Nutrition Business Journal

H1N1 Fuels Supplement Sales Around the Globe, NBJ Research Shows



Total global nutrition industry sales increased 8% to $270 billion in 2008, and sales are expected to rise another 6% to 10% this year, according to Nutrition Business Journal estimates. On the supplement front, the outbreak of the fear-provoking H1N1 flu pandemic, which surfaced in Mexico in April 2009 and touched nearly every country in the world by August, is helping to lift sales all over the globe.

The rapid spread of H1N1—which has already infected an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide—is causing a spike in immune-support supplements around the world, as people scramble for anything that could help keep the virus at bay. “In recent months, global health concerns, including H1N1, have resulted in a high demand for general health and immunity products,” said Richard Henfrey, director of people and strategy at Australian supplement company Blackmores, whose sales are up more than 12% this year. Similar comments were made by nutrition industry executives from South Korea to Germany to the Philippines to South Africa.

This H1N1 sales phenomenon has become so pronounced that it is actually changing forecasts for future supplement sales expansion in many regions. In Canada, for example, sales growth is expected to increase dramatically for the third year in a row in 2010 because of consumer interest in immunity-support products, such as vitamin C, multivitamins and probiotics.

Provided consumers experience (or at least perceive) a health benefit from the immune-boosting supplements they ingest, the global H1N1 pandemic could act as the stimulus that turns new supplement users into regular supplement users in the global supplement market. This could break the trend toward sales maturity that has been seen in the North American and European supplement markets over the last several years. The response to H1N1 in Europe will be particularly telling, as this region—which has experienced a seven-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just 3%—has been unable to stimulate higher supplement sales growth through other means.

U.S. supplement companies also have reported H1N1-related sales increases. Of course, these companies must be very careful about how they position their immune-support supplements so as not to make any H1N1 or other disease prevention or treatment claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued 147 warning letters since May 2009 to companies marketing products—from air filters and face masks to shampoos and supplements—for prevention or cure of H1N1 flu. The trade associations representing the U.S. dietary supplement industry continue to urge supplement companies and retailers to refrain from promoting or stocking any dietary supplement as a cure or treatment for H1N1.

NBJ’s 2009 Global Nutrition Industry Overview publishes this week and will be hitting subscriber mailboxes soon. The 48-page issue provides NBJ’s sales and growth estimates for every region, and includes insights from nutrition industry executives from all over the world. You can order a copy of the issue, subscribe to NBJ or download a free sample issue via the NBJ Website.

Related NBJ links:
FDA Increases Enforcement Efforts, Warns Internet Marketers About Swine Flu Claims
2009 Supplement Business Report

Related Functional Ingredients Magazine links:
Fear Shaped Consumer Behavior in 2009; Next Year Will Bring Confidence


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