By Choi Kyong-ae
Korean companies are set to gain from lingering fears among parents in China about the safety of local baby-product manufacturers as people there gain more exposure to online shopping.
"As four out of 10 internet users in China click to buy products, there is huge growth potential for online shopping mall operators," Bae Seo-eun, assistant manager of the China Business Department of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), said in a telephone interview.
China's internet penetration rate stood at only 42 percent as of last year, according to KOTRA.
As of the end of December, a total of 242 million customers shopped online in the world's most populous country with a population of 1.3 billion, KOTRA said in a report.
Korean companies sell baby products such as milk powder or infant formula, breast milk storage bags, functional baby carriers and laundry soap tailored for baby clothes at Taobao, China's biggest online shopping mall, Bae said.
She said that among the Korean products, B&B's laundry soap sells about 10,000 per month at the Taobao's online shop.
Foreign brands have been in high demand following an infamous food scandal involving local milk producer China Mengniu Dairy in 2008. At the time, the industrial chemical melamine was added to infant formula, killing six infants and making 300,000 others ill.
When it comes to shopping on mobile phones, the number of mobile shoppers soared by 137 percent to 55.44 million in 2012 from a year earlier, KOTRA said.
"What is also boosting sales of foreign brands in the Asia's fastest-growing economy is the one-child rule," said Bae. China's one child policy was introduced by Chinese leader Deng Xiaping in 1979 to limit the country's explosive population growth.
Chinese parents seem to have a good reason to prefer milk powder produced in New Zealand and other safety-guaranteed countries, including Korea, as most of them have only one child, boy or girl.
"Korean companies have benefitted from the trend since 2008 and they need to place quality products at competitive prices in China to prosper as western brands offers high-end products at higher prices," Bae said.
KOTRA estimated that China's online shopping market will grow to 3 trillion yuan ($490 billion) in 2016, jumping from 1.304 trillion yuan in 2012.