Daisy Li
Daisy is an Associate Director with the Mintel Food & Drink team, speciliasing in the China market. She monitors and reports on the latest innovation and trends impacting the Chinese food and drink market.

Interactive engagement with consumers has become one of the most important focus areas for brands. It is a key way for them to engage and attract consumers, with an end goal of driving sales. In China, Mintel has seen how the shift to digitalisation has resulted in many food and drink industry players, following fast fashion trends to create and promote their products. 

Fashionable food and drink is being used to drive online traffic on social media. As a result, new launches are designed to go viral, and the pace of innovation has sped up.

In fact, food and drinks are being consumed for looks, experiences and to enhance social status beyond nourishment. Mintel data reveals that nearly half of Chinese consumers share product information on their social media platforms. 

A key foundation of fashion is colour, and trends change with the season. Thus we are now seeing food and drink brands launch distinctively coloured ranges in much the same way fashion brands do. This is an aspect of fashion that food and drink brands can readily embrace. 

For example, Hey Tea, a Chinese leading bubble tea drink chain store brand, has highlighted its products with colour codes, reflected in its 2020 marketing campaign showcasing its top drinks.

Think and act like a fast-fashion brand 

The embrace of fashion means brands must adopt a product strategy to shorten product life cycles with more frequent launches and high-speed innovation. Moreover, this approach relies heavily on social media to help the brands stay active and drive online traffic.

For example, Freshippo, a new retail outlet, has launched over 20,000 private label products in the past year. Differentiated from the typical private label products which are positioned for the value-for-money segment, Freshippo’s products are uniquely premium, with a high-quality, fashionable image and engaging social media marketing.

In China, especially in tier 1 and 2 cities, arts, crafts, drama and theatre are real trending attracting an increasing number of customers. For food and drink brands, aligning with the growing interest in the arts would help attract those customers. Mintel data reveals that a third of Chinese customers participate in arts and crafts activities to experience local culture. 

What we think

Fashion is a new frontier for food and drink brands and represents a new way of achieving cut-through in the increasingly competitive online world. This is particularly apparent in China’s developed social commerce retail environment. As incomes rise, consumers look to food to provide more than nourishment. In this digitalised retail and social world, the goal is to develop products attuned to the latest fashion trends. Factors such as aesthetics, novelty and/or convertibility are vital for brand relevance and driving sales.