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Fulfilling the demand for eCommerce vitamins and supplements

 Covid 19 created clear winners and losers in the retail sector. And among the winners, Vitamin and Food Supplement retailers will be going home with one of the medals. Understanding how and why, is reasonably clear cut.


First, there’s the Millennials and Generation Zs who were already pre-occupied with health and wellness, growing up under the threat of Climate Change. Fearing the future and sceptical that ambitious net zero targets can realistically be met, they’ve tapped into personal physical fitness and wellness to prepare themselves for whatever the world and its changing climate has to throw at them.


A MORI poll conducted in 14 countries in 2020 found that 66% of Britons believe that Climate Change is as serious a crisis as Covid 19, and the majority want Climate prioritised in the economic recovery.


Warren Ackerman, analyst at Barclays, agrees that the market for wellness was already growing before the pandemic attributing it in part to ‘the Instagram culture that we live in . . . Compared to their parents, the baby boomers, [millennials] generally drink less alcohol, smoke less cigarettes, go to the gym more and care about their personal wellbeing.” He also observed, “Everyone realises health and wellness is going to be one of the enduring trends, whether or not [the pandemic] goes away.”


Rightly or wrongly, mankind’s meddling in the delicate balance of nature was quickly blamed for ‘causing’ Covid 19 and similar types of respiratory diseases. It was noticed that obesity increased your chances of hospitalisation, or even death from Covid, dialling up the fear factor for at least 35% of Britons, identified by the British Heart Foundation as overweight.


However, doctors and health services around the world were quickly being overwhelmed with the fight against the disease. The message from government and the medics was, Stay at Home. Routine appointments were cancelled, regular treatments for chronic conditions and cancer care were paused.


Self help in a climate of fear


Naturally enough in the circumstances, people turned to self-help and self-care, to avoid exposure to the disease, and to increase their chances if that strategy failed.


It was noted by Synthesio that around March 2020 that ‘food-related posts tended to focus on eating to enhance health and boost the immune system. Fear during these early stages drove people to seek some form of control over the situation by feeling they were protecting themselves against the virus by taking measures they perceived as preventative.’


Acceleration of a steadily growing trend


A study in May 2020 study reported an increase in consumer chatter about the supplements associated with immunity:


  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea


These were seen to have ‘spiked by 3x-16x in March’. The same study suggested that Vitamin sales had experienced growth of approximately 20%-140%, coupled with amplified social media interest.


Identifying Vitamins and Mineral Supplements as one of the few sectors to go in the opposite direction to many other struggling sectors. The trend was steady and climbing anyway, averaging growth of up to 6% 2015-19.


Sales of other vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements rocketed alongside -The Financial Times reported on the trend, contemplating the effect on companies that had tapped the wellness industry, now boosted by the increased consumer desire for nutritional supplements.


ECommerce - the natural choice in Lockdown


So sales of vitamins and supplements are on the rise but the traditional pharmacies and herbal healthcare shops are all shut. Bricks & Mortar retailers are taking a big hit, alongside hospitality and travel sectors. Online was the natural place for consumers to go to fulfil the growing demand.


ECommerce v Bricks & Mortar, who wins?


In the context of extended national lockdowns in most economies, this battle was heavily weighted in favour of eCommerce. While explaining the unprecedented rise in sales of Vitamins and supplements thriving in the eCommerce landscape, the important question that remains is:


How much of the overall success story will impact on eCommerce in the future?


Will consumers go back to Bricks and Mortar retailers o get their supplements or will the eCommerce trend stick? In the world of self-diagnosis and self-health, let’s look first at logistics. High-performance logistics is essential to sustained success in eCommerce.


Meaning, for the trend to stick it has to be experientially better than the old high street shopping model. People need tangible benefits that outweigh any negatives of online shopping - such as unnecessary packaging, delays, shipping costs or returns issues.


A third party fulfilment partner can help you grasp the logistical nettle and make sure you’re on top of Vitamin and Supplement selling in the eCommerce market. Anyone operating outside continental Europe needs fast and effective delivery to foreign customers, with experienced shipping and fulfilment partners who understand the specifics of the sector, and the changing needs of the customer.


First, let’s take a look at some of the specifics surrounding cross-border shipment ad fulfilment of vitamins and supplements:


1. Understand the medical/nutritional divide across borders in the category


Every global eCommerce company needs a handle on the laws surrounding cross-border movement of product, but in the case of food supplements there are more hurdles in the shape of medical regulations too.

Vitamins and supplements are subject to special food safety regulations when they ship abroad - but the rules differ from one region to the next. Generally speaking, US regulations are more relaxed than the EU, where, for example, food supplements cannot claim preventive, palliative, or curative ‘medical’ effects. Understand the different regulations between the countries of origin and destination to make sure you have the appropriate paperwork. Check your shipping providers too for any product exclusions and watch out for other ingredients in your products that can be subject to controls too:


  • Preservatives
  • Colourants
  • Sweeteners


The UK Government website How to classify herbal medicines, supplements and tonics for import and export - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) offers useful advice too covering a range of products that may be called:


  • herbal medicines or medicaments
  • homoeopathic and herbal remedies
  • supplements (food and dietary)
  • tonics


And further guidance on importing of food supplements and health foods can be found at the Food Standards Agency: Importing food supplements and health foods | Food Standards Agency


On top of any generic considerations Vitamin & Wellness retailers must be buttoned down in these areas too:


  • Product labelling, on pack and online
  • Advertising (including any bans in destination markets)
  • Legal obligations to register and notify

2. Upscale Green credentials


Green credentials appeal to the climate-conscious Millennials and go hand in hand with the concept of herbal and supplemental health and wellbeing. Bio Certificates and LOT tracking reassure customers that strict controls are in place to prevent product contamination and expiration of best-before dates. The European Commission, for example answers many questions here: organic-rules-faqs_en_0.pdf (europa.eu) 


And it’s time to sharpen your focus on reduced and recycled packaging.


Manage Brexit disruption


Online retailers in the supplement industry are increasingly looking for suitable fulfilment partners to tick a lot of boxes. With Brexit increasing the likelihood of disruption to cross-border sales, a steady supply chain with an established partner like Omnipack is one way to overcome unforeseen hurdles and avoid having to abandon certain markets.


Rules have changed surrounding shipping goods to Europe and Northern Ireland so getting up to speed with these new rules and regs is vital. The UK government has launched the free-to-use Trader Support Service to help businesses and traders prepare for the changes in the movement goods into and out of Northern Ireland, which you can sign up to here:9 Moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


The self-health and wellness sector has specific logistical considerations too.


Purchasing patterns


Shopping carts in this category may well contain several products - often complementary. So not only does the customer want everything to arrive at once for product use and efficacy, bundling is a greener, more cost-effective and efficient solution too. Look for a partner like Omnipack to help you increase efficiency in bundling your deliveries.


Batch control, hygiene and organic certification


Vitamins, herbal and mineral supplements need specialised treatment when it comes to storage and shipping. Complete traceability of batches is key, along with ‘first in first out’ pick and pack methods to ensure sell-by dates never disappoint customers. Reliable and experienced shipping and fulfilment partners can provide critical support here.


Sustainability is here to stay


We’ve already touched on Millennials and their attitudes to sustainability and climate change. Customers are looking for reduced and sustainable packaging - keep an eye on this area to meet the growing demand and cut fulfilment costs too. Recycled packaging and less unnecessary filling materials is a win for everyone.


The right fulfilment partner flattens the learning curve.


Leaning on a fulfilment partner with strategic centres around the globe means trading in new markets can start as soon as possible - flattening the learning curve reduces the risk of a disrupted supply chain as you enter a new market.


Fast track a passport to every market


The e-commerce nutritional supplement industry is lucrative in today’s market but there are pitfalls. We’re ready to talk to you now about streamlining your fulfilment processes based on our strengths:


  • full-stack model: we have our own logistics operations and our own technology
  • eCommerce DNA: we focus only on eCommerce. We know the online customers' requirements and implement solutions that perfectly answer these needs.
  • Partnership approach: We proactively suggest optimal solutions that suit our merchants and each merchant gets the support of a dedicated customer manager


Outsourcing your order fulfilment to a professional operator can make good business sense, especially when there’s an opportunity to explore. Using existing global fulfilment centres and preparing the necessary paperwork well in advance, means that you can reach wider customer base and meet your new customers’ expectations without disruption.


If you’d like to talk to Omnipack about how we can help you take full advantage of the booming Vitamin and Supplement market, get in touch here

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