Herbal supplements in Indonesia: On-trend ingredients and pressing health concerns revealed

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Herbal supplements are popular in Indonesia, especially among younger consumers. ©iStock
Herbal supplements are popular in Indonesia, especially among younger consumers. ©iStock
Indonesia's young population, buoyed by greater disposable income, are increasingly interested in herbal supplements for their preventative healthcare benefits, according to one industry expert.

Unlike Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, the country has a relatively young population, with approximately 50% aged 30 and below. This makes preventative healthcare a prime area of concern for Indonesians.

At the recent HI Southeast Asia trade show in Jakarta, supplier Sabinsa's business development manager Nandini Singh told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "A lot of working adults keep long hours, don't eat as well as they should, and generally don’t take good care of their bodies.

"They then end up spending more on supplements as a preventative measure, to try to ensure a good quality of life in their later years."

A need for both medicine and herbs

She added that joint health, cancer, hypertension and diabetes were among the major health concerns in the country, and that despite the trend towards herbal remedies, Western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs were still necessary.

"When people fall ill, their first instinct is usually to consult a doctor and take the prescribed medication. But they also believe long-term dependence on such drugs is not beneficial to the body.

"More people are now educated enough to do their research, and look at herbal alternatives to medicines and pharmaceutical drugs."

Indeed, supplements made from ingredients such as pine tree bark, kudzu​ root, wheatgrass, liquorice, turmeric and curcumin are popular in Indonesia, especially among younger consumers who believe the chemicals in medication and pharmaceutical drugs can produce harmful side effects.

Sabinsa has been active in the curcumin market​, and has also conducted research into the effects of ayurveda​ on joint health​.

Singh said, "We work with many companies, from renowned pharmaceutical and supplement firms to start-ups looking for partnerships.

"We're excited that these companies are on board when it comes to developing dietary supplements to meet consumer needs and preferences."

Innovation, interrupted?

Amid the growing innovation in Indonesia's herbal supplement sector, however, regulatory hurdles seem to have placed a dampener on things.

Singh said, "In my experience, one of the main regulatory issues companies face here is the time it takes to register a product, which is a minimum of 12 to 18 months.

"We spend a lot of time developing our products, getting manufacturers to approve them, then waiting for their product registration to be approved. Sometimes, people don’t want or can’t afford to wait that long."

The industry is also anticipating another regulatory requirement: across-the-board halal certification, effective 2019.

Singh said this would "further hamper not must manufacturers, but consumers and suppliers as well"​.

She added: "Not every company can afford to become halal-certified, and some may think it's not a sound investment.

"Moreover, in Indonesia, companies that apply for halal certification must be listed under the Halal MUI. Even if a supplier is halal-certified, the finished product may not comply with the MUI's requirements."

Furthermore, with Indonesia's middle class projected to become the world's eighth largest by 2020 and fourth largest by 2030, more supplement firms will be striving to tap into the country's growing market and consumer spending power.

This, Singh said, would mean fiercer competition, and suppliers and manufacturers alike would have their work cut out for them in the coming years.

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