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9th Credit Suisse Emerging Consumer Survey 2019

India maintains top ranking in overall consumer sentiment, China gives way to Brazil to come in second place

The ninth edition of Emerging Markets Consumer Survey was launched by the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) today at the 22nd Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong. 

The report analyzes the fortunes of consumers across Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, and the related growth opportunities, but also adds a focus on Thailand for the first time to broaden analysis of the Asia region. Despite a less-supportive cyclical backdrop in 2018, the survey still reveals healthy confidence among a majority of respondents looking into 2019.


The Emerging Consumer Scorecard

Our Scorecard draws the responses to questions on expectations on personal finances, inflation, making major purchase, income expectation and income history, to provide an overall assessment of the mood of the consumer. Despite a weaker tone on some metrics, India has retained its top position with strong relative readings on most metrics. While overall consumer confidence in China remains high in absolute terms, the weakening tone has seen China relinquish second place to Brazil and it now ranks third in the Scorecard. China also had the lowest income expectation figure we have ever seen in the survey this year.


Eugene Klerk, Head of Global Thematic Research commented:In recent surveys, the prospects for the Asian consumer have stood out as the brightest, and we again find India topping our sentiment scorecard supported by positive income characteristics. The most notable and positive regional development this year has been a rapid improvement in consumer sentiment in Latin America. Following a major political upheaval in Brazil and Mexico, we are seeing consumers recording the highest levels of confidence in their personal financial outlook since the start of our survey. Brazil ranks second in our scorecard, leapfrogging China, and, of the two Latin countries our analysts review, has the more secure medium-term outlook in macroeconomic terms in our view.”


Emerging country themes

There are common drivers of change that shape consumer behavior such as the increasing rate of internet and smart phone penetration. The study looks at the following factors in particular.

  1. The upswing in e-commerce in Latin America – with over 600 million inhabitants and over 360 million internet users – Latin America offers an attractive growth opportunity in our view.
  2. Changing consumer behavior of young respondents in India due to the growth of internet penetration, the sharp slowdown in large ticket purchases in India and the reversal of the flow of household saving from equities into gold.
  3. Consumer polarization in China – despite a challenging outlook pictured by the results – we expect the risk of a “collapse” in consumption to be mitigated by the stimulus packages and tax deduction plans recently announced by the government, and overall consumption growth to remain resilient in 2019. We are constructive with regard to the secular premiumization trend in lower-tier cities as well as structural growth opportunities in service-related consumption and emerging categories.
  4. The increasing focus on beauty and big-ticket purchases in Indonesia including property and car purchases.
  5. A special section on Thailand describing an inflection point in the country’s consumption patterns including moving from durables to non-durables, offline to online activities, cash-based to non-cash payments and from eat-out to dine-in options. 

India and China

With more than 2.7bn people, China and India together accounts for 1/3 of the world population. The two demographic giants of the world have a huge and growing market of consumers. While China seeks to reverse its aging population growth, the “two-child policy” may be too little too late to significantly reshape fertility trends after decades of restriction.

In contrast, India’s fertility rate remains above the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, maintaining a decent population growth. With higher fertility rates and strong population growth, India is expected to overtake China’s long held position and become the most populated country in the world in early 2020s, according to the UN population prospect.

Equally, with India’s working-age population soon to surpass China, India may have better demographics for growth. As a result, China’s aging population should spend differently than India’s large working population.


Wealth creation

  • China enrichment has also been very impressive. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, in the last 18 years, wealth per adult in China has multiplied by eleven times, (from USD 4,000 to nearly USD 50,000 today), compared to four times in India (from USD 1,826 to USD 7,024).
  • China’s aggregate wealth increased from USD 3.7trn in 2000 to USD 51.9trn in 2018, compared to India, which went from USD 1trn to USD 5.9trn in 2018.
  • To put both economies into perspective, India aggregate wealth today represents only 10% of China’s. And according to developed economies standards, a large majority of its population is still poor; with 91% of its population in the 0 to USD 10,000 wealth bracket.
  • However, due to its very large demographic advantage, India ranks 12th in the world in terms of total wealth and de facto consumption power.
  • China ranks second benefiting from good demographics and important wealth creation. In the past 18 years, 52% of the population moved to the USD 10,000-USD 100,000 wealth bracket, while 7% of the population moved to the USD 100,000-USD 1,000,000 one.
  • Similarly to developed economies, nearly 70% of wealth is held by the top 10% of earners in both China and India accumulation of wealth is not homogeneous. 

Spending outlook 

  • Final consumption is set to continue to increase in both China and India. China is the second-biggest final consumption market in the world (after the US), benefiting from both economic and demographic growth. India’s share is smaller, but its share should rise as total wealth and income increase on the back of supportive demographics.
  • China is more advanced than India when it comes to demographics, education, family composition and urbanization factors. We expect China to retain higher purchasing power than India in the next decade making it the more “discretionary” consumer.
  • Patterns of consumption are set to evolve. Although most of both Chinese and Indians’ incomes are still spent on basic necessities such as food and non-alcoholic beverages, the pro-rata allocated to it has nearly halved over the past thirty years. This mix shift should continue as wealthier consumers tend to spend a larger proportion of their income on non-essential goods such as durables and consumer services.
  • Rapid aggregate wealth accumulation should ultimately shape more sophisticated savers as well as consumers in both countries. We expect savers to diversify their asset allocation progressively towards financial assets in the years ahead.


The mood of millennials

This year, we have decided to put the spotlight on the younger emerging market consumer. The reason is that the young tend to matter more in emerging markets as they earn above-average wages compared to their peers in other regions and older consumers locally. Overall, the picture that emerges indicates a greater appetite for spending on health and convenience-related lifestyle products at the expense of spending on big-ticket discretionary items. Young consumers in Brazil have the most optimistic expectations about income and finances. On the other hand, younger consumers in China show a more muted outlook.

  • The shift to renting a more convenient lifestyle – the fact that food delivery services are gaining in popularity can be seen through the net share of consumers who have used these services more last year. Momentum among the 18–29 age bracket is stronger than for the overall population across all the markets surveyed, which in turn lends support to the notion that younger consumers have a greater appetite for a convenience-focused lifestyle. Renting also appears more popular than owning across most of the end-markets reviewed.
  • Healthier food is gaining traction – Significantly more respondents are consciously trying to eat healthier foods.  A healthier diet appears to appeal most to consumers (young and older) in China and Indonesia, and least in Turkey and Russia.
  • The millennials are working out, set to join a gym and play football More than 40% of younger consumers work out at least once per week in all countries except Turkey. Activity levels appear highest in China, Brazil and Mexico, where 40%–50% work out at least once every three days.  Football related competitions are the most popular events watched by the 18–29 age group in the countries surveyed.
  • Alcohol and cigarettes: The aspirational consumer – data on alcohol and cigarette consumption seems to challenge our prior conclusions that younger consumers increasingly lead a healthy lifestyle. However, we do wonder whether other factors may be at play. During times when the appetite to spend money on big-ticket items is declining among younger consumers, we may be witnessing a trend of aspirational brand buying at a slightly lower price point.
  • Importance of video gaming and esports cannot be underestimated. With more than two billion participants globally, gaming could be seen as the second most popular sport after football. This year’s survey supports a positive outlook for further growth in video gaming revenues with total revenues from esports expected to increase by close to 27%. There is still much potential for future growth given that epsorts advertising and media rights revenue represent just 1% of the US sports media revenue and just 1/8th of media rights paid for Premier League football in the UK.  

Credit Suisse again partnered with global market research firm Nielsen to conduct the Emerging Consumer Survey which involved over 13,200 face-to-face interviews. The data and analysis is proprietary to Credit Suisse. 

The Emerging Consumer Survey 2019 is available at: