Australasia (Australia & New Zealand): Weathering the Storm

By Paul Altaffer, Product and Business Development, RFI Ingredients, & Grant Washington-Smith | November 1, 2012

The markets for vitamins and dietary supplements are growing about 7% and 6%, respectively.

When the Australian and New Zealand markets were last reviewed in 2010, it had been predicted that times would likely get tougher for the economies of both these countries; and while that has been partly correct, they have both continued to demonstrate small but positive economic growth.
The major barrier to greater economic prosperity has been the relative strength of both the Australian and the New Zealand dollar, which makes export revenue more challenging as their respective dollars reach record highs against all international trading partners. This is good news for both U.S. and European manufacturers that are either exporting or planning to export to Australia or New Zealand because their products should be very competitive with the locally manufactured products. This trend will likely continue for U.S. manufacturers if the U.S. Federal Reserve undertakes a further round of quantitative easing (economic management using monetary policy) as this is likely to maintain these abnormally high values in the Australian and New Zealand dollar well into 2013-14.         
Australia: The Lucky Country
Vitamins and dietary supplements grew by 7% in 2011 to be valued at USD$1.43 billion. Health and wellness trends in Australian society have encouraged consumers to take greater care of their health and maintain optimal nutritional condition. This trend has been coupled with increased awareness and marketing activities from the dietary supplement industry that some grocery food products consumed in Australia do not provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
The vitamins and dietary supplements category is expected to become increasingly segmented in terms of retail product offerings. This will be driven by companies looking to offer increasingly customized solutions to consumers’ health and wellness concerns. The retail pharmacy channels play a more dominant role in the distribution of dietary supplements in Australia when compared to channels in the U.S.
Any manufacturer considering marketing products in Australia needs to consider the role of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the process of regulatory approval. This system is very similar to that used by Health Canada, and the TGA regulates the sale of all nutraceuticals—known as complementary medicines, which include herbs, vitamins, nutritional supplements and homoeopathic medicines.  
Because dietary supplements/nutraceuticals are considered and regulated in Australia as complementary medicines, certain low level therapeutic claims can be made, but before any complementary medicine can be supplied for sale in Australia it must be entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) by the TGA. Once registered, the product is then issued its own unique AUST L or AUST R number, which must appear on the label of that product.
As reported in the last review of the Australian market, it is still widely believed that the TGA is responsible for protecting Australian consumers by restricting access of the more fringe or dubious products, thereby creating a level of consumer confidence in products sold at retail in Australia. This notion also goes someway to explaining the relative dominance of the pharmacy channel for retail sales. 
Although Australian consumers are not exposed to the same dazzling array of new or novel ingredients that would characterize other markets like New Zealand and the U.S., it appears this hasn't adversely restricted Australian manufacturers that have been applying greater innovation to novel delivery systems and packaging convenience.
In general, Australians share a common belief that simple and natural products are best and the extra health benefits, which come from food fortification and added functional ingredients, are not necessarily major drivers of the purchasing decision.
Fortified and functional foods do, however, appeal to some specific classes of consumers, including those who require certain health benefits from nutrients or ingredients that they consider cannot be obtained from standard products.  Products containing added calcium appeal to elderly consumers who need to improve bone strength, while those with energy-boosting ingredients are very popular among younger consumers who see energy beverages as a way to compensate for poor diets, lack of exercise and sleep while also associating them with their “on-the-go” lifestyles.
The main public health concerns for many Australians living in the “Lucky Country” revolve around obesity-related issues such as heart health, diabetes prevention and cholesterol levels, suggesting that relative prosperity has a downside. Despite living in the Lucky Country, approximately 43% of Aussie’s suffer either deficiency or insufficiency of iodine, and around 70% of women of child-bearing age do not get enough iodine, according to a 2008 survey by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the body which oversees all matters relating to food standards and regulations. Iodine is vital for the creation of thyroid hormone, which plays a key role in driving metabolism. So iodine insufficiency in the Australian diet, rather than the overconsumption of calories, may be responsible for the rapid expansion in the population’s waistline.
New Zealand: Clean, Green & Still ‘Middle Earth’
New Zealand retains its title as the land of milk and honey, which comes largely from its reputation as both a global dairy producer and home of the much sought-after manuka honey. Its climate and geography in the southern Pacific Ocean also ensures it is well endowed with rainfall; a perfect climate for pastoral dairy farming and honey bees.
New Zealand will once again be showcased in December 2012, with the launch of Sir Peter Jackson’s movie, “The Hobbit,” and this is again expected to create a renewal of interest in all things New Zealand—in the same way “The Lord of the Rings” did a decade ago.
New Zealand represents a much smaller market for dietary supplements than that of Australia, and to its advantage, it does not suffer the regulatory encumbrances of Australia. Brand’s like Solgar, Nature’s Sunshine and Nature’s Way have almost become institutional brands in the health store channel within New Zealand. Unlike Australia, health store retailers play a more dominant role in dietary supplements sales, with the pharmacy channel following closely behind.     
The value of the dietary supplement market in New Zealand is estimated to be worth USD$188 million, with growth estimated around 6%, according to the latest Euromonitor data.
One major trend is that consumers are placing a greater focus on prevention rather than treating symptoms. As a result, vitamins and dietary supplement value sales continue to increase steadily. Consumers in New Zealand generally believe that vitamins and dietary supplements are an effective method to prevent disease or illness.
In addition, rising Internet usage has also improved consumer access to information and education, and thus boosted confidence in self-medication. New Zealand consumers appear to have woken up to the realization that they can order dietary supplements online with U.S.-based e-retailers like iHerb.com and have their supplements delivered to their door (including freight and postage) within a couple of days for roughly one-third of the standard retail prices within New Zealand. 
Because of New Zealand’s smaller domestic market for dietary supplements (finished products) and the country’s heavy bias toward food manufacturing and raw material production, New Zealand has become a “net exporter” of its ingredient and nutritional innovation.   
It is not surprising that some of the product and ingredient innovations have come from the dairy industry.  Lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase, which appear to be higher in pastorally grazed animals, are extracted from whole milk using the latest in low cost separation technology. This innovation forms the basis for bioactive dairy peptides extraction and isolation, such as those developed by Quantec Ltd. Immune Defence Proteins (IDP) is Quantec’s blend of highly selective anti-microbial peptides from milk that it discovered is highly selective against specific human pathogens, but not against natural, beneficial microflora. “It’s the perfect anti-microbial agent,” said Dr. Rod Claycomb, CEO of Quantec Ltd. “Just as nature intended it.”
Another New Zealand company showing success with a novel dairy ingredient for sleep management comes from Auckland-based, New Image Group. (New Image Group is known internationally for the production and marketing of colostrum products.) The company identified a novel sleep-inducing peptide from milk, which is only found in 10-15% of the dairy herd. In a published trial of 144 subjects, 88% reported significant improvements in sleep quality, daytime alertness and energy.
One of the standout success stories for New Zealand, which also has some early links to the dairy industry, is microbial fermentation and probiotic development. The Howaru strains, marketed by Danisco, were originally developed from research undertaken in the 1990s by Massey University, under the direction of the NZ Dairy Board (now Fonterra). BLIS Technologies Ltd, which was the first company to create, market and sell an oral probiotic for the mouth and throat back in 2003, has continued to build on its outstanding success internationally and recently launched another oral cavity probiotic for the prevention of dental caries (tooth decay).
The news has not all gone New Zealand’s way, however. What was a promising market for kiwifruit-based products, took a hit about 18 months ago with the discovery of a kiwifruit-killing vine disease called PSA. This disease has already taken a heavy toll on the Italian kiwifruit industry, which saw nearly a quarter of its national production destroyed within 12 months. Fortunately, this disease has no effect on the quality of the fruit produced, but is likely to restrict significantly the volume of kiwifruit from New Zealand (particularly in the Gold variety) until resistant varieties of kiwifruit vines can be developed and bought into production.

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