It’s undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic will change China, and the long-term repercussions of COVID-19 remain to be seen. Amidst the ongoing fears, anxieties and inevitable uncertainties, recent trends in Mainland China point to long-term opportunities in the health and wellness industry and a move toward positive lifestyle changes.
The popularity and usage of telehealth in China have exploded almost overnight—from a tool to make local doctor’s appointments to a platform accessible nationwide where concerned patients receive instant answers from qualified medical practitioners thereby avoiding a hospital visit. Between January and October 2019, only 6% of the 7 billion medical consultation in China took place virtually, yet within a short few days since the outbreak, over 100,000 medical professionals have signed up to offer services ranging from medical consultation to psychological counselling.
Ping An Good Doctor, already China’s largest by registered users, recorded on average an increase of 10 times the number of new registered users every day between January 22 and February 6, compared with the first 21 days of January. Its daily online consultations had also grown on average nine times over the same period, while AliHealth alone recorded 10 million virtual visits between January 23 and February 8.
Prevention is better than cure. China has seen double-digit growth in health supplements purchases on an annual basis since 2017. China's largest online retailer, JD.com, recorded a 5.5 times increase in sales of Chinese herbal supplements, vitamin C and other over-the-counter medicine in the week of 20 January alone, compared to the same period in the previous months.
From living room badminton to living room marathon, at-home fitness exercises and classes (free and paid) on livestreaming platforms are the rage. To keep China’s 15-million gym-goers active while confined to their homes due to a strict, government-mandated lockdown, KEEP, the country’s most popular social fitness app, runs 20 online classes a day, while other “traditional” gyms and fitness studios have followed suit.
With most restaurants closed during the lockdown, home cooking has spiked in popularity, not just as a necessity but as a form of leisure. Amateur home chefs are showing off their concoction on social media as a form of “culinary therapy.”
With home chefs on the rise, what about the most popular ingredient? Green-leaf vegetables. Shanghai alone consumed 3,000 tons of green leaf vegetables per day since late January, while the online sales volume of green vegetables in Beijing has a three-fold increase compared to last year. E-commerce unicorn Meicai, which delivers fresh produce straight from farms, announced recently that it was looking to hire 6,000 truck drivers and 4,000 sorting handlers because its frontline employees are working at “full capacity.”
Yes, it may seem that the uncertainty will disrupt the China market but one thing we know about China is that it is incredibly resilient. Businesses and consumers are slowly but surely adapting and positive lifestyle changes are always welcomed in today’s fast-paced world.
Jenny Lo is the general manager, China at CatchOn, a Finn Partners Company.