South Africa’s health supplements market has tapped into a vein of vitality that has seen unprecedented growth in recent years – largely driven by consumers’ increased interest in healthy living and a desire to reduce their risk of illness. This is according to Corporate Communications Manager at Pharma Dynamics, Nicole Jennings, who goes on to explain how in the past year, consumers spent more than R48 million on immune-boosting supplements alone in SA.

A recent survey conducted by Pharma Dynamics revealed that almost half (46%) of South Africans take a daily health supplement to boost their immunity and overall well-being.

People are more interested in overall well-being and vitality than ever before. They’re consulting the internet before and after visits to the doctor to learn more about their condition and to find solutions to their health concerns, and view spending on nutrition and supplements as an investment into their own health.

Global drive to get healthy

It’s a global phenomenon, which is linked to an ageing population that is becoming more aware of the nutritional dimensions in their lives and the need for quality of life. Our research shows that the older you get, the better you tend to take care of your immune system. Almost 60% of young adults that participated in our survey said they don’t rely on health supplements to boost their immunity, while for those who are middle-aged and older, supplementation was essential.

According to a report released by Zion Market Research earlier this year, the global dietary supplements market was valued at $132.8 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $220.3 billion by 2022. It is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8% over the next five years.

So too, the vitamins and supplements market in SA has increased from R2.9 billion in 2014 to R3.8 billion in 2016, and is growing at a healthy rate of 13.5% per annum.

Understanding local consumers

Of the 54% of consumers who participated in Pharma Dynamics’ poll that haven’t cottoned onto the trend, 42% felt they didn’t need to supplement; 22% said they’re confused about which brand to buy as there are so many to choose from, while 18% cited the high price tag as a deterrent.

The diverse nature of supplements can be somewhat of a minefield to consumers as they come in pills, capsules, tablets, liquid and powder form, in various dosage and formulations, and some may be classified as foods, while others are classed as medicines, which makes it difficult to know what is worth buying and what isn’t.

Dietary supplements can contain a combination of vitamins, minerals and/or phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring chemicals in fruits and vegetables that may provide additional health benefits, while a vitamin per se, may be a type of chemical compound that is a vital nutrient for an organism to function optimally. If in doubt, always ask your pharmacist for advice.

Boosting immunity rates particularly high on consumers’ health wish list, with more than 65% of survey participants already firm believers in the benefits these supplements offer them, such as reducing their risk of catching a cold.

Most (85%) prefer to take their immune-boosting supplement first thing in the morning and 69% favours a tablet or capsule, while 21% find the refreshing taste of an effervescent tablet in a glass of water appealing. A small majority (5%) opts for powdered mixes.

With most health supplements it doesn’t really matter what time of day you take it, but that you adhere to the prescribed dosage and frequency listed on the packaging.

It’s also important to note that health supplements are there to complement your diet and shouldn’t be seen as the primary source of nutrient intake or a quick fix for a bad diet. By eating right and consuming nutritional supplements that are lacking from your diet, you will ensure that your body is receiving all the nutrients required for it to perform at an optimal, disease-free level.

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