Traditional Chinese Medicine gains influence in the West

June 8, 2017
3 min read

In Asia, traditional and alternative medicine is valued by consumers as it presents a holistic approach for health and well-being. Traditional medicine, such as Indonesian Jamu, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Indian Ayurveda, involves a wide range of practices and beliefs that are usually incorporated with plant-, animal-, and/or mineral-based remedies and treatments to maintain wellness and aid in disease prevention.

Today, western consumers are gaining more interest in Asian culture, as shown by Mintel Trend “East Meets West” which notes that Asia’s economic rise has resulted in Western businesses and consumers becoming more familiar with Asian products, culture and food.

Among the traditional remedies present in the Western market, TCM is one of the most well-known and widely used complementary medicines, which continues to provide a source of inspiration across multiple food and drink categories.

As expected, TCM products are well established in Asia, accounting for 41% of the world’s TCM product launches between April 2012 and March 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). However, the percentage of such products introduced in Europe suggests that TCM is moving into Western countries. Between April 2012 and March 2017, 36% of global TCM product launches were in Europe, and Europe’s share of TCM products increased by 93% during the same period.


TCM products in Europe
TCM ingredient-based product launches in Europe
From L to R: Organic Health Organic Turmeric Juice (Finland), The Master Lin Ginger & Reishi Shampoo (Austria), Himalyo Goji Original 100% Juice (Czech Republic), The Wei Lotus Blossom Hydrating Thirst Relief Milky Essence (UK)

TCM ingredients provide “consumption with a purpose”

In order to increase Western consumers’ interest, brands will need to clearly communicate the benefits of TCM ingredients. According to research from Mintel, the concept of “consumption with a purpose” continues to add value in nutrition, health, vitamin, and supplement product innovations. Indeed, over seven in 10 French, German, Italian, and Spanish consumers (respectively) agree that the health benefits of natural foods are preferable to the added benefits of functional foods.

Consumers are significantly more likely to want to see functionality attributes such as antioxidants, immunity, heart health and beauty benefits, in tea, according to Mintel research. This indicates that innovating and supporting products with specific functional claims may boost consumer interest and at the same time, meet consumers’ demand for options that meet their specific needs. Still, regulations in different markets may limit what claims can be made.

Producing natural functional food or drink products is the solution many manufacturers are aiming to provide to the increased need for beneficial, nutritious, and natural products among consumers. The use of functional ingredients, such as botanicals and herbs, will continue to flourish in the market and will greatly attract consumers due to their inherent health benefits and scientific evidence-based discovered functionalities.

The “consumption with a purpose” concept could be applied with the help of TCM ingredients, such as ginseng for energy boost, red dates for antioxidant, fruit honey for beauty benefits, and pu-erh tea and hericium erinaceus mushroom for digestive health.

Based in Singapore, Michelle is a Food Science and Nutrition Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in food science and ingredients, with a focus on nutrition. Prior to Mintel, most of her career was in the field of nutrition and dietetics concentrating on food service, clinical nutrition, health and wellness program management, nutrition research and marketing. She’s a licensed Nutritionist-Dietitian in the Philippines and an Accredited Nutritionist in Singapore.

Michelle Teodoro
Michelle Teodoro

Michelle is Mintel’s Global Food Science Analyst based in Singapore. She specialises in food science and ingredients, with a focus on nutrition.

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