Chinese firm to sell US health supplements

Updated: 2013-04-18 12:00

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Nutritional-supplement maker NBTY Inc has formed an alliance with Qin Shan Tang to be the exclusive distributor on the Chinese mainland of the US company's Radiance supplement targeted at consumers in late middle age.

Xia Junbo, managing director of subsidiary NBTY China, said his company, which specializes in health care products for the elderly, can use the partnership to help develop the market for supplements and vitamins for older Chinese.

The agreement is a way to bring advanced health-care research and products made to international standards to China while giving elderly consumers more choices, Xia said.

NBTY, based in Ronkonkoma, New York, produces and sells a variety of vitamins and nutritional supplements worldwide, under its own Nature's Bounty brand and as a third-party manufacturer for other brands.

The company established a representative office in Beijing in 2005 and began selling its products in China two years later.

Qin Shan Tang is selling four forms of NTBY's Radiance, with different enzyme formulations: nitric oxide composite tablets, coenzyme Q10 soft capsules, nattokinase capsules and glucosamine chondroitin capsules. According to the companies, the products contain natural ingredients specially formulated for elderly Chinese.

Demand for health care products including supplements is expected to increase along with China's higher incomes and living standards.

According to the China Health Care Association, 644 kinds of nutritional supplements have been exported to China over the past 15 years, with 63 percent coming from the US.

"China has one of the fastest-growing obesity and diabetes rates in the world, yet I see a trivial demand for any healthy beverages or food," said Barry Popkin, an economist and nutrition epidemiologist who heads the Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"American nutritional products are trustworthy in their nutritional contents and will not have any contamination. This is a big issue in China and I suspect they have great potential. The problem is Chinese demand. The population is not educated as to what are healthy foods and beverages and focus more on misleading advertisements than true ways to improve their health," Popkin said.

US-based Amway Corp, a direct-selling company that uses multilevel marketing to distribute vitamins, cosmetics and other consumer goods, is one of the biggest foreign players in the Chinese market. It has seen tremendous growth in its businesses.

Sales in China, Amway's biggest market, reached 27.1 billion yuan ($4.34 billion) in 2012, compared with 26.7 billion yuan the previous year.

In 2012, the introduction of the Amway eSpring water-filtration system in China became the company's biggest product launch ever. First-year sales are projected to exceed $500 million, the company said in a statement.

Su Ye, who is pursuing a master's degree in art at the University of Florida, said that every time she returns home to China, her family and friends ask her to bring health supplements. Fish oil, grape-seed extract and vitamins are top requests, she said.

"They just love American nutritional products, thinking those made-in-US products are of better quality with a lower price," Su said. "It would be great if more US nutritional supplement companies could directly sell in China, at roughly the same price as in the US."