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Foreign brands losing ground to Chinese firms

Publication Date : 02-07-2014

 

Amid a sluggish consumer goods market in China, foreign brands are facing pressure, with six out of 10 losing market share to their domestic rivals last year, an industry survey has found.

China's market for soft drinks, packaged foods, personal care products and other consumer staples has contracted by two-thirds since 2011, according to China Shopper Report 2014, the third annual study jointly conducted by Bain & Co and Kantar Worldpanel.

Market growth for non-durable consumer goods slowed to 4.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2014, down from 10 per cent growth in 2012 and 15 per cent three years ago. The rate of decline was consistent across all cities regardless of size.

Volume growth was mostly stable as price increases declined, in large part due to fewer new premium products entering the market.

Growth in annual spending per household dropped from 9 per cent in 2012 to 4.6 per cent last year, while the number of urban households grew by 2.6 per cent per year, contributing to volume growth.

The survey, released on Tuesday in Beijing, projects continued single-digit market growth this year, a significant drop from previous years, as a result of lower growth in disposable income and annual spending per household.

The study surveyed 40,000 Chinese households and analyzed 106 product categories covering personal care, home care, beverages and packaged goods, which account for 80 per cent of the country's non-durable consumer goods market.

Foreign brands overall lost share across 26 categories. Some saw marginal share gain, but the overall scorecard was negative, with 60 per cent of foreign brands losing share, the survey said.

For example, in the carbonated soft drinks category, foreign brands saw a 6.3 per cent share loss, while domestic brand Wahaha increased market share by 3.8 per cent through product innovation and large scale marketing, according to Kantar.

However, foreign brands achieved marginal share gain in some categories, including hair conditioner and cookies.

A key reason for the growth deceleration was that premiumization (the move toward luxury products) slowed noticeably over the past year, said Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China.

"With premiumization, retailers were unable to easily push through the price increases that helped drive growth in previous years," Yu said.

Bruno Lannes, a partner at Bain's Shanghai office who leads the firm's consumer products and retail practice division in China, said: "Market implications for both foreign and domestic consumer goods companies in China are clear and direct: Growth must come from share gain, and share gain comes from penetration gain.

"Building penetration means treating each consumer as a new consumer and recruiting them at each purchase occasion," he said.

To increase market share and penetration for both domestic and foreign brands, Lannes said that "it is vital to create mental and physical availability of their products in stores through enhancing consumers' memory structure and streamlining selective innovations of products to avoid confusing consumers".

He also suggested that companies enhance store activation as shoppers need to be confronted by the brand to trigger purchasing decisions.

Speaking on the outlook for foreign brands in China, Lannes said that 40 per cent of foreign brands still gained share in the market last year.

"Results from this year show volatility and the challenges of maintaining consistent share-gain strategy in China," he said. "This year, more foreign brands are losing share. But next year, it might be the other way around.

"It is true that the market is more complicated," he said.

 

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