The company established its consumer healthcare division this year, with the aim of further engaging its consumers and retail partners.
The Bursa Malaysia-listed company currently has five dietary supplement brands.
Apart from its flagship adult VMS brand Flavettes launched in 1994, it also has other adult VMS brands Naturalle, Proviton, joint health brand Donna, and children’s supplement brand Champs.
“The company realised that the way of working and investing in the consumer healthcare unit is very different from the pharmaceutical side,” Shamsul Idham Bin Ahad, CEO, Duopharma Consumer Healthcare told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“For consumer healthcare, it is about direct engagement with the consumers and about creating the value-proposition in terms of our range and products. The cooperation with the retail partner is also very critical.”
Citing data from IQVIA, he said that the consumer healthcare market was growing at about 6% to 7% this year, while the medicines market was on the decline.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s total consumer healthcare unit had increased by over 20% in the first eight months of this year as compared to last year, he added.
The growth is largely driven by its Flavettes vitamin C effervescent tablets.
It currently sells its products in Malaysia in key retail chains such as Watsons, Guardian, and independent retailers which are numbered at 1,500.
Riding on heightened consumer interest, he said the firm, which has an approximately 50-member strong R&D team, will focus on strengthening its immunity category.
In the pipeline is also energy supplements for adult nutrition. The first wave of product launch is planned for Q1 next year.
“We always look at the category with the biggest opportunity and it must fit into our existing brands. Vitamin C for adults and children is definitely the category that we are focusing on,” he said.
Effervescent for beauty and immune
Products driving sales for the company’s consumer healthcare unit included Flavettes’ vitamin C effervescent and vitamin C effervescent Glow – which is targeted at the nutricosmetics market.
The vitamin C effervescent Glow contains 1000mg of vitamin C and 15IU of vitamin E and 50mg of glutathione.
“Flavettes vitamin C has given us a unique proposition, where we have moved slightly from just immunity into the beauty from within segment. That proposition has received tremendous support from the consumers,” Shamsul said.
The right dosage format also comes into play, with the company observing that consumers preferred effervescent tablets to chewable tablets.
“We see that there is a shift in terms of consumer demand in the vitamin C market from the chewables to the effervescent range.
“That is why we made a conscious decision three years ago to invest about RM$8m (US$1.9m) in building the effervescent facility [in Bangi, Selangor],” Shamsul said.
There are plans to bring Flavettes to outside of Malaysia and the neighbouring South East Asian countries will be the key targets.
Currently, Flavettes products are already sold in Singapore, albeit in small quantities, via e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, Lazada, and Qoo10, as well as the National Healthcare Group’s pharmacies.
“We want to build Flavettes as a regional brand for Duopharma consumer healthcare…But if we want to go into these countries, it will require a sizeable investment from us, especially to create the consumer awareness,” Shamsul said.
Philippines and Indonesia are on the company’s list for expansion in the next two to three years, after the products are registered in the countries.
Thailand and Vietnam are also singled out as potential markets.
Halal for hygiene
The company, which has all its supplements certified halal, said there has been an increase in demand for halal supplements in the past five years.
According to Shamsul, this is not just due to religious reason, but also the belief that halal certified products are more hygienic.
“When a product is certified halal, it will also give consumers the assurance that the product is being produced in a strict, hygienic facility,” he said, adding that halal-certified facilities will also need to pass GMP standards.
He added that the company has been invited by retailers such as Watsons and Guardian to train their pharmacists on halal-certified pharmaceuticals.
On what exactly makes a supplement halal, he said this was not only linked to the ingredients used, but also the processing methods used.
The company first obtained the Malaysian Halal certification from JAKIM in 1999 and later the Indonesian Halal certification from Majelis Ulama Indonesia in 2014.
All the company’s supplements bear the halal-certified logo.