China will account for about one-third of world demand for nutraceutical chemicals within five years, according to a global analysis conducted by US research group Freedonia.
"The country will see the fastest sales gains among nutraceutical markets as economic expansion, outside investment and government directives fuel the upgrading of national food and drug industries," the report predicts.
External investment and the liberalisation of economic policies have helped China to evolve into one of the world's top exporters of nutraceutical chemicals and it is now the leading supplier of bulk vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts to the Asia/Pacific region, with additional significant penetration into North American and European markets.
Freedonia notes a growing trend for multinationals, such as Ajinomoto, DuPont Protein Technologies, Lonza and Roche, to engage in production activities in the developing world.
Global ingredients supplier Buckton Scott Group has several wholly owned or joint-venture manufacturing plants and has established a distribution network for consumer products in China.
Available capacity, technology and cost effectiveness all make China an attractive investment proposition, said Mini Mia, general manager of Buckton Scott China. "It's easy to set up operations here as there is so much less bureaucracy."
Following widespread negative media coverage, the Chinese government has begun addressing quality and efficacy issues in Chinese medicine, raw materials and finished products by recently implementing a long-term project to modernise its Traditional Chinese Medicine industry. The government has enlisted the help of partners in the US to draft new quality initiatives in the hope that TCM products will be more widely received in the global marketplace, particularly in the US.
The State Drug Administration (SDA), China's equivalent to the US Food and Drug Administration, has been working with industry liaison Loretta Zapp, CEO of Applied Food Sciences, to establish Beijing United Analytical Labs—a quasi-governmental laboratory certification programme. SDA has mandated revised Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Agricultural Practices for all TCM products manufacturers in China.
China's programme is intended to provide authoritative scientific data to buttress traditional cultural knowledge, which has supported TCM to date, according to Zapp.
"Advanced analytical methods, including chemical and DNA fingerprinting and optical biochip technology, as well as clinical data from animal and human trials, will be utilised for proof of efficacy and disease prevention and management," Zapp said.
Mia agreed that major companies are moving toward establishing GMPs but doubted they would be implemented on a wide scale any time soon.