G'day mate: A look at the Australian market

My colleague Mike Roberts and I had the pleasure of traveling to Sydney, Australia last week to participate in the Complementary Medicines Australia conference and to visit some of our member companies and other brands that are active in the region. We managed to escape trying Vegemite and instead enjoyed great seafood, the beautiful spring weather and the warmth of the Australian people.


We also learned a lot about the omega-3 market in Australia, where the category enjoys high levels of awareness and usage. GOED consumer research shows that more than 60% of men and women in Australia consume omega-3s, whether in supplement, seafood or fortified food form, and we heard anecdotally that it’s closer to 75-80% for supplement consumers.


The challenge in the Australian market right now is the heavy discounting that is rampant throughout the industry. The market is controlled by only a few key brands and two primary retail channels and the consumer has learned to buy on price. Companies we talked to felt that despite the high acceptance of omega-3s, there was a need for an overarching consumer education campaign to more deeply inform consumers about the benefits of omega-3s and help strengthen the market for all players.


The omega-3 supplement market, widely referred to as “fish oils,” has declined over the last year as a result of the discounting and consumer confusion (and doubt) around unsubstantiated claims. While the Australian supplement industry — and its TGA-regulated environment — is highly trusted, there remains a challenge of too little product differentiation and innovation.


The good news is, there doesn’t appear to be the issue — as seen in the U.S. — of short chain products like chia or hemp muddying the omega-3 waters. These are primarily sold as “super foods,” a category that is enjoying widespread success at the moment.


On the regulatory front, the atmosphere is hopeful as the TGA works on de-regulating the industry. While this may not necessarily impact omega-3s as much as some of the other supplement categories, Complementary Medicines Australia CEO Carl Gibson called this “a once in a generation” moment to shape the future of the industry.


So overall, despite the current atmosphere, Australia is a vibrant market with lots of potential. We can’t wait to go back, and not only for the beach volleyball and surfing at Manly Beach.