Sales of vitamin supplements and herbal remedies were very strong in the first quarter, according to neuform, the federation of German health food stores. While the association could not supply any figures, it said that its members had been reporting rising sales over recent months.
An overhaul of the healthcare system, introduced at the beginning of this year, now requires Germans to pay a small quarterly fee for doctor's visits. Reimbursement for medication has also decreased and faced with increased healthcare costs, people are more likely to go directly to pharmacies, said neuform spokeswoman Nadine Korner.
"The reform means that people are taking more responsibility for their health and also trying to take better care of themselves to avoid having to visit the doctor," she said.
"It is still too early to measure whether current sales are a direct effect of the reform, but we expect to see this trend developing," she added.
Overall turnover at the Reformhauser last year fell by 1.9 per cent compared to the previous year, to €658 million, but the biggest portion of sales came from food, and food supplements, at 58 per cent.
Sales of over the counter medicines accounted for 13.5 per cent of all sales last year, while dietetic foods were worth 15 per cent, and bodycare and cosmetics made up 12 per cent.
The assocation said that despite the recession they are confident about the development of the health food sector, which is set to be boosted by the ongoing impact of the reform.
The reformhauser includes 53 producers of 6300 products, although 77 per cent of all sales belong to the top 10 producers of the sector.
The best-selling products in 2003 included aloe vera juices, soya products like isoflavones for menopause symptoms and preparations with extracts of green mussel shell against arthritis.