High-achiever: Aussie’s complementary medicine industry exceeds $5bn, growth outpace general economy

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The Australian complementary medicine industry is now worth AUD$5.2bn.  ©Getty Images
The Australian complementary medicine industry is now worth AUD$5.2bn. ©Getty Images

Related tags Australia Dietary supplement Market

The Australian complementary medicine industry is now worth AUD$5.2bn (US$3.5bn), growing at a speed that outpace the general economy.

Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) published its industry audit report 2019, which showed the breakdown of the industry’s performance.

The report showed that the vitamins and dietary supplements contributed the lion’s share to the industry. It is now worth AUD$2.94bn (US$2bn), which is twice the size of 10 years ago.

The category is forecast to grow 22% CAGR over the next 10 years.

Sports nutrition was the second largest category, followed by herbal and traditional products, and weight loss categories, which brought in AUD$1.11bn (US$761m), AUD$720m (US$493m), and AUD$430m (US$294m) respectively.

On the other hand, Australian exports of complementary medicines hit a record high to AUD$1bn last year, with Asia providing the most growth.   

Most of the exports (70%) went to China, and Australia has also surpassed the US​ as the top exporter to China.

According to the Euromonitor, the size of China’s import market is forecast to reach AUD$11bn by 2024.

The Oceania, Vietnam and South Korea made up the bulk of the remaining exports at 13%, 5.3%, and 5.2%.

“Australia has created a $1 billion export success story as consumer demand continues to grow for high quality Australian complementary medicines.

“Asia is the fastest-growing region of the world, with a growing middle class and

ageing population; this trend is expected to continue to grow our export market.

“China represents a significant growth opportunity for the Australian industry potentially doubling in size in 3 years,”​ said the report.

However, CMA also cautioned that the export markets are “at risk”, ​due to the stringent requirements for using the iconic “Australian Made” logo.

Overall, the CMA described the industry’s performance as a “healthy growth”, ​which continues to “outpace growth in the broader economy.”

Australians’ consumption patterns

The report also listed a number of consumption trends happening in Australia.

1)    More females consumers

According to the report, more women have purchased complementary medicines than men last year.

Nearly eight in 10 women have bought complementary medicines, while nearly seven in 10 men have done the same.

The most commonly bought product was vitamins for both genders.

More women also tend to buy probiotics, minerals, and nutritional supplements than men. The opposite is true for omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil products.

2)    Popular sales channels

Pharmacies continue to be the best outlet for buying complementary medicines for 68% of the Australians.

Supermarkets and health food stores are the preferred choice for 37% and 32% of consumers.

The number of people who choose to buy products online is slightly higher than last year, while those who buy from direct-selling firms remain about the same in the last two years.

3)    Managing chronic disease

Managing chronic disease is one of the main reasons for purchasing complementary medicines.

Last year, seven out of 10 Australians used at least one form of complementary medicine.

One third did so to manage the symptoms of a chronic disease.

The five largest categories last year were products for 1) general health 2) joint and bone 3) heart health 4) digestive and 5) women’s health.

The five fastest growing ingredients were glucosamine, which grew at 11.6%, followed by probiotics at 10.2%, spirulina at 9.6%, calcium at 9.1%, and propolis at 8.6%.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, half of all Australians suffer from a chronic disease.

About 63% are overweight or obese. Diabetes accounted for one million hospitalisation cases, while cardiovascular disease is the main contributing factor for one in three deaths.

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