Singapore's Health Supplement eCommerce Trends: Vitamin Demand Spikes, Herbal Capsules, and Global Brands
March 11, 2020
July 10, 2023
In a previous article, we’ve learnt that Singaporeans tend to lean on the side of caution when it comes to their health. This has implications in the health & beauty industry, but more so for preventive health products now that COVID-19 has become so widespread globally.
The Singaporean government has actively stepped in with policies to control the spread of the virus,1 and this level of proactivity trickles down to the regular Singaporean. After all, Singaporeans are quite ‘kiasu’, a Singlish term used to describe a sense of not wanting to lose out to others.
With Singaporeans opting for more preventative measures in light of COVID-19, eCommerce is seeing a boom in orders as more people stay at home to do their shopping.2 This also has its implications on the eCommerce health supplements market in Singapore. But before we dive into the trends in Singapore’s health supplements market, it helps to get an overview of Singapore’s health supplements eCommerce market.
An Overview of Singapore’s Health Supplements Market
When it comes to health supplements, Singaporeans are spoiled for choice, but they can be generally categorised in the following manner:
In 2019, herbal/traditional supplements held 41 per cent of the market share, while standard supplements held 59 per cent of the market share according to Euromonitor. Euromonitor also predicts that the Vitamin and Dietary Supplements industry will grow from SGD 581.3 million in 2019 to SGD 737.3 million in 2024, but bear in mind that these estimates could change in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.3
This near even split in product shares is informed by Singaporeans’ belief that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can act as a supplement to the medical system. Singapore’s Health Ministry also poured an extra SGD 5 million in funding to develop and support TCM research from the span of 2017 to 2021.4
Like Malaysia, Singapore’s Vitamin and Dietary Supplements market is also highly fragmented, with the top companies only holding slightly more than 9 per cent of market share in 2019, and its competitors following close behind. This means there’s a chance for you to enter Singapore’s market and take your share, but it’s also good to know who you are competing with. According to Euromonitor,5 the top companies that sell health supplements in Singapore are:
With this background information out of the way, let’s dive into the insights to take away from Singapore’s eCommerce health supplements market.
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COVID-19 Cause Spikes in Demand for Vitamin C & Multivitamins
Vitamin C is Singapore’s popular go-to health supplement. Its consumers believe that Vitamin C has the ability to boost the immune system, and it continues to be the top product that is bought in this island-nation in 2019.6
With the rise of COVID-19 cases globally, Singaporeans’ concern for their health has also caused a spike in purchase for Vitamin C & multivitamins. An NTUC FairPrice spokesperson revealed to Nutra-Ingredients Asia that the sales for Vitamin C and multivitamins went up by three to five times over the last two weeks of February 2020 when the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level went up from Yellow (meaning the disease is spreading but contained) to Orange (meaning the disease is severe and spreads easily from human contact) in 7 February 2020.7
Outside of outbreaks like these, Singaporeans who feel that they lack the proper nutrients from their poor diets will purchase multivitamins for its quick and easy fix. Brands that combine herbal ingredients such as turmeric, cranberry, or ginkgo biloba, with standard ingredients in health supplements, will do well with consumers outside of the ones who solely consume TCM and want to ensure that they have a more complete nutritional intake. These include brands like GNC, Pharmanex, Nutrilite and Blackmores.8
If you’re aiming to sell your products to cater to the Singaporean consumer’s busy lifestyle, it helps to sell it via eCommerce channels, be it through marketplace platforms like Lazada or Shopee, or through your own Brand.com. These two channels will give you a great amount of control in terms of testing the demand of your products in Singapore via cross-border shipping before fully committing to a local supply chain.
Herbal Capsules for the Young On-the-Go; Comforting Tonics for the Old
Euromonitor’s report on herbal products in Singapore has pointed out an interesting product segmentation.9 While herbal capsules are increasingly popular within Singapore, the older generation tends to use tonics because of how comforting they are. Singaporeans have long used herbal tonics in soup form to alleviate ailments such as headaches,10 which contributes to the idea that tonics are comforting to consume. Essence of Chicken continues to be a popular product within Singapore, and consumers can get creative with how to use the product with their food, such as cooking it with congee11 or adding them into soups.
However, with millennials getting busier than ever, they are turning to capsule form because of its convenience. It just happens that Suntory’s Brand’s also offers its Essence of Chicken in a capsule format to be consumed like medicinal pills. In order to capture the interests of the millennial, herbal products have to address their need to be on-the-go and tackle a variety of nutritional deficiencies. This is why we may see more herbal ingredients increasingly getting integrated into the multivitamins format in order to capture the wider market segment.
Singaporeans Prefer Global Brands for Health Supplements, but Not Brand Loyal
For international brands looking to expand into Singapore, the lack of a market leader is good news for those who have yet to enter the city-state.
In terms of brand shares across the vitamins and dietary supplements market in 2019, GNC held 9.5 per cent of the market share, followed by Suntory Holdings at 8.6 per cent. Nu Skin held 5.8 per cent, and Amway Corp held 4.7 per cent.12
From here, it’s quite apparent that the market leaders are global brands with headquarters outside of Singapore. To add to the good news for international brands, Singaporeans have shown a preference for global brands according to Nielsen’s survey in 2017, where 88 per cent of consumers preferring global brands as opposed to local ones.13 However, new brands entering Singapore’s market may still find it challenging to sustain their customers’ interest.
In a separate study by Nielsen in 2017, they have found that brand-switching is increasingly normalised among Singaporean consumers. They found that 3 in 5 consumers can be persuaded to try a new brand despite saying they prefer to stick with brands they know. The top reason, at 78 per cent, why Singaporeans switch brands is due to them seeking products that provides good value for money, followed by price reductions and promotions at 73 per cent.14
To that end, it helps if you participate in Singapore’s major shopping seasons to attract potential buyers. eCommerce platforms tend to have seasonal sales that you can participate in, while letting your product get seen by as many eCommerce users as possible. To find out when Singapore's major eCommerce shopping seasons are, you can check out our recently updated article on this topic.
Nevertheless, the demand for global products from Singaporean consumers is all year-round. By shipping your orders using the cross-border method, you can sell your products into Singapore without a hefty upfront investment.
Internet Retailing Gaining Ground as a Sales Channel
Brick and mortar health & beauty specialist stores have lost their value share to channels like eCommerce stores from 2014 to 2019. In 2014, health & beauty specialist stores had 59 per cent value share, which then dropped to 56.4 per cent in 2019. In contrast, eCommerce grew from 2.9 per cent in 2014 to 5.3 per cent in 2019.15
While the shares are still small, eCommerce is certainly growing as a sales channel. Additionally, with fears of catching the COVID-19 sickness, more consumers are turning to online channels to do their shopping.16
Some brick and mortar retailers have taken to the Internet to capitalise on the growing eCommerce industry, such as Watsons and Guardian. This strategy allows them to complement their offline sales channels, especially if they are able to integrate their online and offline sales channels into an omnichannel shopping experience for their shoppers. For instance, the click and collect method offered by both Watsons and Guardian allows consumers to place an order online and collect their product at their chosen branch.
In light of COVID-19, it helps to focus on making use of your online sales channels for now since consumers are more hesitant to shop at physical stores. Both Watsons’ and Guardian’s websites saw a spike in traffic in the month of February 2020. According to Similarweb, Watsons.com.sg enjoyed 1.12 million visits in February 2020 compared to 777 thousand visits in December 2019 prior to the virus breaking out in Singapore.17 Similarly, Guardian.com.sg enjoyed 721 thousand visits in February 2020 compared to 503 thousand visits in December 2019.18
To ensure that your online shopping experience is complete, getting a reliable shipping partner who can safely handle the eCommerce delivery operations to your customer’s doorstep is the moment of truth for your eCommerce business. By ensuring that your delivery is smooth, you’ll be able to win over your consumers for how seamless the shopping experience is from click to doorstep.
What Else Influences Singaporeans’ Health Supplements Purchasing Decisions?
As mentioned in the third point, Singaporeans’ preference towards global brands for health supplements is a boon for any new eCommerce players looking to enter this market. To get your products seen by your potential consumers, it helps to know which marketing tactics are useful for your product category.
For starters, PwC found that 57% of Singaporeans tend to rely on online reviews before making their purchase in their study in 2016.19 Therefore, it’s important to leverage your social media channels and encourage your users to leave reviews for your product.
You could also opt to use health & beauty social media influencers to push your product out there. A health & beauty influencer’s endorsement is important for 76 per cent of online users who follow influencers.20 We cover more on this marketing tactic in our previous article on skincare in Singapore.
Additionally, Singaporean eCommerce shoppers tend to be the most vocal about their experiences. If your eCommerce experience exceeds their expectations, they are 2x more likely than their Indonesian counterparts to endorse your online shop, but if it goes wrong, they complain the most compared to other Southeast Asian shoppers.21
To make the most out of this, your product has to cater to your consumers’ needs and your shipping partner has to be reliable. From the parcel’s first pick up until the last mile delivery, a good shipping partner that can simplify the cross border shipping experience is one that you can count on to enhance your eCommerce experience for your shoppers. That way, you’re able to win over sceptical consumers in Singapore and leave your mark on Singapore’s health supplements market.
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