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New Research Shows 90% of Chinese Consumers Surveyed Prefer Leather Alternatives Over Animal Leather

By Guest Contributor

19 Aug 2021

Business

Ultrafabrics

With nearly 20 percent of the world’s population and a fashion industry revenue expected to be 383 billion USD in 2021, or 44 percent of the global total, China offers incredible opportunities to those looking to invest in its rapidly growing markets. Not only are these markets growing quickly, but they are full of consumers that are evermore conscious of the detrimental effects of legacy materials, most notably leather. The Material Innovation Initiative (MII), a non-profit accelerating the development of next-gen materials, conducted a study in August of this year in collaboration with North Mountain Consulting Group, that shows that the scales have tipped away from animal leather and toward leather alternatives for many consumers in China, revealing a market primed for disruption.

This study was conducted to evaluate the prospects of introducing high quality bio-based leather alternatives, referred to as next-gen leather. This study was conducted with 501 chinese consumers across all generations, education levels, income levels, ethnicities, religions, and regions of residence. Seventy percent of respondents were enthusiastic about purchasing leather alternatives and explained that they sought these out because of concerns about the environment (72 percent), quality (72 percent), animal welfare (63 percent), personal expression (61 percent), and cost (56 percent). Knowing consumers’ motivations for purchasing next gen leather can help develop effective messaging. Additionally, 62 percent of these enthusiastic consumers indicated that they would pay more for leather alternatives.

Chart by North Mountain Consulting Group

“Consumers want to buy products that are in alignment with their values, and they are becoming increasingly aware that animal leather is not. Leather production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, harmful chemical pollution, and negative health impacts for workers and surrounding communities. On top of this, leather production relies on the skins of approximately 1.4 billion animals every year, a fact that many consumers find unsettling. Creating next-gen leather alternatives that outperform leather both functionally and ethically could lead to a total transformation of the leather market away from animal options,” says Nicole Rawling, co-founder and CEO of MII.

Millennials and members of Gen X in China expressed the greatest preference for and likelihood of purchasing next-gen leather (75-76 percent highly likely to purchase).

Chart by North Mountain Consulting Group

Unsurprisingly generations expressing the highest likelihood of purchasing next-gen leather, Millennials and Gen X, also had the highest preference for next-gen leather.

Chart by North Mountain Consulting Group

Consumers who preferred leather (10 percent) explained that they sought out animal leather because they believe it to be higher quality, safer, and are accustomed to using it. Some wanted to avoid alternatives because of concerns about quality.

“The study showed the highest rate of acceptance toward a new technology I have yet seen – 90 percent of the participants selected a next-gen product over conventional and 70 percent reported a high likelihood of purchasing. This study suggests there will be wide acceptance of next-gen leather in urban Chinese markets once at scale.” - Keri Szejda, Founder & Principal Research Scientist, North Mountain Consulting Group

To read the full study and find more information on methodology and participant demographics here. MII conducted a similar study with North Mountain Consulting Group on US markets. That can also be found on the same page.

Written for FashionUnited by Material Innovation Initaitive (MII). MII is a nonprofit that accelerates the development of high-performance, more sustainable materials for the fashion, automotive, and home goods industries.