Norma Chu says Chinese Gen Z shoppers are driving consumer trends, and what they’re after might be exactly what New Zealand businesses can offer. (Content Partnership)
Covid-19 has made Chinese consumers more health-conscious than ever before, and the country’s youth are driving a trend towards sustainable and environmentally-conscious brands, says an online cooking celebrity who has tried a Kiwi innovation.
Chinese entrepreneur Norma Chu is the founder and chief executive of Hong Kong’s largest online cooking channel Day Day Cook.
It is now the largest cooking and lifestyle content platform in China with 80 million active viewers and five million paid customers. Chu’s Facebook and Instagram platforms reach over one million followers.
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Chu visited New Zealand for the first time at the end of 2019 at the invitation of Pāmu – the publicly-owned farming operation – and says the experience made her want to retire here.
“I always knew it was going to be beautiful, but being there was just mind-blowing. I think just being there in terms of everyone’s passion for nature and preserving the natural environment was amazing,” Chu says.
She says she left the country thinking about how perfectly it fit with what young Chinese consumers were after – sustainability and the story behind brands.
That’s a trend she says Covid-19 has only amplified.
“Chinese consumers in general are still less sophisticated on sustainability but when it comes to Gen Z or even Gen A consumers, they are driving the new consumer habits about wanting to know the origins of their products, and the environmental impact,” Chu says.
Gen Z are consumers who were born between 1995 and 2010 and make up about 15 percent of China’s population. Gen A are the young consumers born in the 2010s.
A McKinsey survey of Chinese consumers and how their shopping habits compared with the United States, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, found the 1.4 billion-strong country’s Gen Z population had a greater desire for unique products than other countries’ youth.
Chu says young Chinese consumers are after “niche” brands.
“Chinese Gen Z are open to new brands, and want to try new products. They prefer them to traditional products.
“That presents a huge opportunity in FMCG, both food and beauty products.”
A good example of this, she says, is the Pāmu deer milk.
During her visit here, Chu visited several farms including the Pāmu Eyre Creek deer farm, as well as spending time on the McIntyre’s Benio farm near Gore, where the deer milking takes place. A previous Newsroom story is here.
It was from NZ that Chu cooked with the deer milk. This was then shared through the Day Day Cook platforms, getting more than 15 million views.
“It’s new and I think it’s something Chinese consumers will be very receptive to. With its health properties, I can already imagine it being received well.
“Everyone wants natural products, so I think there is a lot of scope to experiment with it in the beauty and FMCG sectors in the Chinese market.”
She says its uniqueness also made it an easy sell to Gen Z consumers without much investment in marketing.
“Gen Z and Gen A consumers especially love a brand with a story and lucky for New Zealand there is so much story to tell.”
– Norma Chu, DayDay Cook
Pāmu has been supplying its deer milk to high-end Hong Kong restaurants, and to South Korea as an ingredient for beauty products, where it has proven popular.
Chu says it pays for Kiwi companies wanting to crack the Chinese market to have a local partner. Especially since Covid-19 has disrupted travel.
“It’s good to have a partner that understands the market to bounce ideas with, otherwise it’s very difficult to understand the market – you don’t know where to start.”
Chu says she experienced this herself working for Day Day Cook from Hong Kong, and as a result moved to Shanghai to better anticipate the fast-moving consumer habits of Chinese shoppers.
“China is an incredibly dynamic market and consumer behaviours change every six months.”
According to the McKinsey survey, young Chinese consumers’ shopping habits are shaped by the online version of word-of-mouth marketing.
Like Gen Zs around the world, Chinese digital natives rely on online reviews, social media influencers and live-streaming for opinions.
Fifty-one percent of Gen Z consumers say that official social media accounts of consumer brands are one of their top three sources of influence, while 44 percent count bloggers and online influencers among their top three sources of influence.
Chu says, exporters need to understand their consumers before they sell to them.
Another important thing for NZ businesses to remember is how reliant Chinese generally are on solid logistics infrastructure supporting their strong online shopping habits.
“Brands need to be aware of marketing and selling products to Chinese consumers in a way they’re used to.”
But ultimately, Chu reckons New Zealand brands’ general focus on traceability and sustainability of the nation’s clean green brand tick all the boxes for young environmentally-conscious Chinese shoppers.
“Gen Z and Gen A consumers especially love a brand with a story and lucky for New Zealand there is so much story to tell,” Chu says.
“On my visit to the Pāmu deer farms I was fascinated to see how well the deer are looked after and the farm-to-table journey.
“It makes for perfect branding for the Gen Z market.”
This article is part of a partner content series with Pāmu