In 2010, the total Asia Pacific dietary supplement market (excluding Japan, the People’s Republic of China and Australasia) was estimated to be worth US$11 billion and is expected to grow to a whopping US$28.5 billion by 2016, according to information from EAS Strategic Advice Pte Ltd, an international market research and regulatory consulting company. The South East Asian health supplements industry is estimated to be worth over US$1.5 billion and the market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10% each year. This is based on information provided by the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Alliance Health Supplements Association (AAHSA) while the size of the Singapore retail market for health supplements is said to be worth over US$260 million. Major suppliers include the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Germany, Japan and Australia. The Singapore marketplace is receptive to American products. Singaporeans are considered discerning consumers and appreciate products that are of premium quality. While the Singapore market is small and the cost of doing business is considered high, Singapore is no less an important market for exporters as it leads in consumption trends and serves as a regional showcase for products and services. Consumption behavior is emulated by neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei. Singapore is also strategically situated as the crossroads of global commerce, and serves as a gateway to the region and a larger hinterland that includes countries like China, India and Australia. U.S. manufacturers and exporters could market to the rest of the region through Singapore.
U.S. products are perceived to be of good quality, with supporting testimonials and clinical data to substantiate claims. While the market is highly competitive and somewhat saturated, best prospects include innovative supplements with scientifically-proven benefits and focused on preventive care. Natural, holistic (i.e.; wellness-focused), enzymatic formulae, anti-oxidants, bone-mineral enhancement formulae, brain-foods, weight-management, vanity-related and those supplements that provide a quick “pick-me-up” for sports enthusiasts are popular. “Nutraceuticals”, natural and herbal remedies that are manufactured and packaged in capsule form, are fast gaining acceptance. Multi-vitamins and Vitamin C supplements are traditionally popular with the mass market.
Market expansion is estimated to be between 9% and 10% annually as more Singaporeans include nutritional supplements in their diet, with a view to overall health management and improvement. Over the last decade, multi-level-marketing firms have also gained a foothold in the market, creating awareness and fuelling acceptance levels of nutritional supplements among the general population. In this instance, “word-of-mouth” promotion is extremely powerful.
Based on estimates provided by industry sources, a typical Singaporean consumer who visits a health food store spends US$80 each visit. He/she typically makes one trip a month to replenish his or her stock. For those with families, the mother is the key decision maker, and if they consume health supplements, the family spends an average of US$120 per month. No precise retail figures are available for 2010 but trade sources estimate that Singaporeans will spend approximately US$260 million based on a 7-10% growth rate as estimated by several trade contacts.
Local firms interviewed indicated that they are optimistic of the economy and expect the market to improve over the next few years with a sizeable expatriate/ foreigner community and the rising affluence of Singaporeans who take a keen interest in their overall health and wellness.
The strength of the market is attributed to several factors which include:-
*Singaporeans are becoming more affluent and are enjoying a correspondingly higher wages and standard of living. As Singapore is poised to become a global city, the people need to take steps to cope with the demands of a fast-paced, stressful, modern lifestyle. Singaporeans constantly seek health supplements that counter modern ailments and keep them in the best of health.
*Singaporeans are more health-conscious and the majority is taking steps to lead healthy lifestyles incorporating regular exercise and eating lower fat, healthier diets. Health supplements are seen as an ideal complement to their diets. This mind-set is further reinforced by the Singapore Government’s “Healthy Lifestyle Campaign” where health promotion programs are organized and supported by the Ministry of Health’s Health Promotion Board (HPB).
*Singaporeans are discerning consumers and are generally willing to pay for quality health products. In essence, they recognize the value in a product but will also always seek the best deals.
*With the increase in the number of smaller households, more women in the workforce and trendy young adults, health supplements are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional remedies and health tonics. Traditional cultural remedies are slowly losing popularity among the younger generation and more are now turning to nutritional supplements as an easy substitute. That said, some traditional medicines firms have reinvented themselves and are reviving their trade by changing their packaging, producing in capsules that fit the preferences of the younger generation.
There are over 200 retail outlets in Singapore that sell health supplements. By category, these are chain health stores such as market leaders GNC (U.S. franchise), Nature’s Farm (local franchise), Holland & Barrett (International franchise), pharmacies, personal care stores such as Watsons and Guardian, departmental stores, smaller neighbourhood establishments and doctor/physician clinics. Industry sources indicated that multi-level marketing firms, such as Herbalife, NuSkin and Amway, have over the years increased their presence and firmly entrenched themselves in the market. There has also been a steady growth in the area of online retailing.
Singaporeans are also enjoying longer life expectancies. Generally speaking, the state of health among the younger generation is good; however, this is not the case with the older population. The incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and blood cholesterol are high compared to other developed countries, due partly to a legacy of poor food habits, lack of health consciousness and health maintenance among the older generation. However, steps are being taken on a national level to arrest and manage these conditions. There are already various community-based programs and activities aimed at educating the public to take vitamins and health supplements according to one’s needs and individual requirements. The public is encouraged to seek advice from pharmacists, nutritional advisors and family doctors to ascertain which supplements they should take. They are also urged to maintain healthy diets and lifestyles.
For purposes of this report and according to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), Singapore’s equivalent of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, health supplements include the following categories:
(a) Dietary supplements: food-like products, containing carbohydrates, amino acids, protein, certain fixed oils and herbs, trace mineral, vitamins (natural and synthesized). This category also includes probiotics containing lacto-bacteria;
(b) Herbal and natural products without medicinal claims or with general health claims such as marine extracts (fish oil), garlic, etc;
(c) Vitamins and mineral preparations (currently classified as quasi-medicinal products) including combinations with herbs;
(d) Therapeutic supplements and traditional natural remedies (currently classified as traditional medicines) such as Western herbal remedies, Ayurvedic herbs, ethnic-based herbal remedies, physiological substances, enzymes, etc.
These supplements are generally purchased over-the-counter and may be taken for sports nutrition, prevention nutrition, general wellness and overall personal care for men, women and children.