Nature’s Way entered the South Korean market three years ago, starting with e-commerce platforms Coupang, Gmarket, GS Shop, Shinsegae, and Nature’s Way online Shopping Mall and currently sells 10 product SKUs online.
About six months ago, the brand, which has a range of products for both adults and kids, began growing its offline presence via a pilot trial with Onnuri.
“We started our business online. As you know, Korea is an advanced online market and it’s a very convenient and accepted way of purchasing our products,” Dean Curotta, GM – rest of Asia & Pacific told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“However, we and our distribution partners have always believed that pharmacy is a good channel for our supplements. And traditionally, in many markets, pharmacy is important, not everyone shops online…Getting recommendation and support from pharmacies is important for building trust.”
The brand has chosen the bestselling products online to sell in Onnuri, which Curotta said included vitamin C, its Kids Smart Vita Gummies, and products related to cognitive health.
“We are choosing half a dozen high potential ones first – our most popular selling products online [to be sold in Onnuri].
“Generally, immunity related products are doing well because of COVID-19, and that could be a whole range of different ingredients related to natural immunity boosting. Traditional cognitive support for kids and wellbeing for children is important too and that’s an area the Korean parents are very much focused on.
“I will say that immunity and cognitive development are the areas that's been strong in sales for us,” he said.
In the initial stage, the plan is to expand the availability of the products into 400 to 500 Onnuri outlets. The chain owns about 2,100 outlets across South Korea, with the bulk of it – about 640 – located in Seoul.
“It’s a step by step process and the intention is to have our products in all the Onnuri pharmacies,” said Curotta.
Curotta described the South Korean market as having an “extremely high level of competition”, and the brand would seek to expand its portfolio by doubling its SKUs in the next 12 months.
Market competition is coming from both local and international players, with homegrown firms such as Korean Ginseng Corp, hy Co., Chong Kun Dang dominating the industry.
“Korean consumers have very high expectations on quality and trust is the important thing. There is a lot of competition and it is not easy to succeed. And that is why it is important to have good innovative products that have a special place in the consumers’ mind,” Curotta said.
Some of the company’s unique offerings, according to Curotta, include its gummies products and chocolate probiotics.
“Definitely there's a trend towards gummies. And we're very strong in the gummy category across the region, no one has the same range that we have.
“Probiotics is an area of interest and is a very well-established market in Korea and so, we are looking at that [as well].
“We plan to have about 20 products on the market, which is to double our offerings within the next 12 months,” he said.