Hong Kong Health Food Association and Social Sciences Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong announces “Survey on Health Supplement Market in Hong Kong 2019” survey findings

Hong Kong Health Food Association and Social Sciences Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong announces “Survey on Health Supplement Market in Hong Kong 2019” survey findings

The Survey was organized by Hong Kong Health Food Association, conducted by Social Sciences Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong, with appreciation of The Hon Peter Shiu Ka-Fai, Legislative Councilor (Wholesale & Retail), Press Conference of the Market Survey was arranged in Legislative Complex on 15th May 2019.

Consuming health supplements have become more widespread in recent years. As a representative of the health supplements industry, the Hong Kong Health Supplements Association commissioned SSRC in 2008, 2014 and 2019 respectively to conduct a territory-wide telephone survey for Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above. The survey was conducted in March 2019 and the number of successful respondents was 1,026, it will be compared with the surveys of 2008 and 2014.

Major Findings

1.With the growing longevity and aging population in Hong Kong, citizens pay more and more attention to their health and thus the demand for health supplements is increasing. It is necessary to have more information and education about health supplement for public. It is suggested that the Government can define health supplements, disseminate more relevant information and educate the public in order to enhance their healthy living standards and reduce the medical expenditure in the long run.
2.The public believes that the “1+7” nutrition label is inappropriate for health supplements. It is recommended that health supplements should be exempted from the “1+7” nutrition label and replaced by a label particularly for health supplement, so that citizens can get more useful information from the product.
3.The health supplement market is growing, which means health supplement is more and more common. It is recommended that the Government could have discussion with stakeholders which include consumers, doctors, pharmacists, dietitians, together with the industry, about the development of the health supplement industry, for the purpose of enhancing a healthy health supplement market and every stakeholders could benefit.

Habit of taking health supplements
The survey found that nearly 60% (58.2%) of the respondents had taken at least one health supplements in the last six months of the interview. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million people in Hong Kong experience a habit of taking health supplements. Compared with 2014 survey, the number has increased by 30%. In addition, the types of health supplements that have been taken have also increased, with vitamins or minerals such as calcium tablets, vitamins, and cod liver oil being the most common (40.4%), followed by Omega series, such as Omega 3, 6, 9, DHA, flaxseed oil (18.5%), Herbal supplement such as Bilberry, Chondroitin, Glucosamine (18.3%) and Probiotics and dietary fiber (15.4%). The main functions of the public to take health supplements are to maintain better health (31.0%), protect bone and joint (24.5%) and maintain gut health (12%).

Average consumption and way to purchase health supplements

From the survey, nearly 30% (28.9%) of the respondents had purchased vitamins or minerals within the last six months of the interview, followed by the Omega series (16.2%). For the amount spent on health supplements, green supplements occupy the highest, with an average monthly cost of $453, followed by orally beauty or slimming products ($427) and Proprietary Chinese Medicine ($338). According to estimates, last year Hong Kong spent about 25 billion to purchase health supplements, which is about 32% more than 19 billion surveyed in 2014. In addition to showing that people are more concerned about their own health, this data also reflects the variety of health supplements and the degree of public acceptance and attention. Among the respondents who had purchased health supplements within the last six months of the interview, about half of them were purchased in chain stores, and relatively few respondents were purchased in pharmacies or through direct selling.

Comments on the “1+7” nutrition labelling system

More than 65% (66.7%) of the respondents think that the “1+7” nutrition label currently implemented in Hong Kong cannot serve as a suitable indicator to reflect the efficacy of health supplements, which is about 29% higher than that in 2014 (51.4%). Another 63.8% of respondents indicated that they did not read the “1+7” nutrition label on the package before purchasing health supplements.


Managing health supplements and general food

Nearly 90% (89.2%) of the respondents agreed that health supplements and general food should be separately managed. If the government sets up a new labeling system for health supplements, 65.3% of the respondents think that the ingredients should be listed on the packaging, followed by indication (40.1%), potential side effects (22.4%) and certificate/details of scientific investigation for the nutrition benefits (14.7%).