China’s Booming Weight Management Market: Outlook and Trends

Posted by Written by Giulia Interesse Reading Time: 8 minutes

China’s weight management market is booming, driven by health consciousness and rising incomes, with major and emerging players leveraging innovative strategies to meet diverse consumer needs despite regulatory and competitive challenges.

China’s weight management market has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade, driven by a surge in health consciousness and evolving dietary habits. As more Chinese consumers prioritize their well-being, the demand for weight loss products and services, ranging from supplements and exercise equipment to diet foods and online programs, has soared. This burgeoning market is now a vital component of China’s health and wellness industry.

In this article, we delve into the key trends shaping China’s weight management market, explore the strategies of major and emerging players, and examine the driving factors behind this growth.

Market overview

China’s obesity rate has been rising rapidly in recent years. According to the Chinese BMI classification for overweight and obesity, 34.8 percent of the study population were overweight and 14.1 percent were obese in 2023.

The shift towards a higher-fat, less-healthy diet, characterized by increased consumption of meat, oil, sugar, and processed foods, has contributed significantly to this public health challenge.

Thus, addressing obesity through improved dietary habits and increased physical activity is crucial to mitigate associated health risks and focus on weight management.

In 2023, the value of China’s weight management market reached approximately RMB 618.54 billion (US$792.43), marking a 14.4 percent increase from RMB 540.46 billion (US$74.33 billion) in 2022.

This expansion is projected to continue, with the market anticipated to add more than US$9 billion from 2024 to 2029, according to a report by Bonafide Research.

Driving factors of market growth

The weight management market in China has been on an upward trajectory due to several factors. Rising disposable incomes have empowered consumers to spend more on health and wellness products. The prevalence of sedentary lifestyles, largely driven by urbanization, has also contributed to the increasing demand for weight management solutions.

The surge in health consciousness among Chinese consumers has been a major driver of the weight management market. As awareness about the adverse effects of obesity and unhealthy habits grows, more individuals are seeking effective ways to manage their weight. Changing dietary habits, influenced by urban lifestyles and Western diets, have also led to a greater demand for weight management products. The rise in fast food consumption and high-fat, high-sugar diets has prompted consumers to look for healthier alternatives and weight management solutions.

Market segmentation and products trends

The weight management market in China offers a diverse array of products and services to meet the evolving needs of consumers. Key macro-categories include:

  • Supplements: These include dietary supplements, health supplements, vitamins, herbal supplements, and sports nutrition products that support weight loss and overall health.
  • Exercise equipment: With the growing popularity of health and wellness clubs, fitness apps, and home workout solutions, demand for fitness and exercise equipment has surged.
  • Diet food and drinks: Products with reduced calories, fat, sugar, or salt content, such as meal replacement shakes and protein bars, are gaining popularity among health-conscious consumers.
  • Gyms and other exercise facilities: Gyms play a pivotal role in the weight management industry by providing structured environments where individuals can engage in regular physical activity, a key component in maintaining a healthy weight. As a sub-sector of the broader fitness and wellness market, gyms offer a variety of exercise options, including cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and group fitness classes, all designed to help individuals burn calories, build muscle, and improve overall fitness levels.
  • Online programs: The convenience and accessibility of online weight management programs have made them a popular choice for tech-savvy individuals seeking flexible and effective weight loss solutions.

Major players and strategies

The weight management market in China is increasingly saturated, with a wide array of products and services competing for consumer attention. This crowded marketplace poses significant challenges for companies aiming to capture market share. Established brands have a strong and loyal customer base, creating formidable barriers for new entrants.

To succeed, businesses must develop innovative marketing strategies that resonate with their target audience. Differentiating through unique value propositions is essential. This could involve leveraging advanced technology, offering personalized services, or creating engaging and culturally relevant content tailored to Chinese consumers. Building brand recognition and trust is crucial for new players to gain traction and compete effectively in this dynamic market.

Key Chinese players include:

  • By-Health Co., Ltd: This company provides a variety of products, including protein powders, fat burners, and detox supplements. By-Health leverages extensive research and development to create products that cater to health-conscious consumers looking for effective weight management solutions.
  • Herbalife: Known for its personalized meal replacement products, Herbalife focuses on tailored nutrition plans. Their approach includes offering shakes, teas, and supplements designed to fit individual health goals and dietary needs. Herbalife’s strong emphasis on personal coaching and community support has helped it establish a significant presence in China.
  • Perfect (China) Co., Ltd: Perfect China stands out with its strong online presence and a diverse range of dietary supplements. The company utilizes e-commerce platforms to reach a wider audience, capitalizing on the growing trend of online shopping in China.

Meanwhile, international brands have also gained a considerable portion of the market, by diversifying their product offerings, such as:

  • Nestlé (Optifast): Nestlé’s Optifast brand offers a range of meal replacement shakes, bars, and soups. These products are designed for individuals seeking medical weight loss solutions under professional supervision. Optifast’s clinical backing and reputation for safety and efficacy have made it a trusted choice among consumers.
  • Sam’s Club: As a major retailer, Sam’s Club offers competitive pricing on imported brands. Their strategy focuses on providing high-quality international products at accessible prices, attracting a broad consumer base seeking reliable weight management options.
  • Weight Watchers (WW International Inc.): Weight Watchers has transitioned to a primarily digital platform, offering subscription-based services that include personalized meal plans, fitness tracking, and community support. This digital strategy aligns with the increasing demand for convenient, at-home weight management solutions.
  • Slimming World: This company offers group support meetings facilitated by Mandarin-speaking consultants. Slimming World’s approach combines community support with tailored weight management plans, making it appealing to consumers looking for a more interactive and supportive weight loss journey.

Emerging players and innovations

The market is also seeing a wave of new entrants who are leveraging technology and data analytics to introduce innovative solutions. For instance, digital health platforms are becoming increasingly popular, providing users with tailored meal plans, fitness routines, and progress tracking through mobile apps.

WeDoctor is a notable example of an emerging player making waves in the weight management market. As a digital healthcare service provider, WeDoctor offers personalized meal plans based on individual health data. Their platform integrates telemedicine, allowing users to consult with healthcare professionals and receive customized dietary recommendations. This approach not only enhances user experience but also ensures that weight management plans are tailored to individual health needs.

Consumer behavior and preferences

Consumer behavior and preferences in China’s weight management market are significantly shaped by social media trends, celebrity beauty standards, and a growing emphasis on health consciousness and sustainability.

Factors influencing purchase decisions

Several factors influence Chinese consumers’ decisions and preferences when purchasing weight management products and services:

  • Health consciousness: Increasing awareness of health issues drives consumers to seek products that help achieve fitness goals. The rise in chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes has heightened the focus on health and fitness, prompting consumers to invest in weight management solutions.
  • Environmental and safety concerns: Growing concerns about the environmental impact and safety of products have led to a preference for organic, eco-friendly options. Consumers are becoming more cautious about the ingredients and production processes of the products they consume, favoring those that align with sustainable practices.
  • Socio-demographic profiles: Age, gender, income, education, and geographic location significantly shape consumer preferences. For instance, younger consumers may prioritize trendy, quick-fix solutions promoted by influencers, while older demographics might focus on long-term health benefits and proven efficacy.
  • Personal factors: Beliefs, values, attitudes, and lifestyle choices play a crucial role in purchasing decisions. Personal motivations, such as the desire to improve self-esteem or adhere to cultural beauty standards, heavily influence consumer behavior in the weight management market.
  • Marketing factors: Effective advertising, appealing packaging, strong branding, and a robust social media presence are crucial in swaying consumer choices. Companies that leverage targeted marketing campaigns and influencer endorsements often see higher engagement and sales.
  • Situational and environmental factors: The context of purchasing decisions—whether at home, in-store, or online—affects consumer behavior. The convenience of online shopping and the availability of detailed product information and reviews online have shifted consumer preferences towards e-commerce platforms for purchasing weight management products.

Shifts in consumer behavior: Sustainability and online shopping

Sustainability is increasingly important to Chinese consumers, especially among those aged 18-34, who are willing to pay more for sustainable products. This trend is shaping the weight management market as consumers seek environmentally friendly options.

Meanwhile, the rise of online shopping has also transformed the market, offering convenience and a wide range of choices. E-commerce platforms make it easier for consumers to find products that meet their specific needs, further driving the growth of China’s weight management market.

Increased popularity of weight management drugs: The case of Ozempic

On January 26, 2024, China’s National Medical Products Administration approved Novo Nordisk’s Rybelsus treatment for Type-2 diabetes, making it the first orally administered GLP-1 receptor agonist drug available in China. The active ingredient, semaglutide, is also used in the injectable drugs Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss.

The success of these drugs has spurred rapid growth in China’s weight management market, which is projected to reach RMB 14.9 billion (US$2.1 billion) by 2030, with 33.9 percent of the population reported as overweight in 2023.

Ozempic has become particularly popular in China, with sales nearly doubling in 2023 to almost US$700 million. This growth is largely driven by the promotion of semaglutide by influencers on Chinese social media, where it is known as the “internet celebrity weight-loss drug.” The high demand reflects the significant issue of obesity in China, which has the largest number of overweight or obese people globally.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are racing to meet this demand. Novo Nordisk is seeking to expand the use of Ozempic in China and expects its weight-loss drug Wegovy to be approved for sale this year. Eli Lilly also received approval in May 2024 for its Ozempic rival, Tirzepatide. Additionally, Chinese companies like Hangzhou Jiuyuan Gene Engineering are working on their own versions of these drugs.

Despite these efforts, demand still outstrips supply. Prices for Ozempic on platforms like Taobao have risen sharply, sometimes reaching RMB 1,000 (US$138), double the hospital price. This high demand has also led to a rise in counterfeit semaglutide products.

Chinese authorities are stepping up regulation to address these issues. In February 2023, they removed thousands of social media posts about weight-loss experiences with Ozempic. Police investigations into unregulated semaglutide products have resulted in arrests and convictions. As new drugs are approved, further state intervention is expected.

Government support and industry policies

China’s fitness and weight management industry has seen substantial growth since the 1980s, evolving from the initial introduction of modern weight loss concepts to a widely embraced fitness culture. This transformation has been significantly driven by proactive government policies aimed at promoting national health and fitness.

In 2022, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council released the Outline of the Strategic Plan for Expanding Domestic Demand (2022-2035), which emphasized the need to implement a national fitness strategy, including the construction of a national trail system and the development of sports parks. It also promotes the growth of new sectors such as online fitness and virtual competitions, while encouraging public participation in winter sports.

In 2023, the National Development and Reform Commission, along with other government departments, introduced the Action Plan for Promoting the Construction and Service Improvement of Outdoor Sports Facilities (2023-2025). This plan focuses specifically on integrating facility construction, service enhancement, and industrial development to deepen the national fitness strategy and increase the supply of high-quality outdoor sports.

More recently, in June 2024, the Chinese government launched a three-year campaign to enhance public weight management. This campaign includes measures to create a supportive environment for weight management, improve public awareness and techniques, and promote healthy lifestyles. Key efforts involve encouraging employers to provide fitness infrastructure, promoting healthy canteens and restaurants, reducing high-salt, high-sugar, and high-fat foods on campuses, and ensuring students engage in daily physical activity.

Key takeaways

The weight management industry in China is undergoing a transformative phase, fueled by increased health awareness, changing dietary habits, and rising disposable incomes. This growth is reflected in the proliferation of products and services tailored to meet the diverse needs of health-conscious consumers. Major players like Herbalife, Nestlé, and Slimming World, along with emerging companies leveraging innovative technologies, are driving the market forward.

However, this rapid expansion comes with its own set of challenges. Regulatory hurdles, pricing pressures, and fierce competition from both domestic and international companies create a complex environment for businesses. Navigating these challenges requires a strategic approach that balances compliance, affordability, and innovation.

Opportunities abound in the form of new technologies and potential collaborations. Sensing and intervening devices, smart clothing, and digital healthcare services are reshaping how consumers approach weight management. Partnerships with innovative companies can enhance product offerings and expand market reach, providing a significant competitive advantage.

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