Special Edition: LATAM

Mexico and Brazil: A tale of two very different supplement markets


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Mexico and Brazil: A tale of two very different supplement markets

Related tags: Latin america

They have dietary supplement markets of approximately equal value and growth, but with vastly different population sizes, market dynamics, and regulatory environments. As part of our special on LATAM, we take a look at the region's two big fish.

Sales of vitamins and dietary supplements grew 9% in 2013 in both countries last year, according to Euromonitor International, with Mexico’s worth about US$1.2 billion and Brazil’s $1.4 billion.

With 323 million of the 600 million Latin Americans living in Mexico and Brazil, the countries are key strategic markets for vitamins and supplements, but while Mexico’s proximity to the US means it’s heavily influenced by its northerly neighbour, Brazil has more in common with Europe.

Guillaume Levade, sales director for Latin America at Naturex, told us recently​: “The Mexican market is very different from other Latin American markets because it’s very much influenced by the US.

“For example, you can find some big retail players like GNC in Mexico, along with big multilevel marketing companies like Herbalife.That has a big impact on how vitamins and supplements are distributed, as opposed to the traditional way of word of mouth. GNC is a good example because the retail locations in Mexico are bringing in all the innovations of the US and vitamin and supplement markets. You can see a lot of imported supplements from the US in Mexico.”


Omega-3s provide a snapshot of these differences. According to data from a new consumer survey from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED)*, supplements rival fish as the main source of omega-3s in Mexico, accounting for 25.8% and 26.6%, respectively. Functional foods are a long way behind at only 8.7%.

In Brazil, however, the main source of omega-3 is fish (52.2%), with functional foods next (39.2%), and then supplements (17.5%).

Changing this situation in Brazil may be a challenge, said Aldo Bernasconi, Director of Information and Research at GOED. “If you’re used to getting your omega-3s from one source, it’s not habitual to take supplements.”

Mexico offers more of an opportunity because, while 96% of the Mexicans surveyed said they were aware of the benefits of omega-3, only 48.1% were making an effort to consume omega3’s as fish, supplements or functional foods (compared to 69% in Brazil). “That’s a very large difference of 47.9%,”​ said Bernasconi. In addition, “more people dislike fish in Mexico than Brazil,”​ he said.

The influencers in both markets were the same: Healthcare providers, quality, and price making the top three in both countries.

While overall wellness and an interest in their family’s health were the top two reasons for taking omega-3s, in Mexico the family value was lower, and not much different from heart health and brain health, showing these messages had penetrated the consumer psyche.


The Mexican omega-3 market is, like elsewhere, dominated by anchovy, said Bernasconi. GOED data shows that the Mexican omega-3 market was about 1,275 metric Tons in 2013. “While anchovies dominate on the volume level, the price of concentrate and algae, and their higher value uses (higher priced supplements and pharma for conc., formula for algae) gives them comparatively greater participation in total value,”​ he added.

Indeed, omega-3s from anchovy were valued at about $10.5 million in 2013 for Mexico, while algae was $6.1 million and concentrates $3.5 million.

The vast majority of the oils in Mexico go into dietary supplements (1,192 mT), followed by infant formula (49 mT) and food and beverage (15 mT). This is reflected in the value of the segments with dietary supplements worth about $11.6 million, followed by infant formula at $5.4 million.

So is Mexico a shining light for exciting growth for the omega-3 industry? "One conclusion of the numbers we gathered is that our large and well established markets (EU, US, AU, Japan) are more or less flat, but the emerging markets (China, ACAP, Latin America) are seeing some healthy growth," ​said Bernasconi. 

"I would definitely agree that LATAM is an exciting market, but not sure that any particular country within the region is more exciting than the others."

*The survey included 1,000 respondents, representative of the country with respect to age, gender and overall geographic distribution.

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