As we know, health supplements are special commodities directly related to human health. Therefore, when producing, trading, distributing, and consuming them, we must not only ensure compliance with legal regulations regarding commerce and goods but also adhere to food safety regulations. To control the components of health supplements, businesses are required to go through the procedure of declaring health supplements with the health authorities of the respective country, in Vietnam’s case, it is the Food Safety Department. Moreover, for the convenience of buying and to enhance information delivery to consumers, widespread distribution of health supplements, including all commercial channels, increases consumer accessibility to this product line.
I. THE POTENTIAL OF THE HEALTH SUPPLEMENT MARKET IN VIETNAM
Functional foods first appeared and began to be used in Vietnam in the early 2000s. At that time, most products on the market were imported from other countries.
Today, over 70% of the health supplements consumed in the Vietnamese market are domestically produced. The remaining 20% or so is imported from renowned markets such as the United States, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and others.
II. DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS FOR HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS
- Pharmacy Counters
Currently, the market for health supplements in Vietnam has witnessed a significant expansion in distribution channels, offering consumers an increasingly convenient and varied selection of these products. Pharmacy counters, in particular, have played a pivotal role in this evolution.
These retail establishments, ranging from traditional brick-and-mortar shops to pharmacy counters, now cater to the growing demand for health supplements among the Vietnamese population. Consumers can find one or more types of health supplement products readily available, making it exceptionally convenient for them to purchase and incorporate these products into their daily routines. This accessibility ensures that individuals can access health supplements whenever and wherever they please.
In Vietnam, the phenomenon of pharmacy counters has gained immense popularity, and several of these stores have responded to the heightened interest in health supplements by stocking a wide range of these products. As a result, consumers have access to an extensive selection of health supplements, each designed to address specific health and wellness needs. This diversity in offerings empowers consumers to make informed choices based on their unique requirements and preferences, further contributing to the growth of the health supplement market in the country. As the market continues to expand, these pharmacy counters are likely to play an increasingly crucial role in providing consumers with convenient access to functional foods that support their overall well-being.
- Stores Specializing in Natural and Health Food Products
Stores specializing in natural and health food products in Vietnam have carved out a niche by focusing on offering a diverse range of items derived from natural sources. These establishments are dedicated to promoting well-being through products that harness the benefits of natural ingredients.
What sets these stores apart is their commitment to providing a unique and tailored shopping experience. Knowledgeable and trained staff members are on hand to offer specific advice and recommendations to consumers. This personalized approach ensures that customers receive guidance on selecting the right products that align with their health goals, dietary preferences, and specific needs.
The product offerings in these stores often include a wide array of items such as herbal supplements, organic foods, vitamins, minerals, and health supplements derived from natural plant sources. These natural health supplements are celebrated for their ability to enhance overall health, boost immune systems, and aid in disease prevention.
Consumers who visit these specialized stores can explore a curated selection of products known for their natural goodness. This includes items like herbal teas, superfoods, organic snacks, and supplements rich in nutrients. As interest in holistic health and natural remedies continues to grow, these stores play a pivotal role in providing access to high-quality, health-enhancing products that cater to the evolving needs and preferences of health-conscious consumers in Vietnam.
- Retail Counters in Supermarkets and Shopping Centers
These retail counters are strategically located within well-established supermarkets and bustling shopping centers, making them highly convenient for shoppers. They typically offer a diverse range of health supplement products, catering to various health and dietary needs. Customers visiting these counters can find an extensive selection of items, from dietary supplements and vitamins to specialized health supplements.
What sets these retail counters apart is their integration into larger retail environments. Shoppers can seamlessly incorporate their functional food purchases into their regular grocery shopping trips. This convenience encourages individuals to explore and experiment with different functional food options, contributing to the overall growth of the market.
- Online Sales
Currently, the online sales channel for functional food products is widely recognized as highly effective. These products are openly available for purchase on various digital platforms, e-commerce marketplaces, and electronic marketplaces. Customers who opt for this channel enjoy the benefits of time and convenience. Instead of traveling to physical stores, they can simply place their orders online, and distributors are responsible for packaging and directly delivering the products to consumers.
- Through Specialized Healthcare Channels
In this context, specialized healthcare channels refer to interactions with medical professionals, such as doctors working in clinics and hospitals, who directly examine patients and provide recommendations. This method is highly regarded for its credibility, as individuals receive personalized guidance from doctors who have a deep understanding of their health conditions and can tailor advice to their specific medical needs. This direct consultation with healthcare professionals is valued for its ability to address individual health concerns effectively.
- Distribution through Multi-Level Marketing Channels
The multi-level marketing (MLM) distribution method is currently prevalent in European countries and has gained popularity in Vietnam as well. Health supplement products are distributed through a multi-level network of agents, including levels 1, 2, 3, and so on, within the hierarchical system of distributorship. Currently, there are 60 registered companies in Vietnam that organize MLM sales, primarily focusing on health supplements, cosmetics, and household goods.
In Vietnam, this distribution method has expanded widely and achieved a reasonable level of success. However, it has also faced challenges as some unscrupulous companies have exploited this system for fraudulent activities, including the sale of counterfeit and imitation products.
Health supplement products straddle the line between food and medicine, but they are regulated under food laws. Therefore, these products only need to be registered and announced with the Food Safety Department to be manufactured and circulated in the market. As health supplements are increasingly recognized for their positive health benefits, their usage is on the rise. Consequently, all processes involved in the production, processing, and distribution of health supplements must strictly adhere to legal regulations.
It is apparent that distribution channels play a pivotal role in the health supplement industry, as they do in various businesses. Global companies should comprehensively grasp the functions of these channels and make informed selections. Additionally, the assessment of the efficiency of these channels is imperative for formulating a sustainable long-term growth strategy.
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