Probiota Asia 2018

Life-Space CEO exclusive: How Australia has become a probiotics pioneer in Asia

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Craig Silbery, CEO of Evolution Health, the company that produces popular probiotics brand Life-Space, spoke at Probiota Asia last week.
Craig Silbery, CEO of Evolution Health, the company that produces popular probiotics brand Life-Space, spoke at Probiota Asia last week.

Related tags Probiotics Innovation Regulation life-space

Australia's innovation culture and stringent regulatory system are among the reasons Australian companies are thriving in Asia, according to the boss of Life-Space, China's leading probiotic brand.

Craig Silbery, the CEO at Evolution Health – which produces popular probiotics brand Life-Space, spoke at Probiota Asia organised by NutraIngredients-Asia ​last week.  

The reputation that Australian supplements brands have built up over the years could be attributed to “an innovation culture and very entrepreneurial (spirit) for product development,” ​Silbery said when describing the Australian supplements industry.

A regulatory framework that prioritises product quality and stability has also contributed to the credibility of Australian supplements.

“Probably about eight to 10 years ago, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) moved their focus (for probiotics regulations) from brands of products to manufacturers of products, so the responsibility for compliance and stability programs became a responsibility of the contract manufacturer. So these contract manufacturers then have a risk of losing license if their client weren’t following stability protocols,” he said.

“That was a game changer in Australia, what it led to, was that all credible serious brands took (product) stability very seriously.”

 “So that means we have products that are efficacious and do work but they are quite costly for manufacturers.”

Moving forward, he urged the industry to collaborate and advance scientific research.

This is because he believes that the industry can derive improved health outcomes; conduct research that is aligned with consumer trends; and gain a better understanding of consumer preferences via collaborative research.

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No. 1 in China’s online sales

Life-Space, which was officially acquired​ by China supplements firm BY-HEALTH this year, has been seeing rapid growth in China’s e-commerce space.

As of August, it was the number one probiotics brand sold online in China, data from Alibaba showed.

It recorded a monthly sales of RMB$12m, which was 14.9% of the market share, and a 7.3% month-on-month increase.

The sales figure was nearly twice as much as Culturelle, which was in the second place.

It was also the most talked about brand across social media platforms in China, including Weibo, Wechat, and BBS, surpassing other Chinese brands such as Biostime.

Life-Space probiotics entered China via cross-border e-commerce three years ago. Its products catered to each life stage, ranging from pregnancy, infants, children, adults, and seniors.

The popularity of Australian supplements could also be attributed to the rise of Chinese daigou traders, whom Silbery said were “very powerful marketing tools.”

There are more than 80,000 daigou traders, of which, 37% are active traders, according to Silbery.

Strong home ground

Besides enjoying success in China, the Australian firm has also garnered strong support back home, ousting competitors from the top spot, Silbery revealed, citing retail data from IRI-Aztec.   

Its probiotics products for mothers and children are especially doing well.

 “(Probiotics for) pregnancy is quite a small segment in Australia, I think it is about 2% of the total category. But what we found was, when mothers who tried probiotics products in their pregnancy learn about the brand and trust the brand, they will buy it for their children.”

Life-Space has successfully outgrown its strongest rival – Inner Health since December 2017, and has grown consistently for the past nine months.

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