China's Dietary Supplement Sector Still Underdeveloped
   2013-04-08 15:29:07    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xu Fei

With improved living standards in Chinese cities, Chinese urbanites have been exhibiting a greater demand for nutritional supplements in recent years.

But experts who participated in the ongoing World Health Industry Conference in Beijing point out that China's dietary supplement industry remains underdeveloped. CRI's Xu Fei has more.

The 2nd World Health Industry Conference opened in Beijing on Sunday, April 7, 2013. Cao Zeyi (2nd from right), vice dean of the Medical School at Tsinghua University and former deputy minister of Health is the chairman of this year's conference. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

Reporter: As Chinese people continue to pay more attention to their health than ever before, Chinese urbanites are not only demanding more rigidity in terms of food safety, they've also been spending more money on health products.

Statistics from the China Health Care Association, an organization affiliated with the Chinese government, reveal that over the past two decades expenditure on health products has grown at an annual rate of between 15 and 30 percent.

These nutritional supplements have also gained in popularity among Chinese youngsters. The father of one college student explains his reasons for purchasing dietary supplements for his child.

"It's beneficial for my child's health and I think my investment is worthwhile if my child is able to achieve his academic goals while maintaining good health. I think many parents are of the same opinion."

Cao Zeyi, vice dean of the Medical School at Tsinghua University and former deputy minister of health believes that China's nutritional supplement industry is growing, but adds that many businesses within the industry are currently of a poor standard.

"In fact, there's big demand in the dietary supplement industry. Hence, a number of disqualified domestic companies, including producers of these dietary supplements and medicare institutions, want to make profits from selling fake products. These counterfeit products gain access to the market as a result of loopholes in regulations and the lack of rigid supervision."

However, despite this worrying news, the increased demand for nutritional supplements within China has attracted more dietary-supplement manufacturers from around the world who hope to cash in on the trend.

Jeff Crowther, CEO and executive director of the US-China Health Products Association, addresses the World Health Industry Conference, which opened in Beijing on Sunday, April 7, 2013. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

Joining the World Health Industry Conference in Beijing on Sunday, Jeff Crowther, CEO and executive director of the US-China Health Products Association said that the dietary supplement industry in China has a lot of potential, but is highly underdeveloped at this point.

He further explained that in the US and Europe, there are many places for people to buy dietary supplement, including supermarkets, food or health-product stores and pharmacies. In contrast, China's access to health products is quite limited.

"China right now has only pharmacies. Pharmacies are really not an ideal place to sell dietary supplement right now. But with what we have, the pharmacies are the places to buy medicines. And I think that's one of the big problems in education why Chinese people will typically see dietary supplement more like a medicine and something that they can cure and treat diseases. And that's not what it is for."

Market access is not the sole obstacle however, as Jeff Crowther also thinks that cumbersome approval procedures hinders the development of China's dietary supplement industry.

"In China, it's not that simple and takes over 2 years to get the registration and can cost about 50 to 60 thousand US dollars. And all the testing has to be done on your product to get the registration. So that's kept a lot of companies out of the market and that's kept a lot of domestic companies from investing in that sector because it is quite expensive."

Statistics from the China Health Care Association report reveal that over the past 15 years, roughly 644 types of nutritional supplement have been exported to China, 63 percent of which came from the US.

Tai Chi performances are shown during the opening ceremony of the 2nd World Health Industry Conference in Beijing on Sunday, April 7, 2013. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

The first World Health Industry Conference was launched last year, also on April 7th --- World Health Day. The conference aims to tap the potential of health-related products worldwide.

For CRI, I'm Xu Fei

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