Natural health products delivered a growth rate of 34%, which was up NZD$7m (US$4.5m) in terms of Moving Annual Total (MAT) across grocery stores in the latest quarter.
In contrast, the segment declined by 5%, down NZD$6m (US$3.8m) in MAT in pharmacies.
Market research firm IRI attributed reduced traffic to pharmacies as one of the reasons.
“Pharmacy was off to a roaring start as we go into level 2 and panic buying but during lockdown, it really struggled to get that foot traffic,” said Samantha Firsow, IRI consultant of consumer and shopper insights.
Notably, nearly half (40%) of the natural health product sales in groceries came from the panic buying week on March 22.
On the other hand, e-commerce had lifted the slumping pharmacies sales, with online sales up 10%.
“Online has been fast track in its penetration, it has never been more important to invest in digital marketing than now,” she said.
Fastest growing ingredients
In New Zealand, the top 15 ingredients with the highest percentage growth in the last quarter were dominated by those with immune health claims.
Thirteen out of 15 were ingredients with immunity health claims, with elderberry delivering the top percentage growth, where sales went up 127% in the last quarter as compared to the same period last year.
The other fast-growing ingredient was vitamin C, where sales was up 97%.
Besides orange, she said that firms could also tap on the national fruit – Kiwi – in developing natural health products that were high in vitamin C.
Leveraging on immune health claims
Natural health products with immune support and prevention claims were already trending in New Zealand even before COVID-19 occurred.
However, manufacturers have not effectively tapped on the concept, Firsow said.
She gave the example of how the sales of cough, cold, and flu natural products had dropped after experiencing a sales surge in March.
For instance, the MAT natural health products for cold and flu was up 136% in the latest quarter as compared to the same period last year and 79% higher as compared to the previous quarter.
“The drop in the cough cold and seasonal flu is a challenge. But if we pivot our language to prevention and supporting immunity, it should resonate and retain buyers.
“Because even before COVID-19, immune support and prevention were trending in NZ, with the immune segment delivering the second largest actual value growth,” she said.
Mental, beauty-from-within also booming
Aside from immune health, mental health was also a much talked about topic in recent months.
Product innovations in this area include Seremind, the lavender oil based oral capsules to alleviate mild anxiety.
Firsow also cited Reckitt Benckiser’s brain health supplement Neuriva consisting of neurofactor and plant-sourced Sharp Phosphatidylserine (PS) as the key ingredient and Good Source with its ‘Evening calm’ snacks containing melatonin and lavender.
She said that the other self-care opportunities for product innovation include the beauty-from-within segment.