Vitaco says Asian market growth 'top priority' amid NPD and local partnership focus

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

With its two sports nutrition brands, Aussie Bodies and Musashi, Vitaco hopes to capture both male and female markets.
With its two sports nutrition brands, Aussie Bodies and Musashi, Vitaco hopes to capture both male and female markets.

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Functional food, Protein

Aussie-Kiwi supplement firm Vitaco is looking to increase its public visibility in Asia and the Middle East, with NPD planned for its four core brands targeting heart health, gut health, musculoskeletal health and immune health.

Formed in 2007 from a merger between two renowned health and wellness firms — Healtheries of New Zealand and Nutra-Life Health and Fitness — Vitaco has a variety of health and nutrition brands in its portfolio, four of which account for the bulk of its business: Healtheries, Nutra-Life, Aussie Bodies and Musashi.

The company manufactures its products at its own plant in New Zealand, and claims to be the largest manufacturer and marketer of vitamins (via Healtheries and Nutra-Life) in the country, with an approximate 23% market share.

It is also touted as Australasia's largest sports nutrition company, thanks to Aussie Bodies and Musashi, which CEO Craig Kearney says are the "leading protein-based sports nutrition brands in both Australia and New Zealand, with about 30% share of the sports nutrition market"​.

Presently, the firm is in the midst of NPD for the aforementioned brands, in the hopes of continued growth in Australia and New Zealand, as well as greater brand awareness in China and the rest of Asia.

Pillars of good health

Nutra-Life, Vitaco's premium health and wellness range that boasts natural ingredients, is characterised by four major pillars of health: heart health, gut health, musculoskeletal health and immune health.

Kearney told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Our Nutra-Life Kyolic supplement, which is based on aged garlic extract, is the number one heart health supplement in Australia and New Zealand.

"There are over 700 scientific studies showing the positive effects of aged garlic extract on cardiovascular health, and we're looking to launch new products within that range, as well as to get some improved health claims approved by Australian authorities."

"We're also launching a new range of probiotics, as well as a line of magnesium products to alleviate stress and provide more restful sleep, in the next month."

With regards to immune health, he said there had been 'tremendous growth' for Nutra-Life's immunity-boosting vitamin C products, with the brand expected to add more varieties of supplements to the range.

Under Healtheries, Vitaco manufactures functional food products, such as cereals, teas, milk products, and healthy snacks for children, as well as its line of children's vitamins, KidsCare.

The company is now aiming to raise Healtheries' profile in New Zealand with its first-ever brand campaign.

Kearney said, "The campaign is designed to build up the brand's image, and we'll take this opportunity to launch new supplements, snacks, teas and cereals — all under the banner of a new, refreshed look for Healtheries.

"All the product ranges under Healtheries will see new items launched between now and the end of the year, driven by an extensive above-the-line advertising campaign on TV and in digital media, which is a real first for the brand."

Sporting chance

With its two sports nutrition brands, Aussie Bodies and Musashi, Vitaco hopes to capture both male and female markets.

Musashi, which is known for its protein products and amino acid supplements, has prioritised younger sportspeople with a novel product whose development, according to Kearney, was supported by the NSW Institute of Sports.

He said, "Musashi has gone through a complete brand overhaul in the last year, and we've introduced some new products, such as our protein bars and plant protein supplements.

"Within the next month, we'll become the first brand we're aware of to have launched a protein product specifically formulated for young athletes aged 15 to 17, whose protein requirements differ from those of adult athletes.

"This product will be available in about a month, and is expected to open up a whole new segment of the market to our brand. It will also provide a far superior protein-based sports nutrition product for aspiring young athletes."

Kearney also revealed that about 85% of Musashi's customers are male, with the brand skewing its marketing to appeal to active men and formulating its products with male athletes in mind.

Aussie Bodies, on the other hand, has a somewhat more feminine slant, with approximately 55% of its customers being female. Known for its protein powders, bars and drinks, as well as its specialist sports food items, the brand is taking advantage of emerging research on collagen to drive its new launch.

Kearny said: "We are launching a new range of collagen-based protein bars and powders, and we'll be the first in the market with this type of product in Australia and New Zealand.

"Most people think collagen is mainly good for skin, nails, and overall beauty. But the benefits of collagen-based protein are just as compelling for muscle tissue, bone health, and cartilage.

"There's a growing body of science behind the benefits of collagen as a protein source, and we are positioning the product such that it can provide some cosmetic benefits, but more importantly, that it can support muscle-building and cartilage health, which makes it appropriate for sports nutrition."

Foundational focus

While Vitaco has enjoyed significant success in Australia and New Zealand, its presence in other APAC markets has not made the same impact.

Its products are sold in China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Middle East, and Europe, and it has its own office in China, which it predicts will account for 15% to 20% of its total business in the near future.

But at the moment, the firm still has some way to go before it fully realises its potential in its existing markets.

Kearny said: "We do business in China with Nutra-Life and Healtheries, and we have partners in other parts of Asia. But I think we can and should do a whole lot more in our existing markets, to build on what we already have — that should be our top priority."

In China, for example, Vitaco sees strong growth potential for supplements and sports nutrition, and Kearney believes the firm's reputation as a renowned sports nutrition company in Australia and New Zealand places it in 'a good position' to further build its business in China.

Outside of China, it has identified opportunities throughout South East Asia and the Middle East, where it is confident there is potential to introduce a far more developed offering of products.

"For instance, Healtheries offers a great opportunity to bring healthy snacking and supplements into the APAC region, so it's a matter of building our core brands and bringing them into the Asian marketplace," ​said Kearney.

"That's not to say we're not looking at new markets. We can do lots of different things, but we need to make sure we are doing them well. We need to work with our current partners on improving our practices, but we're always looking for new opportunities at the same time."

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