OPINION: China-Australia trade deal creates greater potential for supplement sales success

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

CMA CEO Carl Gibson.
CMA CEO Carl Gibson.

Related tags Complementary medicines Medicine China

The Chinese health food and supplements market is valued at US$30 billion and projected to grow by 10% every year until 2025, creating extensive opportunities for Australian firms, writes Carl Gibson, CEO of Complementary Medicines Australia.  

A couple of weeks ago, we were pleased to lead an Australian delegation of business leaders to attend the recent Healthplex Expo in Shanghai, an increasingly important event on the global natural products industry calendar.

Australia has a strong trade relationship with China, and the The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) means that there is potential for a greater stake in each other’s economic success. 

Chinese consumers’ interest in complementary medicines and natural health foods has been well publicised in recent years, as have been a number of the underlying factors driving this interest, such as population ageing, increased disposable incomes, concerns about food safety, and limited availability of primary healthcare.

The ageing population is a large factor, as the population aged 65 and over in China is expected to reach 13% by 2020. Approximately half of the health food market is dominated by middle-aged and elderly customers. Complementary medicines for women and children are also in high demand. With the change of the family planning policy in 2015, it is expected that one to two million additional babies will be born each year for the next four to five years.

Individual health

The Chinese Government has included support for complementary medicines in its 13th​ Five-Year Plan (2016 — 2020), in recognition of the growing demands that an ageing population will place upon healthcare, and the value of encouraging individuals to take a strong interest in their health and well-being.

The Australian industry has seen the value of complementary medicine exports double in just two years, with more than half of these exports destined for China and Hong Kong. The regulation of complementary medicines in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as medicines, ​including the requirement to meet standards around Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), means a regulatory vigour that is one of the most highly regarded in the world. 

More broadly, Australian products across a wide range of industries are universally known for being clean, green and safe. The net result is that a number of Australian complementary medicines brands have gained widespread consumer recognition and trust, and are well placed to continue to be popular and highly-regarded in China.

More open trade between Australian and China under the ChAFTA means that there is a call for a deeper appreciation of cross-cultural complexities, building strong networks and relationships, and harnessing a willingness to learn from our international partners.

High standards

CMA recently welcomed the news that well-renowned Australian natural health company, Blackmores, has been appointed to a key advisory role in the China Association for Quality Inspection (CAQI). This appointment is seen as a huge honour and an endorsement of Blackmores’ expertise, and the reputation and quality of Australian complementary medicines. I believe this appointment is representative of the respect that China has for Blackmores and for Australia’s stringent manufacturing and regulatory standards.

In addition to Australia and China enjoying mustual business benefits, the same potential for supporting mutual benefit also exists at the human level, which is something I was reminded of during our visit to Shanghai.  

Thanks to Austrade and China’s New Peak Group, I found myself in the privileged position of accompanying a local courier, delivering Australian products that had been ordered online earlier that day. It was a pleasure to see an Australian business leader deliver her own company’s products to a very happy consumer.

CMA’s delegation to Shanghai can only be described as a fantastic week that presented a number of memorable highlights, from the warm welcome our delegates received from our hosts to playing courier for an afternoon.  We expect our ongoing engagement to remain strong, and look forward to welcoming a Chinese delegation to CMA’s 18th​ Annual Conference and Industry Awards in October.

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