The world is now moving into a new era of Health, where the hottest new innovations and developments are led by vitamin and mineral supplements (VMS). A globally aging population, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the rapid transition, is spurring an increased demand for nutritional supplements so that we not only live longer, but also live better.
Our aging population is attributed to two main causes – people having fewer children and people living longer. To quantify people having fewer children, demographers call the number of children a woman can expect to have in her lifetime fertility rate. A fertility rate of 2.1 is considered stable – mom and dad are replacing themselves. When fertility rate drops below that, population growth decreases. According to a 2015 article in the Economist, some countries in 9Asia are having fertility rates of 1.4 or even lower. In such cases, populations can diminish rapidly in just two generations with grandparents outnumbering grandchildren.
To put this into perspective, Karen Eggleston – a leading economist studying Asian demographic transition – states in an interview for the Stanford University Office of International Affairs that East Asia is going through the kind of transition that took over a century in Western countries – in only one or two generations.
In addition to declining fertility rate, the global life expectancy is increasing dramatically. Again, the most rapid gains are occurring in East Asia, where life expectancy from birth has increased from less than 45 years in 1950 to more than 74 years today. Not only are East Asian societies having fewer children than ever before, they are also living longer.
Eggleston has worked with colleagues in South Korea, which is facing the most rapidly aging society in East Asia, on making the health system sustainable in light of aging. Part of this multi-pronged effort is to promote healthy aging.
Because aging causes deterioration of the body and prevents it from absorbing important nutrients, supplements are a vital part of preventative health care. Malabsorption can result in health issues for the older population such as weakening of bones, poor eyesight, and dysfunctional digestive tracts among others. Loss of appetite causing malnutrition is another common issue that exacerbates these problems and nutritional supplement is a direct remedy.
Chronic disease is also more common among the older population and supplements are being used not only to prevent further complications, but also to treat existing conditions. Treating chronic diseases require lifestyle management, which includes managing dietary needs. Many doctors find that supplements are a practical way to ensure that their senior patients meet their nutritional needs.
As preventative healthcare becomes widespread alongside consumer awareness, the increase in the demand for dietary supplement is a logical outcome. Product availability is meeting the demand and Asia-Pacific is not only the largest market today, but also the fastest growing. According to Persistence Market Research (PMR), the global dietary supplement market was valued at USD 109.8 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.4% from 2014 to 2020, to reach an estimated value of USD 179.8 billion in 2020. The Asia Pacific dietary supplement market increased by 8.2% CAGR during 2010-2013 to reach USD 34.2 billion in 2013. Asia-Pacific is expected to control 44% of the global market by 2020.
This projection is explained by the increase in demand being matched by the increase in disposable income. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, annual per capita disposable income was 20,167 yuan (USD 3,361), up 8 percent year-on-year after the price hike is deducted, and markedly higher than the country’s GDP growth at 7.4 percent. Chinese consumers currently only spend 0.07 percent of their income on dietary supplements, compared with 2 percent in the West. With consumer awareness of dietary supplement benefits spreading in China, this signifies a significant potential customer base.
Although financial analysts have warned of a slowdown of China’s economy (with retail sales taking a hard hit this year), it seems that the VMS industry has continued to stay recession-resilient – signaling that in Asia, people prioritize health over retail luxuries. This could be attributed to the traditional Asian culture of health “maintenance” and “prevention” – a core philosophy of Eastern medicine, where one nourishes the body over a long period of time rather than treating symptoms when they appear.
According to PMR statistics, sales are higher than ever before and are expected to rise for the rest of the decade. The UK Soil Association’s 2011 organics growth report has proven accurate in their predication of global organic product sales increasing worldwide, regardless of economic downturns for the next five years. The report’s analytics also suggested that China would lead the demand for organic goods – another prediction currently proving itself real.
Judging from the ever increasing range of innovative new VMS products entering the market, the recession-proof demand, topped off with the world’s most populated regions entering a phase of ageing and longevity – for those of you in the VMS industry (or organic products in general), the future looks promising indeed.