Consumer health posts higher growth in 2012
Consumer health successfully posted slightly stronger current value growth in 2012 as compared to 2011. The improved performance of consumer health was mostly attributable to weight management and sports nutrition; both spurred by image-conscious consumers who want to stay in shape. Since the Malaysian government has actively highlighted the rapidly-growing obesity issue through various educational health campaigns, consumers became more aware of the risks of obesity and consequently, made a commitment to lose weight by exercising more or consuming weight management products.
Consumers were more confident in self-medicating
Over the review period, increasingly sophisticated consumers were more confident in self-medicating with OTC products, referring to educational sources to learn more about the usage and effects of OTC remedies. OTC players such as GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare responded to the increased confidence in self-medicating by launching new, systemic analgesics with higher efficacy and caffeine, named Panadol Extra during 2012. Hectic working lives have further induced consumers to self-medicate minor ailments rather than take time out to see a doctor.
International players leading consumer health
Consumer health continued to be dominated by international players through their long presence and reputable, world-renowned brands. Consumers showed greater favour to international products than domestic products as they perceived the former to be better quality. Local players were relatively weaker compared to international players in term of resources which limited marketing and product innovations. As a result, local players faced great challenges in building consumers’ brand awareness with their limited advertising and innovations.
Direct selling remained the strongest distribution channel
Direct selling was the most prominent distribution channel for consumer health due to the dominance of a number of direct sellers in categories like weight management and dietary supplements. While for other categories within consumer health, physical channels such as chemists/pharmacies and parapharmacies/drugstores were the most important retailers, as they gained favour among consumers with wide product portfolios marketed at attractive prices.
Projected positive future for consumer health
Over the forecast period, consumer health is anticipated to maintain a positive performance with consumers’ growing confident in self-medication with the aid of OTC products. Urban consumers are increasingly fashionable and image conscious and more concerned about improving their appearance and body shape by opting for weight management product or nutritive drinks which are positioned as beauty boosters. Besides that, given that organic food, vegetarianism and veganism were growing in popularity among consumers towards the end of the review period, consumers are likely to increase demand for consumer health and opt for natural remedies like herbal/traditional products.
Increasing female purchasing power supports beauty- and slimming-related products
As government-run primary and secondary schools penetrate more rural areas around the country, the female population increasingly has the same opportunity as the male population to receive a formal education. With a higher level of education, female consumers have greater chances of pursuing careers with better incomes. According to the latest statistics from Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, women made up 47% of the country’s total workforce and more than 30% of the decision-making posts in the civil service were held by women over the review period. This dictated that financially-independent female consumers increasingly became an important target audience for the consumer health market.
Female consumers were seen to be more willing to put effort into slimming and anti-ageing, as the majority of female consumers were known to be more image-conscious than most male consumers. As a result, females with earning power spurred the growth of consumer health subcategories which related to beauty and slimming, such as weight management and tonic bottled nutritive drinks. Tonic bottled nutritive drinks positioned as beauty enhancers, such as collagen drinks, were particularly popular amongst female consumers as they promote healthy and youthful skin.
Manufacturers were aware of the rising spending power of female consumers, hence viewing them as the main target audiences in planning product packaging and marketing strategy. In order to attract the attention of females, most manufacturers of nutritive beauty drinks employed feminine packaging, for instance, Kinohimitsu’s collagen drinks and Brand’s InnerShine were marketed in pink packaging. Besides that, most weight management products also have female celebrities and models as the product ambassador. These were the marketing strategies used by players to better target the female consumers.
The power of female consumers in the consumer health market is likely to last over the forecast period, as the number of highly educated females is expected to grow with the rising number of tertiary education institutes in the country. Thus, average income levels of females are expected to increase, making them financially more capable of investing in consumer health products.
However, many female consumers will give up their career after they get married and have young children to look after. Many women get married between the ages of 20 and 40 when they are still capable of contributing significantly to the work force. In order to help housewives achieve financial independence, the government was supportive in encouraging them to work from home by arranging suitable jobs for them which utilise their expertise.
Over the forecast period, the strong potential growth of female purchasing power is likely to create room for manufacturers to explore new innovations on consumer health products which attracted the attention of women during the review period. There are possibilities that players from other consumer health categories will jump on the bandwagon by launching female-oriented products over the forecast period. Hence, female consumers’ needs and preferences are likely to be the focus of new product innovation for players who wish to target the growingly rich female consumers.
Consumers enhance working performance by staying healthy
Over the review period, the stable economic conditions saw consumers’ workload weighted and working hours lengthen as companies and businesses were expanding aggressively. Many consumers recognised that their stressful work might be at the root of their illness. However, gradually more employees in Malaysia chose to work beyond the default retirement age of 55, either because they loved their job or they felt financially insecure retiring at 55. Since consumers were very much focused on their work, they were dependent on vitamins and dietary supplements and OTC products to keep their bodies fit for work.
As workloads increase, being efficient and completing tasks on time has presented a challenge to some consumers. Hence, working overtime has become a habit for some, resulting in a regular lack of sleep and stress. After leading such hectic lifestyles for a period of time, consumers’ immune systems are weakened, which causes them to fall ill easily and experience minor illnesses such as headaches, flu and coughs more frequently.
Being uncomfortable will affect the efficiency of work performance, so consumers prefer to self-medicate their minor illnesses by taking OTC medicines rather time off or sick leave to visit clinics for professional advice. OTC products were spurred by working consumers as most of them will duplicate their purchases to keep some standby medicines in their office or bags. Prevention is better than cure, so consumers are also taking vitamins and dietary supplements to maintain their health. Likewise, consumers also keep extra bottles of vitamins and dietary supplements at their workplace as they spend long hours in the office.
Over the forecast period, the fast-paced lifestyles of most consumers are unlikely to slow as they are expected to put much effort and time into performing well at work and remain competitive amongst the large number of highly educated and experienced employees. Besides that, the increasingly high cost of living is likely to push consumers to apply for even more challenging work and take on greater responsibility for higher income. Thus, consumers are expected to be more reliant on vitamins and dietary supplement to stay healthy and depend on OTC products to treat their minor illnesses at work.
The trend is most likely to last over the forecast period as consumers will continue their search for the most suitable vitamins and dietary supplements for them and effective OTC remedies to ease their discomfort during busy working hours. The expectations of consumers who lead hectic lifestyles towards consumer health products, are more convenient to consume formats and stronger efficacy, while manufacturers are anticipated to fulfil consumers’ needs by improving product formulations and introducing new product formats. Thus, the growth of the trend will benefit both consumers and players within the consumer health market.
High obesity rate due to unhealthy eating habits and inadequate exercise
Based on the Malaysian Shape of the Nation survey, more than half of Malaysian adults were found to be overweight when tested for abdominal obesity. In 2012, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai revealed that only 7.5% of Malaysians follow the WHO recommendation of consuming five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. The unhealthy eating habits coupled with sedentary lifestyles led by many consumers, motivated the rise in the obesity rate among consumers. The overweight issue was more alarming as the obesity population was growing younger and the number of overweight school children and teenagers increased towards the end of the review period.
The continually rising obesity rate was also a growth opportunity for some consumer health categories such as weight management and sports nutrition, as many overweight consumers were trying to slim down by exercising more or with the assistance of consumer health products. Establishing regular exercise can pose a challenge for overweight consumers, thus many opted for weight management products which are positioned as the most effective and effortless way to lose weight. This spurred the weight management category in 2012, especially the meal replacement subcategory and saw Herbalife, the leader of weight management, register strong double-digit growth in current value terms. Moreover, the player also overtook Amway which is the leading player within vitamins and dietary supplements, and became the strongest player in terms of value share amongst all players in consumer health in 2012.
However, weight management products were not the most desirable slimming alternatives for some consumers, as they perceived the products as intrusive to the body. Hence, this group of consumers preferred more natural ways, such as regular exercise. The Malaysian government was supportive in encouraging people to exercise more by offering income tax exemption of RM300 per annum for sports equipment purchased. This was believed to be an effective way to motivate consumers to engage in sports and indirectly increased the consumption of sports nutrition products and supported the growth of it.
The obesity issue among Malaysians is likely to persist over the forecast period, as it is a challenging issue which is not easily solved or minimised in a period of just five years. While actively educating consumers about living healthy lifestyles to keep fit, the Malaysian government also highlighted that obesity could lead consumers to a high risk of chronic illnesses such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes and hypertension, which affect the quality of life of consumers. As consumers become more health conscious, gradually coupled with the extensive educational campaigns run by the government, consumers are likely to be more concerned about their overweight issues and be more persistent in slimming down either through regular exercise or with the aid of weight management products.
The development of the trend is mostly likely to have a positive impact on consumer health categories such as weight management and sports nutrition during the forecast period, as the size of the target audience of these products is projected to expand. Players in weight management are expected to emphasise the effortless, convenient and effective attributes of their slimming products to motivate seriously obese consumers to step away from their unhealthy lifestyle and try slimming products. On the other hand, sports nutrition manufacturers might need to improve the taste of their products and educate consumers about the usage of sports nutrition products, such as protein powder, as many consumers perceive it as being only for hardcore gym-goers and bodybuilders.
On-the-go consumers boost sales of convenient format products
Even though consumers are increasingly hectic at work, they are also seen to be leading interesting lives outside of work and engaging in more activities during their leisure time. Sophisticated consumers were more knowledgeable and smarter in handling their work stress, as they enjoy their leisure time fully and have various hobbies and interests. While consumers who prefer making their personal time more profitable, worked part-time for less income or ventured into small businesses, especially online businesses, which do not take up excessive time.
Since modern consumers are being creative all-rounders who regularly engage in multiple activities, they were more mobile and cautious about managing their time. Over the review period, on-the-go consumers showed preference towards product which are convenient to consume and easy to carry, for instance ready-to-drink protein products, tonics and bottled nutritive drinks, sticking plasters/adhesive bandages and eye drops. All the products mentioned performed the strongest within their categories or were the most popular product formats within their sub-categories. Consumers continued to show favour towards the intentionally convenient consumer health products regardless of the fact that these products were priced higher.
The remarkable performance of the convenient consumer health products showed that these products were attractive to consumers. Consumer demand for convenient formats is likely to be sustained over the forecast period. With work increasingly challenging, consumers are expected to engage in more activities to release stress. The development of the product format and pricing are expected to follow closely to better coordinate with consumers’ lifestyles and purchasing power.
Ready-to-drink protein products, tonics and bottled nutritive drinks, sticking plasters/adhesive bandages and eye drops which gained popularity among consumers in 2012, are most likely to fare well over the forecast period. As the convenient and higher priced consumer health products are capable of generating greater profits for manufacturers, more players within consumer health might be attracted and follow suit. Manufacturers might invest in new innovations to create products with more convenient formats or smaller serving sizes with equal efficacy.
International players dominate the competitive environment
International players successfully retained consumers’ loyalty to their brands over the review period, with their strong foothold in the country. Consumers continued to show interest in international brands due to the large number of product innovations introduced by players every year. As a result, domestic players and private label producers faced greater challenges in enhancing or even maintaining their value shares in 2012. Consumers are less likely to choose local and private label options, as they regard these as alternatives only when international brands are not available.
The leadership of international players was strong during 2012, with eight out of the top 10 positions ranked in terms of value share held by international players. The top four players in consumer health were multinational direct sellers, namely Herbalife Products, Amway, Nu Skin and USANA Health Sciences. The main players preserved their dominance with strong product ranges within vitamins and dietary supplements and weight management.
Moreover, Cerebos Sdn Bhd ranked fourth in consumer health with its well established presence within tonics and bottled nutritive drinks; particularly its Brand’s essence of chicken which has high familiarity among consumers in Malaysia. The player utilised its strong experience and reputation within tonics and bottled nutritive drinks, launching a beauty nutritive drink product range named Brand’s InnerShine which mainly targeted female consumers. The new product range attracted women’s attention and grew well over the review period.
Cosway and Elken were the best performing domestic players, sustaining their ranking in seventh and eighth positions, respectively, in 2012. Both players have wide portfolios within vitamins and dietary supplements, however, both experienced a decline in value share due to the strong competition from international players over the review period. Other smaller local manufacturers such as YSP Industries and Pharmaniaga were seen moving away from consumer health gradually and focus on production of generic and ethical drugs.
The dominance of international players is less likely to weaken during the forecast period; with the support of their extensive product portfolios and brand reputation, consumers are anticipated to remain loyal to their brands. The potential of domestic players to control consumer health is limited as the resourceful internationals will launch new product innovations and marketing campaigns, so consumers’ attention will still be on the international brands.
The strong brand loyalty towards international products, coupled with increased disposable incomes, mean that consumers will be more willing to invest in international products. Over the forecast period, marketing from local players is likely to be limited given their smaller advertising budgets, and massive marketing campaigns from international players will mostly likely weaken the effectiveness and consumers’ impression of their marketing activities anyway. Domestic players will mostly save their resources for investing in product improvements and innovations.
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