High vitamins use in NZ, but uncertainty over regulations felt by industry and consumers

By Si Ying Thian

- Last updated on GMT

High vitamins use in NZ, but uncertainty over regulations persists - Consumer NZ © Getty Images
High vitamins use in NZ, but uncertainty over regulations persists - Consumer NZ © Getty Images

Related tags consumer insights consumer behaviour Market research Supplements

New Zealand’s consumer watchdog has published data showing that 80% of those surveyed had taken a supplement in the last year, but doubts over the regulatory regime and its future persist among industry and consumers.

Multivitamins (55%) and vitamins (54%) emerged as most popular type of supplements among New Zealand consumers.  On specific supplements, Vitamin C was the top favourite (66%), followed by magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B.

Vitamins was also most popular with respondents who were giving supplements to their children, and in a chewable format like a gummy bear.

On why they take supplements, vitamin or mineral deficiency is the most common reason, followed by joint health, sleep, energy, immunity, gut health, then mental health or anxiety.

Brick-and-mortar is still king as most respondents still prefer to buy their supplements at the supermarket (49%) or pharmacy (47%). Almost half of them spend an average AUD $20 to $50 every month on supplements.

Additionally, the survey found that younger people are more likely to take plant extracts and people who use social media are likely to spend more on supplements.

The findings were based on a survey conducted by Consumer NZ on a nationally representative sample of 1,001 New Zealanders aged 18 years and older in November 2022, and reported by Consumer NZ’s research and test writer Belinda Castles.

Calls for greater transparency and research

Despite the high supplement use in the New Zealand population, only one-third of the users research the efficacy behind them before purchasing.

One thing that we did discover was that half of the people in our survey don't believe the level of research into natural remedies and supplements is acceptable. So that was pretty high. Even though they were users of supplements themselves, they were a bit like, "Hmm, not sure there's enough research going on in the background,"​ Castles added.

The concerns were centred around the health effects of long-term use and the risks of taking them with prescription and non-prescription medicines.

Public opinion on the Therapeutics Products Bill

In Consumer NZ’s podcast, Castles revealed that the ongoing work of the Therapeutics Products Bill “has been quite controversial,” ​and there is divided public opinion as to whether natural health products (NHP) should be regulated.

It will regulate the ingredients that are allowed in these products. It will regulate the claims that can be made about the products, and there's also going be a register of therapeutic products, which will be publicly available, so consumers will be able to have a look to see what’s on the market and what evidence there is for it,”​ Castles explained regarding the bill.

When Consumer NZ interviewed some members of the public, one of them had expressed concern about the unregulated information on the web and how the bill provides more clarity to product claims.

From an industry perspective, Kim Wessels from NHP manufacturer Lifestream International raised widespread sector concerns over the lack of detail regarding pre-approved claims in the new Bill – such as what NZ has for its Food Standards Code.

“We are very restricted as to what we can say. It seems like a little bit of a complicated process when there often can be years of evidence to validate, a particular ingredient,” ​Wessels added.

 Other industry players said that the fees associated with getting regulatory approval may not be economically feasible for smaller businesses like theirs.

Every batch will be tested and that costs to send away to a lab. That might be okay if you're making in thousands, but I make in small batches of 10. The cost that was sort of been thrown around was about $80 per batch,” ​said Kate Shanks from ORA Aromatherapy.

We’ve kept our prices really low. People often tell us we should put them up. We don’t want to do that because I have a strong conviction that natural health products should not just be for wealthy people, but for all people. And I think it would be a pity if they lost that choice because we either went out of business or increased our prices to pay for the compliance costs,” ​said Quentin Jamieson who runs a Gisbourne-based herbal product business.

Source: Consumer NZ 

“Why are natural health products so popular?”

Author: Castles, B.

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