The newest darlings of the China beauty influencer set are delicious snacks with a good-for-your-skin appeal, such as bird’s nest jelly desserts, anti-sugar gummy candies, and collagen energy bars, to name a few. In China’s oversaturated and sophisticated beauty market, skin-boosting snacking might be the next lucrative frontier.
Estimated to become a $3.7 billion (23.8 billion RMB) industry by 2022, China’s edible beauty market promises untapped growth potential for international and domestic brands. Before the pandemic, China’s young consumers were already beauty-obsessed, hunting for any cutting-edge technology or skincare concept to give them a glow. And as ardent snackers — a trait reinforced by the pandemic — consumers’ desire for culinary comfort via wellness-boosting treats has bloomed.
This trend has birthed the new combo ritual of “facial masking plus snacking.” Last year, one of China’s most-hyped beauty collaborations was the skin-brightening relax pack by C-beauty brand CHANDO and the snack brand Pejoy. The collaboration features a bundle of breadsticks from Pejoy and facial masks from CHANDO, allowing consumers to treat themselves to a mask session that comes complete with a tasty snack break. Both products contain the ingredient niacinamide, a form of vitamin B that has recently become super trendy in the beauty industry for its skin-brightening effect.
Another beauty collaboration pushing the snacking boundaries is a collagen-rich bird’s nest ice cream from the skincare supplement brand Xiaoxiandun and ice cream company Chicecream. The ice cream features a creamy filling of freshly stewed bird’s nest, a jelly-textured delicacy long regarded as a magic skin-healing food by traditional Chinese medicine. The growing list of beauty snacks also includes a line of rose-shaped collagen gummy candies from the sweets company Be & Cherry and a collagen peptide jelly from the dairy giant Mengniu.
China’s beauty-conscious consumers today are no longer just looking for collagen drinks, vitamin supplements, or a mere beauty-boost concentrate. They are looking for skin-enhancing snacks that are fun and delicious in their own right.
Even before the pandemic, sales of convenient edible beauty packs on Alibaba’s Tmall platform were already growing at a rate of 2000-percent year-on-year in 2019. During the first half of 2019 alone, over 286 international brands had opened Tmall shops that focused on China’s growing demand for edible beauty. On the lifestyle and social platform Xiaohongshu, collagen candies and skin-boosting juices with salon-level skincare ingredients have remained steady sellers to China’s young, beauty-loving consumers.
Post-pandemic, China’s heightened consciousness surrounding health and wellness has played a role in accelerating edible beauty’s popularity. As wellness and comfort become a top priority for consumers, snacks featuring a good-for-you ingredient list are well-positioned to fill this demand.
But the rise of beauty snacks in China is also a part of a bigger movement that demands skincare everywhere and anywhere. Skincare is no longer just made up of serums and facial masks, kept in the bedroom vanity and used within a daily home routine; it is now found in snacks, drinks, or mini-meals at any time of the day and on the go.
With mounting appearance pressures within young China’s stressful work culture, snacking has become a convenient way to take care of oneself with little hassle. China’s beauty consumers choose snacks because they want to eat foods that make them feel good but without being restricted by skincare routine times.
Of all its age groups, China’s post-90s generation has the highest level of health anxiety, according to a national health survey. While this generation of twenty-somethings is the most sophisticated in terms of exercise and diet, they have the lowest self-rating of physical wellness. This data may explain why over 70 percent of China’s beauty snack consumers are under 25, with the main objective being preventing early aging rather than fixing issues.
Still holding great untapped market potential, the Chinese craze for beauty snacking represents a rare and exciting opportunity for international beauty players. Big beauty brands have yet to tap into this niche, but there is still room for innovative beauty snacks that provide novel and fun experiences for China’s growing base of beauty junkies. Brands can play up their creative side with innovative flavors, ingredients inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, and alluring packaging for consumers seeking something new.