New Zealand's obsession with all things black is putting Kiwi-made products on the backfoot in China, a China expert says.
A survey by New Zealand-Chinese company the Magic Group found health and skincare products manufactured in New Zealand are the preferred choice in China.
But packaging of many of our products - including the widespread use of black - could be putting off many potential consumers.
The online survey of 1100 consumers and distributors in China ranked packaging as more important than price, ingredients, branding and behind only to reputation.
"People in China are becoming richer and they are paying a lot of attention not just on quality but packaging as well," said Massey University Associate Professor Henry Chung, a China marketing specialist.
Three in 10, or 30.5 per cent, preferred New Zealand and Australian-made products to Japan and Korea (24.7 per cent) and the United States and Europe (22.34 per cent).
But the Magic Group, which also exports and distributes products to China, said consumers there were put off by product packaging that's predominantly black.
"Black is not associated with healthy or health products but sadness and mourning; another death colour is pure white."
Chung said Kiwi companies should do research before they entered the China market.
"I would strongly urge them to adopt a brighter or more sunny colour, like red, which symbolises happiness and health," he added.
Magic Group director Kai Du said the "Chinese aesthetic view" was different to Kiwis'.
"New Zealanders feel noble when black is matched with gold but Chinese consumers feel black is not clean and auspicious," Du said.
"For colour of health, they are more inclined to choose white, green, pink and other light colours or a neutral colour like red."
Du said respondents making a product choice for the first time placed packaging as even more important the contents.
"If the product does not have the right packaging, it will not be even looked at or compared with the others," he said.
China and Hong Kong are key markets for beauty, health and natural products from New Zealand.
When asked what best describes themselves, nearly 42.8 per cent of the respondents said: "I love beautiful stuff and prefer to choose products with stunning packaging."
Just 6.4 per cent said they were brand conscious and would continue to choose their favourite brand.
Savar director Vicky Woolford, whose brand is distributed by the Magic Group in China, defended the use of black in her product packaging.
"In modern China, black is used in daily clothing," Woolford said.
"Black, corresponding to water, is a neutral colour. Ancient Chinese regarded black as the king of colours and honoured black more consistently than any other colour."
Woolford said Chanel, a luxury brand, also packaged many products in black.
"We are a fast-growing ultra-premium natural New Zealand brand and continually receive excellent reviews of our products on important Chinese social media channels such as Little Red Book and WeChat," she added.