Coronavirus crisis: Demand for immunity supplements surge amid China outbreak

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The demand for immunity-boosting dietary supplements have surged in China. ©Getty Images
The demand for immunity-boosting dietary supplements have surged in China. ©Getty Images

Related tags China coronavirus Immune system

A number of Chinese health food firms have seen an increase in demand for products related to immunity boosting and respiratory health amid the Wuhan virus outbreak.

While the novel coronavirus has led to a sharp rise in the demand for face masks, hand sanitizers, some supplement firms said demand for some of their products have increased too.

At Chinese firm Angel Yeast, demand for glucan, lactoferrin, selenium-enriched yeast has gone up three-fold.

The firm’s overseas business director Jimmy Fu said in response to NutraIngredients-Asia’s​ queries that products that boost the immunity or prevent upper respiratory tract infection were in high demand.

Despite this, the company is unable to ramp up the operation at this point in time as it is based in the Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak has caused many cities in the area to be placed under lockdown.

Fu said the factory could only resume operation upon government notice, adding that the firm would ‘immediately run operations’​ once they could start work.

Another China firm, Happiness Biotech Group, also said that the sales of its cordyceps mycelia products had surged over 100% last month due to the epidemic.

As of Jan 27, revenue from these products hit excess of RMB$8m (approx. USD$1.2m), which was 100% and 125% higher than the figure in Dec and Nov last year.

The company said that its cordyceps mycelia oral liquid has been approved by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration for its ability to regulate humoral and cellular immunity, as well as to improve the phagocytosis of macrophages, which in turn strengthen the body’s resistance. 

The company added that the demand for products catered to individuals with a weak immune system ‘has been stronger than ever’ ​amid the outbreak. 

“Since the outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus, the demand for our cordyceps mycelia oral liquid and other nutritional products has increased dramatically. 

“We have requested that our employees continue manufacturing even amidst the Chinese New Year's celebrations…We are prepared to increase the production capacity at any moment, if necessary,​” said Xuezhu Wang, CEO of the Nanping-based firm.

The second stage

Consumers intake of dietary supplements will continue to increase in the upcoming weeks, according to a number of firms.

We anticipate the demand will continue to increase over the next several months before the coronavirus is fully under control”’ ​said Wang.

Malaysia firm Excelvite’s business development manager Bryan See echoed the same view. As an ingredient supplier, the firm has yet to see the increase in sales order due to the virus outbreak and believes the sales growth would be more evident at a later stage. 

“In the current stage, products such as face mask and hand sanitizers are the most popular, these are the items that people need the most. The rise in demand for dietary supplements will come in at the second stage, after people already have their masks and sanitizers.”

He believes that the episode will allow firms to show the usefulness of their health products, but at the same time cautioned against opportunistic behaviours that milk the current situation for monetary gains.

On the other hand, some nutrition retailers which rely on Chinese tourists for business have seen the downside of the crisis​ and needed to put on hold plans for new store opening. 

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