A new survey shows that 90% of Chinese consumers prefer leather alternatives to animal leather

selective-focus of photography of assorted color of leather

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. These markets are growing rapidly, and they have a lot of consumers who are becoming more aware of the harmful effects of leather. In August, the Material Innovation Initiative (MII), an organization that accelerates the development of next-generation materials, did a study with North Mountain Consulting Group. It found that many Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives to leather. This is a market that is poised for disruption.

selective-focus of photography of assorted color of leather

This study was conducted to evaluate the prospects of introducing high quality bio-based leather alternatives, referred to as next-gen leather. The study involved 501 Chinese consumers from all walks of life, including those with different education levels, income levels, ethnicities and religions. Seventy percent said they were excited about buying leather alternatives. They explained that they did so because they had concerns about the environment (72%), quality (72%), animal welfare (63%), personal expression (61%), and cost (56%). Effective messaging can be developed by understanding the motivations of consumers to purchase next-generation leather. These enthusiastic consumers also indicated that 62 percent would spend more on leather alternatives.

The leather industry contributes to harmful chemical pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It also has negative health effects for workers and the communities around it. Many consumers find this disturbing, as leather production is dependent on the skins and hairs of around 1.4 billion animals each year. Nicole Rawling, CEO and co-founder of MII, says that next-generation leather alternatives could be created that are more ethical and functional than leather.

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). Because of quality concerns, some people wanted to avoid alternative leathers.

brown leather pad

“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 indicates that next-gen leather will soon be accepted in urban Chinese markets, once it is scaled up.” Keri Szejda Founder & Principal Research scientist, North Mountain Consulting Group

MII* conducted a similar study with North Mountain Consulting Group on US markets. This study can be found on the same webpage.

*MII is an organization that promotes the development and use of sustainable, high-performance materials in the fashion, automotive, home goods, and other industries.