Don't get too comfortable: Australian supplement firms urged not to rest on laurels amid Asia sales success

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

More than 70 new ingredients were approved by Aussie regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last year. ©iStock
More than 70 new ingredients were approved by Aussie regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last year. ©iStock
Australia's supplement suppliers and manufacturers have been told not to fall into the complacency trap after enjoying several years of rapidly growing sales in Asia, especially China.

These warnings were sounded by Lipa Pharmaceuticals CEO Dusko Pejnovic and Blackmores director of innovation Paul Mannion.

They were speaking at the recent Complementary Medicines Australia's (CMA) Innovation Summit in Sydney.

Mannion said: "We are in a really interesting place because we are enjoying a groundswell of demand and support both in Australia and Asia.

"However, we have big pharma on one side and big food on the other, and I think they are both looking to move towards us. It's really important we continue to innovate, get closer to consumers, and meet their needs."

Pejnovi, who is also the CMA president, echoed the importance of innovation, arguing that consumers' demands and needs could change very quickly.

"There is a danger we are becoming a little too comfortable," ​he said.

"China and the rest of Asia has provided us with such massive opportunities that we could become complacent. We have become very comfortable selling vitamins, magnesium, calcium, fish oil and so on. The margins might be low, but we are shipping billions.

"The problem is that we can't always rely on this. Consumers, especially millennials, change very quickly, and the Chinese culture is very similar. We need to dream, invent and innovate and learn from each other to stay ahead."

State of the industry

Last week, we revealed that daigou​ shoppers were believed to have accounted for $800m of 'unofficial' supplement exports​ from Australia to China in the past year, dwarfing the $320m figure for official exports.

Daigou​ shoppers are 'personal shoppers' who buy products overseas to ship back to China to sell, usually via e-commerce.

The numbers were reported by CMA in its 2018 industry audit. The trade body has valued the overall industry value to be worth $4.9bn, up from $4.2bn in 2017 — daigou​ shoppers alone are responsible for around 17% of this value.

CMA will officially launch the audit findings in Shanghai next month, but NutraIngredients-Asia ​has been given a sneak preview. The findings show that the industry has enjoyed $2bn growth over the past five years.

Vitamins and dietary supplements remain the largest category, accounting for $2.77bn, with sports nutrition now exceeding $1bn, herbal and traditional products responsible for $690m, and weight loss products accounting for $430m.

When it comes to the fastest growing ingredients, probiotics top the list at 10.2%, followed by propolis at 9.6%, calcium at 9.1%, chlorophyll at 7.4% and cranberry at 6.9%.

Furthermore, last year, 71 new ingredients were approved by Aussie regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and 1,587 new finished products were registered.

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