China Food

Unilever’s “new business”, which focuses on health, is also betting on China to reach 20billion

At the first investor meeting after the new structure took effect, Unilever focused on the “young” businesses that want to bet on the Chinese market. Xiaoshidai noticed that recently, this FMCG giant held an investor meeting devoted to health and wellbeing, and proposed to achieve a scale of 3billion euros (now about 20.684 billion yuan) for this business with multiple dietary supplement brands.

It is noteworthy that the business has classified China as a key market and put forward the local operation strategy of “China for China”. This also means that it is on the same track with many Chinese and foreign “players” such as Swisse, Nestle and even Beijian. Next, let’s take a look at Unilever’s ideas.


Xiaoshidai noticed that after Unilever launched the new architecture last month, the health business was divided into “beauty &wellbeing”, which belongs to the same business group as hair care and skin care. Jostein Solheim, who is in charge of the health business, has worked at Unilever for 30 years and served as the CEO of ice cream Ben & Jerry’s for 8 years.

In Unilever, whose history can be traced back to the 19th century, the health business is still a relatively young “member”, and its brand matrix is built from the “buy buy” of the past few years.

“Since the acquisition of Equilibra in Italy (with dietary supplement products) in 2018, our annual turnover has exceeded 1billion euros (about 6.925 billion yuan).” Jostein Solheim, CEO of Unilever health, said at the meeting.

According to the conference materials reviewed by snack generation, after equilibrary, Unilever has successively acquired a number of VMS (vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements) enterprises headquartered in the United States, including oly nutrition, liquid i.v., smartypants vitamins and onnit. Its latest transaction was the acquisition of the majority stake in nutrafol in July this year. At present, Unilever’s health business is mainly composed of VMS products that meet different needs, such as liquid i.v.’s main hydrating powder and nutrofol’s aim at hair health. In addition, the business also includes the funny bandage brand well, which has the same founder Eric Ryan as oly nutrition.  

Well products

。 Unilever has set up a special internal team to take charge of the acquisition. In the past 18 months, it has studied more than 60 targets, and finally only three transactions have been reached.

When talking about the acquisition criteria, he said that first of all, the ideal target must be complementary to the existing business, such as professional skills and teams. The second is to be in a big place

Xiaoshidai saw on a platform today that the overseas flagship stores of oly and smartypants mainly promote soft sugar products. Among them, olly puts more emphasis on meeting segmentation needs, such as sleep, immunity, emotion, skin and so on. Among them, the highest sales volume is a melatonin sleep fudge, with a monthly sales volume of 4000+. Smartypants, on the other hand, mainly launched multivitamins and probiotic fudges for different age groups, including children aged 3-12, young people aged 13-19, and adults. The monthly sales volume of children’s vitamin fudge with the highest sales volume in the store is 3000+. Solheim also revealed that Unilever is establishing a Chinese localized operation team for the health business. “We have a business team in China and will unlock the market potential through cross-border e-commerce in advance.”. Since China’s health food needs to get the “blue hat” (that is, through the registration of health food) to enter offline channels and claim to have specific effects, and obtaining this certification is not easy, many overseas brands choose to enter the Chinese market through cross-border e-commerce, such as Swisse, which belongs to Jianhe group, garden of life, vital proteins, etc. However, considering the limitations of single channel, some enterprises starting from cross-border e-commerce are also promoting the registration of large single products as “blue hat”. Xiaoshidai introduced that in 2021, Swisse has launched nine “blue hat” products, including six items such as calcium tablets, which have sold more than 100 million in the Chinese market, and will continue to introduce more “blue hats” in the future. This year, guxinxin, President of Nestle Health Sciences Greater China, also told xiaoshidai that the company will localize its products with high growth and high competition in the future, and register or record more products that meet the needs of Chinese consumers.

Behind the enterprises’ emphasis on “blue hat”, there is a Chinese health care market with large capacity and ideal growth rate. Xiaoshidai received the China health products report released in 2021 from yingminte. It shows that the market is expected to continue to grow at an average annual compound growth rate of 11% in the next five years, reaching 345.1 billion yuan in 2026. For Unilever, if it wants to occupy a certain share and long-term development in the Chinese market, it must not only face the regulatory issues such as getting the “blue hat”, but also think about how to find its own way in the traditional health care giants such as Thomson Beijian, limitless and Amway, as well as many overseas brands focusing on cross-border e-commerce.

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Unilever’s “new business”, which focuses on health, is also betting on China to reach 20billion



“VMS市场很集中,有三分之二位于美国、中国和欧洲。”Solheim在会上说。据其展示的Euromonitor 2021年数据显示,VMS全球规模超过了1600亿欧元(现约合人民币1.11万亿元),而中国市场占据19%份额,也就是304亿欧元(现约合人民币2105.29亿元)左右。


由于中国保健食品需要先拿到“蓝帽子”(即通过保健食品注册)才能进入线下渠道和声称具有特定功效,而取得该认证也并非易事,因此不少海外品牌选择通过跨境电商进入中国市场,如隶属于健合集团的Swisse、雀巢旗下的Garden of Life、Vital Proteins等等。



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