Local food giant Sanitarium is gearing up for a major push into China after an appearance by Weet-Bix on a Chinese TV drama sparked a surge in demand for the Kiwi favourite.

Weet-Bix has been available in Asia's biggest economy for eight years, but the company said sales spiked after the cereal featured on Ode to Joy, one of the country's most popular soaps.

"The appearance on Chinese TV helped push the rate of sales growth for the past financial year to over 50 per cent in that market," said international marketing manager Mark Roper.

He said that from next month Weet-Bix would be marketed in China under Sanitarium's international brand, Nutri-Brex, which would be sold through 1500 retailers across the world's most populous nation.


That move was part of a realignment of trademarks in key markets while also complying with new trademark restrictions coming into place, the company said.

The China launch would include a digital marketing campaign featuring Chinese actress Alyssa Chia.

"Increasing numbers of younger, health conscious Chinese are turning to Western style breakfast cereals which are seen as more convenient and healthier alternatives to traditional options," Roper said.

He said Chinese consumers tended to eat Weet-Bix topped with hot milk.

Sanitarium recently opened an office in Shanghai.

"We already have a well-established ecommerce presence in China which is important for maintaining the brand's profile and availability," Roper said.