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In Conversation with Haleon

From Sensodyne toothpaste to Centrum vitamins, British healthcare company Haleon has been selling into the Chinese market for decades. Here, they tell us what they've managed to achieve in the market

by Robynne Tindall
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In celebration of the 50th anniversary of UK-China ambassadorial relations, FOCUS speaks to British companies that have experienced success in the Chinese market over the last half a century

In this fifth instalment, Haleon talks to FOCUS about China’s consumer health industry and how our health as individuals can’t be separated from the future health of the planet.

launchpad CBBC

Tell us how and when Haleon entered the China market…

While Haleon is still a young company, our history in China dates back 35 years. Our products have served hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers for over three decades. With a unique purpose of delivering better everyday health with humanity, our brands are trusted by consumers and recommended by healthcare professionals. 

What major successes and growth have you had during this time?

We have established a broad product portfolio covering oral health, pain relief, respiratory health, skin health and vitamins, minerals and supplements. Over the past three decades, our category-leading brands, such as Caltrate, Centrum, Sensodyne, Polident, Contac, Fenbid, Voltaren and Bactroban, have been trusted by millions of Chinese consumers. We have three manufacturing sites in China serving both the Chinese and international markets, as well as a global R&D centre based in Suzhou.

Haleon achieved a 9% global organic revenue growth in 2022, with a healthy balance of both price and positive volume/mix. In China, our brands such as Caltrate and Voltaren continued to see strong growth with mid-to-high single-digit growth. At the same time, Haleon’s e-commerce business in China grew significantly, by 40%.

We not only pursue business success, but also strive to practice corporate social responsibility in multiple dimensions, including environmental protection and health inclusivity. Our Suzhou plant achieved carbon neutral status for the year 2021, becoming the first carbon neutral company in China’s consumer health industry. Moreover, we have launched several social responsibility programs dedicated to making every day health more inclusive, more achievable and sustainable, such as the Bone Health in China campaign launched since 2012, focusing on osteoporosis prevention and treatment.

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Haleon’s Suzhou plant

What are your thoughts and reflections on the Chinese market today?

China is one of the most important markets for Haleon. We see China evolving quickly with rising demand for quality, and combinations of new trends such as e-commerce, sustainability, diversity and demographic changes that will provide multinational companies with tremendous space for further development. 

We recognise that to run business well, we need to understand the local market well. For example, compared with other markets, China has some unique consumer behaviours; omni channel shoppers and new and emerging social commerce platforms are growing extremely rapidly, for example. Digital health and technology are also demonstrating increasingly strong growth.

How has CBBC supported you during this time?

Since its establishment, CBBC has positioned itself on the centre stage of UK-China bilateral trade and investment. It strives to shape a more favourable environment for British companies doing business in China, including Haleon. 

CBBC’s close links to the UK and Chinese governments at each level, as well as its track-record of facilitating constructive engagements with influential stakeholders, have benefitted its member companies. 

In addition, CBBC also takes advantage of its expertise and insights to provide services to us vis-à-vis market advice, policy analysis, access advocacy from their unique perspectives. In a nutshell, Haleon has benefited from CBBC’s service in supporting our commercial success here in China. 

What are your ambitions and plans for the future in China? 

China is one of the most important markets for Haleon, and our consumer health business has been deeply rooted in the Chinese market for decades. 

Moving forward, we will continue to leverage our strengths of trusted science, deep human understanding and digitalisation to drive innovation and embrace the Chinese market based on China’s local needs and better empower Chinese consumers’ everyday health.

Haleon recognises that our own health and the health of our planet are inextricably connected and therefore has made a commitment to sustainability by reducing carbon emissions, making our packaging more sustainable and circular, sourcing, using and disposing of our ingredients responsibly, and reducing water and waste usage in manufacturing. We aim to reduce our net Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 100% and our Scope 3 carbon emissions from source to sale by 42% by 2030; and will develop solutions for all product packaging to be recycle-ready by 2025.

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What do you think China will look like in another 50 years?

We are very excited and confident about the future of the Chinese market. From our perspective, as the Chinese market opens up to further high levels, Chinese consumers’ demands for everyday health will increase, becoming more sophisticated and diversified.

In addition, with the achievement of the Healthy China 2030 and Double Carbon goals, China is poised for great success in improving healthcare accessibility and green transformation in the near future.

Haleon looks forward to continuing to contribute to the development of China over the next 50 years. We will also leverage Haleon’s unique strengths to play a key role in the fast-growing field of consumer health and better serve the daily health of the Chinese people.

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