‘The longevity pill’: NMN craze in China drives sales spurt for US, Japanese, NZ brands

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) is colloquially known as ‘the longevity pill’ in China. ©Getty Images
Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) is colloquially known as ‘the longevity pill’ in China. ©Getty Images

Related tags China NMN Import doctor's best

China’s increasing interest in nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), colloquially known as ‘the longevity pill’ in the country, has push sales to a new high for brands from the US brand Doctor’s Best, New Zealand’s EZZ, and Japan’s NADaltus.

According to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products (CCCMPHIE), the influx of NMN products from the US​ has boosted the country’s overall exports of nutraceuticals into China in this year.

The interest in NMN first started after China health foods firm Xiamen Kingdomway introduced its subsidiary firm – Doctor’s Best’s product during the mid-year, Charles Diao, regulatory manager at US-China Health Products Association, noted.

Doctor’s Best hit its US$1m mark within its first 10 days of launch in China​. It is sold at RMB$1,999 (US$303) per bottle of 60 capsules.

New Zealand’s EZZ is an up-and-coming brand sold at RMB$3,999 (US$607) for a bottle containing 60 tablets.

The product has received over 100k reviews on its flagship store on JD.com, surpassing other popular brands such as Gene Habour from Hong Kong.

At present, NMN finished products are only sold in China via cross-border e-commerce platforms, since no brands have achieved the “blue-hat” status for offline sales yet.

EffePharm, a Shanghai-based NMN supplier, said sales of its NMN ingredient trademarked Uthever had went up by three to four times between July and October and the same period last year.

The company mostly supplies NMN to the US market, which makes up 70% of its NMN business.

“Due to disruption from COVID-19, we expected the sales to drop. It indeed went down during March and April but started to pick up in May and June,”​ scientific affairs director, Hank Hwang, told NutraIngredients-Asia. ​ 

“There was in fact a yoy growth, possibly because companies were trying to replenish their stocks or to even stockpile the ingredient.

“Between July and October, we started to see a sudden spike in sales, which was three to four times higher than the same time last year,”​ he said.

Japanese firm Teijin Pharma said the higher demand for its NMN product NADaltus from China had contributed to a temporary out-of-stock situation.

“The sales within Japan have increased partly due to the rise of interest from Chinese consumers,”​ Masanobu Kanou, executive corporate operation officer at NOMON – the nutraceutical arm of Teijin told us.

Most of the consumers are those who are willing to invest in maintaining their health, including company executives and athletes and are in their 40s to 50s, he said.

The company sells the NMN supplement on its own website, medical institutions, and distributors such as Isetan Mitsukoshi and JAL Digital Experience.

While NMN is not yet officially approved by the Chinese authorities, the Japanese authorities have included it in the list of raw materials that are not judged to be pharmaceuticals unless labelled as having medicinal effects​ in March.

Reasons for growth

China’s growing demand for NMN is due to a combination of reasons, ranging from advancements in scientific evidence, marketing, cost, and the stock market, said Hwang.

First, he explained that there has been a continuous flow of scientific findings on NMN have been published over the years, which validated the ingredient’s function and efficacy.

Clinical trials which use NMN on COVID-19 patients further placed the ingredient in the spotlight. Results have shown that a combination of NMN, zinc, betaine, and sodium chloride could lead to rapid improvement in older patients.

The company itself is working with Fudan University in assessing NMN’s role in vision health.

Cost wise, he said that NMN was previously positioned as a premium product, but has became more affordable over the years, in turn allowing more to purchase the product.

The trigger point for the NMN craze in China is perhaps due to a series of unusual stock market movements in July.

Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed Xiamen Kingdomway saw a  20% spike in its share price after an article related to its NMN product went viral on July 14.

“The stock speculation had led more people to find out what exactly NMN is,”​ said Hwang.

Demand will continue

Hwang believes that the demand for NMN products will continue, as there is now a more efficient production technology, a stiffer market competition – all of which will push NMN prices low and make it more affordable.

With more China companies supplying the ingredient, the market competition would drive prices lower, Hwang said.

For EffePharm, the price of the NMN ingredient is now about 60% of the price of last year.

“There is still a lot of interest in NMN. Almost all of the health foods related expo held in China from October onwards has organised talks on NMN,”​ he said.

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