Nature’s Way is owned by PharmaCare, which also runs 26 other brands, including well-known supplement brands Sambucol, Bioglan, and skincare brand Rosken.
Aside from the domestic market, Nature’s Way is also present in several markets, including China.
The company recently took part in the Children Baby Maternity Expo held in Shanghai in mid-October, where it saw strong buyer interest in the immunity segment.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Airing Wang, head of marketing, China, told us that its vitamin C gummy and immunity gummy in the Kids Smart portfolio were amongst the top three bestsellers in China this year, alongside its fish oil DHA chewable burstlet – the traditional number one bestseller.
“Lactoferrin has definitely popped up, it is a new ingredient, it is a hot ingredient for the immune health,” Wang said.
As a result of COVID-19, eye health gummies are also growing in popularity since kids are spending more screen time due to home-based learning.
Across the company’s 27 brands, Wang said the firm saw a strong sales growth in China this year. When narrowed down to the children’s nutrition portfolio, the yoy growth is about 30%.
The growth is driven by a growth in the market share and the introduction of more brands and SKUs into China, she explained.
About 50 product SKUs from Kids Smart, Sambucol – the firm’s black elderberry-based supplement targeted at cough, flu, cold symptoms, and Forever Mum – a supplement brand for pre/post-natal purpose launched last year – were featured at the expo.
Most of these products are already sold in Australia but are not yet sold or are less well-known in China.
Snackification the trend
Asked the focus for new product development, Wang highlighted that the trend was towards snackification around children’s supplement.
This is because the traditional tablets and capsules were less appealing to children and might present choking hazard.
An example is the Kids Smart’s fish oil DHA product which comes in a chewable burstlet format, where kids can taste different flavours, namely blackcurrant, strawberry, and orange as they chew the product.
The brand also has a chocolate ball option for its probiotic range and several of its multivitamins are in gummy formats.
On the upcoming new formats, she said the firm would be expanding its chewables range.
Another mode of innovation is to work around different combinations of ingredients into the gummy format and flavours.
At the CBME expo, the firm introduced a new product – a chewable containing lactoferrin and colostrum.
“Lactoferrin is definitely the most popular ingredient this year due to COVID-19 concerns…But lots of products only have lactoferrin alone, we have launched an upgraded product with colostrum. Both are immune defence ingredient.”
Nonetheless, she pointed out innovation in the children nutrition segment was not largely driven by novel ingredients.
“For the mother and baby nutrition sector, the innovation is not driven by using new ingredients, because mothers will not try new ingredients on their babies, they will want to buy the existing ‘hero’, popular, highly recommended products instead
“With that insight in mind, I don’t think that the innovation is very driven by new ingredients in the mother and baby nutrition category.
“Innovation is driven by the common, or the ‘hero’ ingredients, more kids-friendly formats, or increasing bioavailability,” she said.
For instance, the firm recently introduced an upgraded version of a kids’ zinc supplement with improved bioavailability.
The company usually has two new product launch cycles each year – in March and August or September – in time for the mid-year and Double 11 sales.
Lifestyle affects demand
Pre-COVID, vitamin C, vitamin D plus calcium gummies are usually in the top three bestseller list, said Wang.
“Vitamin C, vitamin D plus gummies are also growing in sale, but there is stronger growth in the immunity range.”
Pre-COVID, she said that vitamin D and calcium supplements were the traditional major markets in China.
“Chinese children spend a lot of time indoor and Chinese parents want their children to grow tall, so this is a very big market in China.
“Even the adult range, the vitamin D and calcium market is massive in China as well. Due to air quality concerns in China, lung health products have also attracted a lot of attention.
“So, it is the lifestyles and the environment in which we live in impact the demand,” she said.
There are three Kids Smart products which are currently undergoing the “blue-hat” application in China, Wang revealed.
Obtaining the “blue-hat” status will allow the firm to sell its supplements as health foods with a health claim in the offline retail channel.
At present, while the brand has products sold in both online and offline channels, those sold in the latter are sold as foods and are not able to make health claims.
Wang said the company had started the work on the blue-hat registration three years ago.
“We don’t want to rush to the market, it is our first time doing the ‘blue hat’ application and we just want to make it right,” she said, adding that both online and offline channels would be the firm’s focus in China.