Entity Health hones in on Australian pharmacy expansion amid 'anti-hangover' supplement launch
The company, which also sells its products in Singapore via its web store, has doubled the number of Australian stores that stock its supplements since its launch last year. However, it has since set its sights on 'banner groups' in bid to rapidly accelerate its expansion.
Banner groups are essentially retail pharmacy groups created to leverage economies of scale, whereby different pharmacy chains collaborate to set up a franchise under which retail stores that share a similar look and feel are opened, and joint marketing and promotions are used to support the chains involved.
Several major local pharmacy chains are already part of banner groups, including Terry White ChemMart, Chemist's Warehouse and Priceline Pharmacy.
Managing the market
Entity's commercial director Eva Tan told NutraIngredients-Asia: "We started out in 15 stores in Australia, but now over 40 stores are stocking our products across Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. We’ve also refined our strategy for focusing on Australia, which is such an important market for us.
"The country has 24.7 million people, making it far bigger than Singapore. It's also a very developed market in terms of healthcare and the concern people have for their own health. It's a country of people who are very sophisticated and adventurous when it comes to evaluating health trends, meaning they are usually first adopters."
She added that between 2005 and 2015, the Aussie vitamins and dietary supplements market experienced 100% growth, instead of reaching a 'saturation point' that might normally be expected of a well-developed and mature market such as Australia's.
Elaborating, Tan said: "Australia is home to high-quality supplement brands like Blackmores and Swisse, which produce very safe supplements. They are also regulated by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), which has a robust regime for evaluating such products.
"This has led to an influx of visitors and new residents, mostly from around Asia, who are very eager to buy such supplements. They go to Australia to work or study, and they start buying such products for themselves, as well as to bring home (for family and friends)."
The pharma factor
While the openness of the consumers to new products is keeping Entity's focus firmly fixed on the Aussie market, Tan also revealed why the brand is targeting pharmacies in particular.
"There are about 5,700 pharmacies in Australia — compared to Singapore's 230 — and the statistics are interesting: 70% of Australians take some form of complementary medicine regularly, and 94% visit a pharmacy every week to buy something.
"That's why we've made pharmacies a priority. Our strategy now is to double the momentum of how we quickly we enter different stores.
"We are still evaluating which banner groups are suitable for us. A single pitch to a banner group could get us into as many as 100 to 200 shops, and from next year onwards, we want to make sure we have exponential growth."
To this end, Entity has lined up a marketing campaign and appointed a PR firm and media agency to help develop its communications and put together a marketing plan.
Once the firm "hits critical mass" — likely in Q2 2019 — it will officially launch its marketing campaign, which will be rolled out through TV, radio, outdoor advertising, and shopping malls to support the banner groups that carry its products.
Extended reach, expanded range
To lend additional support to these efforts, Entity has been continually innovating to expand its different product ranges, which cover energy and vitality, skincare, lifestyle, bone and joint health, brain health, sleep, and prenatal care.
One of its newest items is part of its lifestyle range: an anti-hangover supplement in capsule format called LiviUP.
The supplement contains dihydromyricetin from Hovenia dulcis extract, which is meant to subdue the surge of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) — an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows the brain’s processing ability — brought on by alcohol consumption, therefore helping to keep the user alert.
The ingredient is also supposed to detoxify the liver by enhancing the production and activity of the enzymes ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) and ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) — the first metabolises alcohol in the liver into the toxic substance acetaldehyde, and the second further metabolises acetaldehyde into acetate, a less toxic compound that is eventually broken down into water and carbon dioxide in the body's tissues.
Together, these enzymes work to protect the liver and minimise symptoms associated with a hangover, such as nausea and facial flushing.
The second ingredient is Silybum marianum from milk thistle extract, meant to act as an antioxidant and scavenge free radicals produced by alcohol metabolism.
The third and final ingredient is thiamine hydrochloride. Thiamine is also known as vitamin B1, an essential nutrient the brain needs for the proper function of biochemical reactions. As the body does not produce thiamine, it must be obtained through diet and / or supplementation.
The ingredient was included as alcohol consumption can lead to thiamine deficiency through its malabsorption from the gastrointestinal tract, and its impaired utilisation in the body's cells.
Simple sells it
Tan said: "Many people requested an anti-hangover product, (even though) there are already so many different types of such a product on the market, whether in tablet, powder or shot format.
"They have similar yet different formulas. Some use curcumin, some include essential nutrients, some put in many types of vitamins…and those certainly work in their own ways.
"What we do that is different from other companies is that we target the root cause of hangovers. We target the toxins responsible, and if you look around in the market, you'd be hard-pressed to find another product with the same ingredients."
She further said that the small number of ingredients in LiviUP, as well as most of Entity's supplements, was part of the brand's philosophy to keep things simple and effective.
"We don't believe in just chucking 20 ingredients into our products for the sake of it. Our scientists are very particular about how they formulate products, and there's no point giving customers 20 ingredients (in one supplement) when most of them can only be included in such little amounts that the dosage won't have any impact.
"You may have only three ingredients in a supplement, but if they fulfil the functions you meed them to, they're sufficient. That has always been our philosophy — to keep things simple and make sure that whatever we add to a product covers an aspect not covered by its other ingredients."