18 Aug 2017
Safety Eclipses All Other Concerns at Shanghai Mother and Baby Show
This year's Children Baby Maternity Expo saw a wide range of safety concerns topping the agenda of exhibitors and buyers alike, with this applying equally to food, fashion, bath mats, virtual reality study aids and transport accessories.
With 2,366 exhibitors in attendance at last year's event, Shanghai's Children Baby Maternity Expo (CBME) is now firmly established as one of the world's largest sourcing events for products aimed at expectant mothers and young children. For 2017, with the show settling into its second year at the National Exhibition and Convention Center, the focus was very much on product safety.
Since 2008, the year the melamine milk formula scandal rocked China, demand for imported milk powder has surged across the mainland. This year, in a sure sign that a question mark still hangs over domestically produced formula, a whole hall was given over to European, US and Australian producers, along with a number of Chinese companies that claim to source solely overseas.
One such company was Sunlife, a Chinese-owned business operating out of New Zealand and primarily exporting to the mainland. Initially, the company specialised in colostrum, a form of breast milk produced during and immediately after pregnancy, but has since branched out into more conventional milk powder and lactoferrin, a fortified variant.
Explaining the company's change of focus, Sales Representative Andy Yang said: "Following a change in the regulations on the part of the government, the mainland colostrum market collapsed. That was when we decided to move into lactoferrin.
"As a product, it's suitable for use by anyone over six months old rather than just babies. It has particular benefits for young children, pregnant women and the elderly – anyone with a weak immune system, basically."
Among the many Australian firms exhibiting at the event was the Hansway Group, a Victoria-based manufacturer of organic health, beauty and lifestyle products. Participating under the umbrella of the Australian pavilion, the company was particularly keen to promote its Native Bliss and Kids Bliss brands, ranges of naturally sourced cosmetics and cleansers targeted at mothers and young children.
Expanding upon the company's philosophy, Founder Wenge Hu said: "When we started the business three years ago in Australia, I really wanted to share the best of the country's natural assets, while using only the purest and best ingredients. Where possible, everything we use is organic and all-natural, with many of our products containing extracts from plants unique to Australia."
To date, the company's products have primarily been distributed domestically, with its entry to the Chinese market a relatively recent development. In particular, Hu has high hopes that one of the company's newer products – Kids Bliss – will do well on the mainland.
Explaining the reason for his optimism, he said: "The Chinese are very open to good-quality products from abroad and, at the same time, they want only the very best products for their children and are willing to pay for them. Our hand sanitiser, the latest addition to our Kids Bliss range, ticks all of these boxes and launches in China this summer."
Another newcomer to the mainland market was Clovis Australia, the Adelaide-based company behind the Lisa & Damien brand of children's clothing. The company was launched by Mei Lim, now a Director of the business, who had previously spent 20 years in Australia working as an economics lecturer.
Explaining what inspired her to move into the young-fashion sector, she said: "After my daughter turned one, I couldn't find any high-quality clothing for her in Australia. There really was nothing that was classy, elegant and unique. When I searched online, though, it was a different story. In Europe, particularly in the UK, they are much more aware of children's fashion needs."
Seeing a potential gap in the market, Lin set about launching her own brand, one that specialised in producing children's clothes from high-quality materials. As a result, Clovis prioritises the use of organic fibre, believing it breathes and feels better than organic cotton, while also having a better drape. At present, the brand largely sells online, but also has a dedicated outlet in Guangzhou. In 2015, its range won a major UK design award.
Outlining the company's mainland ambitions, Lin said: "We feel we are going to be very big in China. Many of the country's middle- to upper-class consumers want something of real quality for their children, while also valuing items that are a little bit different."
Looking more at the show's overall safety theme, a number of exhibitors offered specialist car seats for children. Hoping to take a lead here was Cozy N Safe, a UK-based manufacturer of car seats and strollers. Already a significant player in its home market and across Europe, its range is stocked by a number of leading retailers, including Tesco, Asda, Toys 'R' Us, Mothercare and Carrefour.
Outlining the company's reasons for moving into the mainland and the wider Southeast Asian market, Sales Executive Yolanda Hu said: "While, not so long ago, there were no safety regulations relating to child-seat use in China, that has all changed. In Shenzhen, for instance, children of up to four years old must be in a child car seat. It now looks likely that similar requirements will be introduced elsewhere in China.
"This is great news for us as all of our products already comply with the stringent safety regulations that apply within the European market. As a result, we expect our product range should do well here, especially our new Arthur model, a car seat suitable for babies, 12-year-olds and everything in between."
Another company keen to emphasise the safety of its products was Besafe, a Norwegian specialist manufacturer of car seats for children. This year, the company made the 16,000km round trip to Shanghai to promote its new iZi Modular i-Size model, a follow-on seat for children who have outgrown their original baby chair. Manufactured in compliance with ISOFIX, the international standard for child safety seats, the new model is suitable for children up to four-years-old, while its rear-facing design is said to be five-times safer than forward-facing equivalents.
Outlining the benefits of the new seat, Product Manager Frank Lilleheil said: "It features both a plastic shell and a reinforced soft shell comprising energy-absorbent material. The headrest and belts are both easy to adjust, making it relatively straightforward to get a child in and out. As with all of our products, it was certified by ADAC, the German automobile association renowned for the rigour of its testing procedures."
Staying with imported products, albeit from a little closer to home, Seoul-based JWorld Industry had on offer its Alzip range of branded baby mats. Unlike the majority of mats available on the mainland market, the foam used in the Alzip range has an unusual egg-shaped structure, an innovation said to improve the absorption of both sound and shocks. The company also guarantees that only non-toxic, eco-friendly materials are used in the manufacture of its products.
Adding her own spin to the product's benefits, Anne Kim, an Assistant Manager with the company's overseas marketing team, said: "As an additional selling point, our new mats are also easy to both clean and fold. Overall, while Korea remains our primary market, we now see China as our number-one export destination."
One local company taking a similarly innovative approach was Hangzhou-based Eye Care, a pioneer in the use of Virtual Reality (VR) to combat the problem of eye strain, a common complaint among children subject to gruelling study regimes. In order to use the system, it simply has to be connected to a smartphone, then children can undertake a series of remedial eye exercises by following the movement of objects around a screen.
Advising how to get the best out of the system, Tang Xiao, the company's Office Manager, said: "Ideally, children should use it at least three times a day, with each session lasting around 10 minutes."
Finally, for those in search of something suitable for entertaining slightly older children, Globber, a French scooter manufacturer, may well have the answer. Launched four years ago and now running a regional headquarters in Hong Kong, the company's breakthrough came with its evolving Evo five-in-one series, a range of scooters that could be adapted for use as a child grows up.
This year, it was in Shanghai to promote its latest innovation – the One NL folding scooter, a model aimed squarely at the teen/adult market. Summarising the appeal of this latest addition to the Globber range, company Founder Pascal Comte said: "Unlike many other apparently compactible models, this one can genuinely be folded away in just one second. It's all just a matter of lifting the handle. Of course, we haven't compromised on safety either, with each scooter coming with a prominent reflective strip as standard."
CBME China 2017 was held from 19-21 July at the National Exhibition and Convention Center Shanghai.
Chen Rong, Special Correspondent, Shanghai