What Will it Take for China to Surpass the U.S. in Supplement Sales?


China is not yet the largest global market for dietary supplements, but evidence suggests that this country of more than 1 billion people is quite capable of one day snatching the crown away from the U.S. market, according to Jeff Crowther, executive director of Natural Products Association-China. “Of course, for this to come to fruition, some major movements in both Chinese government regulations and consumers understanding of dietary supplements will need to occur,” writes Crowther, who provides an insider’s view into China’s supplement market for Nutrition Business Journal’s 2009 Global Nutrition Industry Overview issue.

Currently, China is ranked fourth behind the United States, the European Union and Japan in dietary supplement sales, Crowther notes. “However, pinpointing a reliable figure on industry sales is a difficult task,” he writes. “As of last year, the number was hovering around $6.4 billion. However, this year I’ve seen figures from the China Health Care Association that suggest total Chinese dietary supplement sales are closer to $10 billion.” In 2007, Nutrition Business Journal estimated that China’s domestic supplement market was already worth approximately $7 billion and made up about 10% of global supplement sales.

The challenge in obtaining accurate sales figures is a reflection of the fractured nature of China’s supplement industry, Crowther explains. Supplements are sold in a variety of sales channels, including in pharmacies and health food stores and through Chinese medicine practitioners and multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. To further complicate matters, an assortment of Chinese agencies are currently involved in regulating dietary supplements, Crowther writes. Depending on how supplements are marketed, they will fall under the authority of one of the following agencies: The Ministry of Health (MOH), State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) or the Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Another stumbling block for the industry is consumer awareness of dietary supplements and the ways in which they support health, Crowther adds. “This situation is a direct result of the strict regulations imposed on products as well as years of misinformation and devious marketing schemes, which have left consumers confused and mistrustful.”

NBJ’s 2009 Global Nutrition Industry Overview issue, which publishes in December, will include Crowther’s full article on the Chinese supplement market. This 48-page double issue also features NBJ’s updated sales estimates and forecasts, as well as our trend and regulatory analysis, for every region of the global nutrition industry. To order a copy of the issue, subscribe to NBJ or download a free sample issue, go to the NBJ Website.

Related NBJ articles:
Sanofi-Aventis Plans Plunge into China’s Vitamin and Mineral Market with New Joint Venture
NPA China Helps Lead Charge in Protecting Industry's Supply Chain
China Nutrition Market Report 2007

Related Functional Ingredient magazine articles:
EAS report shows strong demand for functional foods in Asia


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