Poland's blossoming supplements market

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food supplements Dietary supplement Dietary mineral Vitamin Poland

Poland’s food supplements market was worth 1bn Polish zlotychs (€300m) in 2006 and is growing at 25 per cent, according to a new report.

Regulatory uncertainty was fingered by the analysts as the main block on economic development, but the market “has sizeable growth potential” ​due its relative infancy.

Polish-based PMR, which researches Central and Eastern European markets, said there was concern some food supplements may be reclassified as pharmaceuticals but this wasn’t stopping the public’s growing interest and consumption of them, particularly letter vitamins and mineral supplements (VMS).

These accounted 60 per cent of the over-the-counter (OTC) food supplements market.

The report, “Dietary supplements market in Poland 2007. Development forecasts 2007-2009”, ​covered pharmacy and non-pharmacy distribution along with online sales.

Poland’s rapid development in the food supplements area was matched or exceeded by that of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

In the Czech Republic about one third of OTC products were food supplements compared to about 17 per cent in Poland in pharmacies and other outlets such as supermarkets and health stores.

“The dynamic expansion of the dietary supplements trade has also been driven by the rapid growth of the Polish economy and the society’s greater concern about external appearance and healthy living,”​ the researchers wrote.

At the same time, sales of VMS classified as drugs fell four per cent, a drop mirrored in other Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries which also “showed a year-on-year decline or developed very slowly”.

Regulatory murkiness

A poll of industry leaders found “unclear and non-uniform legislation” ​to be the major brake on innovation, along with “murky product classification rules”.

Such problems of classification are being addressed to a certain extent at European Union level with regulations such as the 2002 Food Supplements Directive but its implementation and interpretation was not uniform across member states.

“At present, sometimes even the Polish Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS) has doubts about whether to classify a given preparation as a pharmaceutical or a dietary supplement,”​ PMR wrote.

Industry noted this regulatory uncertainty, along with competition, complex GIS procedures, advertising costs and lack of disposable income.

The report found Polish food supplements manufacturers, particularly smaller operators, felt threatened by the pharma industry, a phenomenon by no means unique to Poland or even Eastern Europe.

Functional foods were also becoming more popular, such as juices fortified with vitamins, minerals and fibre.

In another report PMR valued the CEE OTC (including drugs) market at €7.4bn and set to grow at 15-18 per cent to reach €12bn in 2010. Russia, Romania and the Ukraine were set to grow at the fastest rate.

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