“Latin America has experienced one of the largest growths of the food supplements market in the world, powered mainly by the increase of the disposable income in the regional population which has in turn provided for a larger, more consolidated middle class,” executive director of ALANUR, Juan Pablo Waimann, told NutraIngredients-USA.
“This affluence has in turn originated new consumer habits related to a renewed interest on healthy lifestyles and nutrition.”
ALANUR was formed in 2011 as Latin America’s first regional trade association for vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS) with the goal of creating a political and regulatory framework for the industry that this year was valued at US$5.5 billion, growing at a 3% CAGR over the past five years, according to market research firm Euromonitor.
Latin America also ranked as the second fastest growing market for VDS, behind Australasia, with Brazil and Mexico leading the growth accounting for 32% and 27% of total retail value sales, respectively.
However, the vast opportunity for vitamin and supplement manufacturers in the rapidly growing market and its diverse range of consumers is also the industry’s largest obstacle, according Waimann.
The patchwork of regulations across Latin American countries have historically been a hindrance to innovation and harmonization of regulation in the vitamin and dietary supplement industry, he said.
“Latin America is a very large region with diverse demographics, so one of the largest challenges comes from that same vastness, which is the great divergence between regulations in different countries,” Waimann said.
“One clear example is the regulatory barriers in the use of health claims in food supplements. There are a number of restrictions in relation to the ingredients and the properties for which a claim can be made in food supplements – the criteria vary from country to country.”
The use of many common vitamins and minerals has been broadly accepted across Latin America, but there are still heavy regulatory barriers of bioactive ingredients and the use of botanicals in supplements that are permitted in some countries but not in others, Waimann added.
Fighting for regulatory harmonization
Discussion on how to best regulate supplements across multiple Latin American countries has ramped up in recent years, led partly by the Pacific Alliance Business Council that completed a proposal to harmonize supplement regulation shared with Pacific Alliance member countries (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) in 2016.
ALANUR has been working closely with the Pacific Alliance on this effort, according to Waimann.
“Some of our largest efforts go to promoting the regional harmonization, focusing mainly in the Pacific Alliance, a project that has evidenced a big momentum and a lot of traction, not only in Latin America but also in the Asia-Pacific region. We see the AP as a great baseline from which to start harmonizing regulations in many key markets,” Waimann said.
The need for a common regulatory framework is also needed to support the rise of trade between Latin American countries.
“As the regional economy continues in its path of expansion, the inter-regional trade between Latin American countries has also experienced strong growth. This phenomenon has created a need to harmonize some of the most dynamic sectors of the economy,” he said.
“Economic integration is the key feature of LATAM in the first decades of the 21st century and we believe we should be taking an active role in this trend.”
Understanding the Latin American consumer base
One of the biggest projects ALANUR has for the year is conducting country-specific surveys, researching consumer behavior when it comes to nutrition habits and supplement intake, starting with Chile and Peru, according to Waimann.
“Given the success of projects of similar nature in other countries such as Brazil, the information obtained will be not only useful for our association but might also provide insights for policy makers in order to adapt their focus on the sector and its regulations,” he said.
“We are also conducting a renewed engagement with the health and nutrition communities of relevance in Latin America in order to share the knowledge on the health benefits and safety of food supplements.”