Wugenvboshi (Five Doctors) were all established after 2018 and have gained prominence on Douyin.

To expand its market share as an e-commerce platform for health products, Douyin strategically collaborates with new brands to conduct various online and offline marketing activities. For example, a top brand on Douyin, Nutrend, joined the "Douyin New Brands Accelerator" marketing campaign in 2021, shortly after the introduction of e-commerce on Douyin. Subsequently, leveraging its powerful influencer sales network, the brand ensured intensive exposure of its product content. According to Nutrend, the brand collaborates with approximately 20,000 influencers monthly, ranging from micro- to mid-tier influencers, to ensure widespread visibility and engagement.Chart showing Annual Sales of Top Five Brands on Douyin Marketplace and Tmall Marketplace, 2023

The platform’s popularity brings regulatory pressure, while young consumer group will continue to drive growth

Starting from February 2023, Douyin has further lowered the entry conditions for brands of health products, which will encourage more brands to flood into Douyin. Prior to this change, Douyin had always employed an invitation-based approach for health product brands, with relatively high entry thresholds. With more brands on the platform, preventing misleading claims will become a key focus of future regulations for Douyin. Currently, Douyin has implemented a ban on the sale of products that claim to have the following eight efficacy claims: lowering blood sugar, improving memory, promoting lead discharge, promoting lactation, radiation protection, weight loss, improving growth and development, and protection against chemical liver damage. 

In China, with younger consumers becoming the mainstream of consumer health product consumers, Douyin is expected to be a strong channel for both marketing and sales of health products. Despite regulatory challenges and the need to ensure compliance with health claims, Douyin's continued appeal among younger consumers positions it as a key player in China's evolving consumer landscape.

For more analysis on the consumer perceptions and behaviours of young consumers in Asia regarding consumer health, read our report, Health-Conscious Young in Asia: Focus on Consumer Health.

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