Virgin coconut oil capsules: Philippines firm looks to Singapore for overseas expansion amid immunity boom
Singapore has been identified as one of the potential markets for expansion.
The VCO hard gel capsules, also sold under the brand Growrich, has been selling in the domestic Filipino market for over the past decade.
In Philippines, VCO gained widespread attention last year as the nation’s Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced its plans to study VCO for reducing symptoms of COVID-19.
As soon as the news was announced, sales of the VCO capsules had doubled, said Salutare Inc, the exclusive distributor of the product.
“In fact, the sales grew even higher when the initial results of the study were out,” said Susan Meily Santos, president of Salutare.
This is despite the fact that the study in question assessed the impact of VCO in liquid form, not capsules.
The findings showed that suspected COVID-19 patients administered with VCO had reduced symptoms, as well as a faster recovery phase as compared to those who did not take VCO.
As a supplement, Growrich VCO capsules do not make any therapeutic claims on its product labelling.
Most of the messaging behind the benefits of VCO, such as anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and general immune booster claims are done via online marketing on Facebook, Instagram, as well as radio, newspapers advertorials. A daily dosage of one to two capsules per day is recommended.
The product is mainly sold via pharmacies, including local pharmacy chain Mercury and regional retailers such as Watsons. It is also available online via Shopee and Lazada.
Growrich CEO Dr Maria Jayveelyn Lalusis revealed that the team had been conducting internal analysis and planned to export the product into Singapore, on the back of growing health concerns due to COVID-19.
To cater to the health-conscious, the company also plans to offer its VCO hard gel capsules – which currently comes in bovine capsules – into vegetarian capsules.
“The target market is consumers who are health conscious, because a vegetarian capsule gives the impression of being a healthier product,” she said.
At the moment, Growrich also manufactures its own brand of vitamin C and multivitamins, on top of VCO capsules and acting as a contract manufacturer for other vitamin and supplement brands.
The company is also exploring the addition of vitamin E to VCO, doing so could in turn improve the stability of VCO and preserve it for a longer period.
As VCO solidifies at temperature below 25 degree Celsius, producing a cloudy white appearance, the company recommended that the product transportation conditions should stay within 25 degree Celsius to 40 degree Celsius.
The idea of incorporating VCO into hard gel capsules came from Dr Lalusis’ mother who is a chemist.
Part of the reason is to provide ease of convenience during consumption, provide a measurable dosage, and to address the issue of after taste as well as preserving the oil’s quality.
“[Back then], the decision was between making a soft gel and a hard gel capsule.
“Virgin coconut oil is highly sensitive to environment conditions, such as exposure to air, high pressure, water, which could all affect its stability and quality [when made into soft gel capsules or when sold in its original form].
“But with hard gel capsules, we can limit the introduction of these environment factors,” she explained.
Expanding the consumer base
Most of the consumers of Growrich VCO capsules are middle aged women, and the distributor is now focusing its marketing efforts on men and the younger demographic.
In Philippines, coconut oil is commonly consumed as part of a ketogenic diet and also consumed by bodybuilders.
Santos said that the challenge, would be persuading consumers to switch to the capsule form, since most were used to consuming VCO in its original form.
“Most people are very used to having VCO in the bottle. They sometimes use it for their hair and for their skin as a moisturiser. They can also consume it straight away, so it's like an all in one solution for them.
“[For us], we will need to keep explaining the pros of consuming it in a capsule form,” she said.