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Flu Fighters

Preventative vitamins are a lucrative opportunity for local and export markets in Australia

Australian consumers are turning to preventative measures to help survive the 2019 flu season. It’s been widely reported that the demand for flu vaccinations has been particularly high this year. And this consumer quest to boost seasonal immunity has also translated into strong sales performance for preventative cold and flu vitamins in Australia. Nielsen/IQVIA data shows that the sales of immune-support vitamins increased by 26% in March 2019 versus the same period in the previous year, and again in June (29%).

This trend follows on from the 2018 flu season, when the Australian government introduced the Federal Immunisation Program—a pandemic prevention response in the form the administration of more than 4.5 million free vaccines. Part of the response to this vaccination program was manufacturers of immune-boosting vitamins promoting their products more intensively—including half-price discounts across key pharmacy banners during the 2018 winter period. This strong promotional activity led to a 12% increase in sales for these products when compared to the same period in 2017.

The flipside of this strong uplift in sales of cold and flu vitamins was a 30% decline in cough and cold treatments and analgesics during winter 2018. However, it should also be noted that 2018 had a milder flu season compared with 2017—possibly due to consumers’ increased focus on prevention. 

Export sales of immune-boosting vitamin products to China has increased substantially in recent years. With Chinese consumers also seeking to fight the onset of the flu, big vitamins brands in Australia have been growing their export sales to China. Vitamins, in general, are a highly exported category by Australian daigous. However, strong promotional activity during China’s winter period (Nov-Jan) resulted in a quarter of all vitamin sales attributed to exports in the month of January 2018—more than double the average share of total vitamins sold as exports in a year (12%). The proportion of export sales tapered down in January 2019, likely due to new export regulations introduced during this period.

“Australia’s cold and flu complementary and alternative medicine segment is worth $141M, export account for 13.4% ($19M) of this segment. Australian domestic consumers favour traditional ingredients such as Garlic, Horseradish, Zinc, Echinacea, Vitamin C and Olive leaf extract. Export shoppers choose similar flavours to Australian domestic consumers and additionally opt for non-traditional ingredients such as Manuka honey, Propolis, Royal Jelly, Reishi mushroom.” Vivian Lee IQVIA’s Consumer Health Analyst and Pharmacist

With increased influenza press coverage in recent years, consumers have turned to preventative vitamins to enhance their immunity. As a consequence, cold and flu vitamins and other preventative products (e.g., Manuka Honey) are lucrative opportunities in Australia and for exports to China. These products are likely to continue to see consistent growth if consumer demand persists in light of recent seasonal influenza trends.

Methodology

NIELSEN AND IQVIA PHARMACY

The Nielsen/IQVIA relationship offers the Australian pharmacy and healthcare market innovation in measurement by providing the most robust and detailed coverage of pharmacy stores and banners, combined with the most granular geographical reporting. 

The pharmacy universe in Australia is currently at 5,829 stores. IQVIA captures data from over 3,964  stores, representing 90% of sales through this channel. The service currently comprises 26 banners and is the most robust read of independent pharmacies in Australia.