Too true, though my experience and observations are with respect to the Chinese rather than Asians generally. In the past eight years that I have regularly spent time in China I can attest to a visible change in the physique of the average young Chinese male. To a lesser extent this also applies to the females.
In a nutshell, I observe an increasing proportion of young men who are heavy - I wouldn’t go so far as to use the term “fat”, but more men who are visibly bigger in the waist line are evident than when I first visited China about eight years ago.
I speculate (I have no quantifiable evidence) that American influence and business plays a large role in this. My impression is that the Chinese do not envy America, in fact they admire much of what the see of America (and Europe) via movies, TV, the internet, magazines and other print media. To a large extent they want to emulate the American/Western life-style. They most certainly have adopted (and adapted) a lot of Western fashion.
People in the West generally walk or ride bicycles for recreation or exercise, but not for commuting and running errands. We use cars for those activities. There has been a veritable explosion of motorized vehicles in China. Electric and gas powered motorcycles clog the streets and sidewalks (that’s right, no problem with driving you motorcycle on the sidewalk, and it’s the appropriate place to park your motorcycle). But cars are also everywhere, many, maybe the majority, are expensive European cars. Net result is people here get a whole lot less physical activity than they did just a few years ago.
The other culprit is Yum Brands, McDonalds, Starbucks and a few other American restaurant chains. High calorie, low nutrition KFC outlets are extremely popular. McDonalds are also everywhere, and suffer a drop off in business only after a food quality scare which occurs with some regularity (McDonalds always quickly deflects the problem onto some Chinese supplier rather than their business practices of always driving for lowest possible input costs, a business imperative, food quality, not so much). With the exception of the potato, not a vegetable to be sold in these stores (OK, maybe a bit of lettuce, onion and tomato on the more expensive burgers). Anything that came out of the water, has been subsequently dipped in batter and deep fried. Also, be sure to throw Coke and other high sugar drinks into the mix. The Chinese diet is becoming westernized in the worst possible way.
Undeniably, the Chinese are gaining weight.
This coupled with an obsession for beauty and fashion should be great for a business like Zeltiq Aesthetics. It’s Western. It’s high tech (another western penchant with high adoption in China), it holds the promise of making you more beautiful, a rapidly expanding middle-class with more disposable income - what could go wrong? And I note that ZLTQ is up more than 8.5% as of Monday’s close, just after I made a decision to not expand my position.
One thing that has not changed in China is the perception of value. Apple’s iPhone is the most desired phone because it offers high functionality and ownership cachet. It is considered a good value even at a premium price. Zeltiq’s cool-sculpting at an average treatment cost of $1,500 (US) - I’m not so sure. Dissatisfaction expressed on Weibo (Chinese Twitter-like platform) could kill this business in China very quickly. I’m not confident that the Chinese (and possibly other Asians) will perceive value with this procedure. If they find it over-priced, or simply fails to deliver as advertised, it’s dead on (or shortly after) arrival.