Why US glucosamine sales are slow

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing Us

Slowing US sales of the joint health ingredient glucosamine are primarily a result of a dip in prices rather than a loss in demand, according to Euromonitor analysts.

Last week, the market researcher provided NutraIngredients-USA.com with figures revealing that US sales of glucosamine supplements have increased only 3 percent per year since 2003, whereas worldwide year-on-year sales increased 10 percent.

Moving forward, the US market will likely slow more through 2013, growing only 2 percent in the five year period, whereas the global market is expected to increase around 14 percent.

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However, according to Daniel Latev, industry manager of OTC Healthcare at Euromonitor International, the slowing sales reflect more competitive prices rather than lower volume sales.

Aggressive pricing

“What we are seeing is that there a number of factors which bring value sales down - price promotions in the two-for-one type are very popular [as are] bigger packages with more tablets inside,”​ he said.

“In the current economic climate we also expect consumers to shop around for a cheaper product, or switch to private label if they haven’t done so. In economic downturn usually consumers also change the retailers they use - in this respect direct selling companies and internet usually receive a boost. Some preliminary data that I have seen already also indicate this,”​ he told NutraIngredients-USA.com.

However, some manufacturers have turned to alternative methods in an attempt to keep prices high and avoid value competition.

These include:

· Increasing the content of active ingredient per tablet

· Developing combination products by adding supporting beneficial ingredients such as MSM or chondroitin

· Developing new formats, such as liquids or effervescent tablets

Euromonitor’s US research analyst Roman Shuster agreed that most companies in the glucosamine sector have “a quality product, leading to intensified price competition”.

Further to his review of the market – which included store visits and manufacturer interviews – he found that two-for-one sales “are especially popular” ​in glucosamine.

Maturing market

Glucosamine, which is primarily derived from shellfish, has been shown to help rebuild and repair human cartilage, and is used as a base ingredient in joint health dietary supplements. It is often used in conjunction with chondroitin, which gives cartilage elasticity.

Although the US is not the most dynamic market for the ingredient, it remains the biggest and most developed market.

The global glucosamine market was valued at $2bn in 2008. Out of that, US sales accounted for $872m. The second largest market is Japan, which recorded sales of $300m last year.

In addition, per capita spend in the US is very high, ranking fifth globally with $2.9 per capita.

“All this points to very well developed market and as such percentage growth rates will be slower,”​ said Latev. “Growth globally is coming from less developed markets where glucosamine has not been so popular historically.”

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