The UK’s food supplement sector is big business. According to Euromonitor International it was worth €700 million+) in 2015 making it the third biggest supplement market in Europe.
Yet founder of UK price comparison website Filtur.com Jaspal Singh Nijjar says price remains a barrier for both the market and the consumer.
Before starting work on the site 14 months ago, he commissioned market research of 2,000 health product consumers, which revealed frustration about product prices that can vary from 70-80% between retailers.
The survey showed 78% of online shoppers would use a price comparison website dedicated to health foods and supplements if it were available.
From its launch in November, Filtur.com will seek to provide that service with price comparisons of almost 20,000 products from outlets including Boots, Holland & Barrett, Superdrug as well as supermarkets and specialist online retailers like Bodybuilding.com.
The launch is in tune with the findings of market research firm Mintel, which said in a report in September that price clarity would help not only illuminate the market for health enthusiasts but also bring new shoppers into the fold.
Its survey of nearly 700 Brits ages over 16 showed 24% of those who do not use supplements, see them as too expensive.
“As with much of the health and personal care market, the VMS [Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements] category has become increasingly characterised by special offers as brands have sought to drive usage,” the report said.
Highstreet meets specialist
Singh Nijjar, who has a background in a family industrial engineering business, said the site would bring together both the hyper-specialist and highstreet retailers.
“Often brands will be well known to a particular consumer group, but a ‘Boots consumer’ won’t have come across them.”
Singh Nijjar said supplement companies have great products, but "often they’re focused on selling to a ‘muscle’ audience and can be difficult for regular consumers to find".
He says Filtur.com can solve this problem.
The site will also have a community element with blogs about the benefits of health foods, sports supplements and vitamins and sports training regimes as well as built-in social media buttons to share bargains.
Singh Nijjar said this was particularly important for this consumer group of health enthusiast.
“There is such a wide variety of products and there are always products being launch which are basically the same with different marketing. We hope this will help consumers get to the right products.”
He said it was important the site was seen as a trusted source of information.
So far two retailers had refused to be featured on the site – including Monster Supplements – because they wanted their products to be showcased.
“But we want to keep it independent,” he said.
Another key issue of consumer trust was the legality and safety of the products featured.
Bodybuilding.com for example have agreed to be integrated into Filtur.com, but Singh Nijjar's team were now working through the product listing of the US-based site to check which products could be sold into the UK under UK national and EU-wide regulation.
“We’re not selling the products but obviously the responsibility is there not to put ingredients in front of consumers that aren’t fit for purpose,” he said.
“We don’t want to be another slap-dash site. We want to be trusted.”
The future of supplements sales?
Singh Nijjar said expansion into other markets could be on the horizon but this would have to take into consideration variations in national supplement regulation and cross-border trading laws.
For now he said the company was focused on improving the service for the UK platform and reaching its target of between 5-10,000 unique visitors per month by the end of the first year.
Filtur.com plans to develop new features including the ability to search via specific dietary or health requirements, add personal recommendations and to generate cashback as is popular in the UK on sites like Topcashback.com.