China Lifts Animal Testing – New Opportunities For Western “Niche” Brands

From 1st May 2021, China will remove the mandatory animal testing requirements for imported ‘general’ cosmetics. This is a huge step forward for cruelty-free beauty brands, that are now able to fully tap into the fast-growing “niche” cosmetics sector.

The Chinese definition of “niche” and why it shapes consumer decisions

The term “niche” cosmetics has been coined by the change in Chinese consumer needs. While older Chinese generations used to focus on product efficacy and feel, modern Gen Z consumers, (accounting already for 25% of expenditures on new brands in China) are in pursuit of personalization and customization. This leads beauty consumption to become a form of self-expression and an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their peers.

“Many people just buy [a product] because it’s a name they haven’t heard before”
Zhao Anqing
CEO of Dairui Daily Items

Sustainability is another consumer trend considered as “niche”. Bruised by the pandemic, Chinese consumers learned that they can no longer ignore the idea of a safe and healthy lifestyle. At the same time, they want to eat healthy and look great without harming nature in a post-Covid era. To be summed up, “niche” represents a cutting-edge lifestyle that is new and differentiates from the rest. Therefore, packaging, brand stories and branding are all key for a product to be considered “niche”.

The fluidity of the concept of “niche” beauty means that new brands founded by mainstream beauty conglomerates also can be considered as “niche” if they bring their brands to life through digital connectivity and innovative storytelling. Brands looking to meet the emotional needs of the modern Chinese consumer need to continuously attach delightful newness to their brands.

How to break into the China market as a niche Western beauty brand

According to Research and Markets, the Chinese market for “niche” cosmetics is currently valued at $62.5 billion (407.8 billion RMB). The new regulations together with growing consumer spending from Gen Z and new consumer trends are expected to grow the market to $9.2 trillion (60 trillion RMB) by 2025. However, the new regulations and consumer trends do not automatically mean that brands exporting to China can become successful overnight. Positioning your brand in your specific “niche” market segment needs a strong understanding of the Chinese consumer trends, information channels, and shopping platforms.

If you are looking to enter China with animal-free and innovative cosmetics, this is what you should do:

  1. Do your market research about the Chinese consumer market, existing competitors, and industry trends.
  2. Register your trademark for China in English and Chinese. Because Chinese consumers will either use or invent your Chinese brand.
  3. Find a Chinese importing company to act as your agent.
  4. If you are not working with a Chinese importing partner, these are the following challenges for you to consider: logistics, warehousing, omnichannel strategy, product registration, taxation, and additional regulations based on individual regions, cities, or local governments.

If you have more questions about niche cosmetics in China, we will be glade to help you.

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