East to power global economy in 2019

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According to the latest research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), several countries in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa will produce the highest economic growth in 2019, while North America, Europe and even Latin America will lag behind. There are some exceptions to this trend (like Poland and Ireland in Europe, which are forecast to outperform the global economy in 2019) but the general picture shows that the highest GDP growth will be in the east.

Although there are concerns about the economic slowdown in China – see our blog just before Christmas and the recent letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook to investors – the country is expected to remain among the best-performing economies in 2019, with a growth forecast of 6.3%. The EIU revised up slightly its China forecast for 2019, following the agreement reached between the US and China at the G20 to delay planned tariff actions. However, it remains uncertain whether a bilateral trade deal will be reached.

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China’s troubles may actually be providing a boost to neighbouring Asia-Pacific markets, such as Vietnam, which offer an alternative manufacturing location. Also, as we’ve highlighted on the blog previously, several African markets have likewise been boosted by their growing status as manufacturing hubs, notably Kenya. As for India, it is forecast by the EIU to be among the Top 5 fastest-growing economies in 2019, continuing its strong 2018 upturn – according to the latest OTC DASHBOARD data for the MAT Q3 2018 period, India is the fastest-growing OTC market in Asia-Pacific, up 8.8%.

At the other end of the scale, key Latin American markets Venezuela and Argentina are forecast to be among the Top 5 worst-performing economies in 2019, while Mexico and Brazil are also expected to perform below par this year. However, high inflation has helped to boost OTC growth in these markets. As for Europe, several western European markets are forecast to produce low growth, while Japan, Turkey and South Africa are all expected to produce growth in the 0-2% range, with the US performing slightly better.

Join Nicholas Hall and The CHC Training Academy in Vietnam on 28 February. Focusing on the central theme of Winning Together in Consumer Health, this unique workshop will enable you to develop essential skills to succeed in the new era of collaborative partnership approaches between retailer and supplier for strengthening categories together, plus deep insights on key stakeholders. Don’t delay — book your place before 17 January to save with our generous early bird discount! To find out more, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

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Uncertain economic outlook in 2019

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As well as the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, another cloud on the economic horizon for 2019 is the health of the US retail sector. According to a report over the weekend by the FT, shares in US retailers are set for their biggest quarterly sell-off since the financial crisis. This follows weak economic data in Asia-Pacific, especially China where retail sales hit a 15-year low in November 2018, and Europe, prompting concerns about a global economic slowdown.

Tariffs, and the threat of tariffs, have been one factor. Some US retailers are reportedly now having to offload surplus stock at a heavy discount, after accelerating imports in recent months to avoid planned higher tariffs (which are now on hold), while the fall in industrial output in China is partly linked to US tariffs that have been imposed. Also, concerns have resurfaced among investors about the ability of bricks & mortar retailers to navigate the e-commerce revolution. As a result, shares in various US retailers have fallen sharply, from high-end to mass market chains, like Target (down 23%).

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Amazon shares have also declined this quarter, though the e-commerce giant still looks on course to disrupt pharmaceutical distribution and reimbursement in 2019, a fact that hasn’t eluded many top pharma executives. J&J CEO, Alex Gorsky, in an interview with Fortune, said: “We have conversations at all levels going on with Amazon. I think Jeff (Bezos) and as importantly Amazon is a very innovative organisation, and they see this as an opportunity to make a difference. Just as we are partnering with them today in areas of our consumer products, we’ll look forward to partnering with them in the future in some of these other areas as well.”

Pfizer Chairman & CEO Ian Read also said late last year: “Any system of distribution that can cut costs and get a wide availability of products to patients is something that the whole industry would be interested in.” This disruption to pharma distribution, allied with the current economic uncertainty, looks set to make for a volatile year in 2019. According to Nicholas Hall, the “Big Beasts of Big Pharma are right. Amazon and Alibaba are today the most powerful disruptors of the healthcare industry. Some brand marketers will embrace this change, most will not … until it’s too late.” 

Nicholas Hall’s New Paradigms for CHC 2019: Over the Horizon, our upcoming new Signature Report written by Nicholas, focuses on a range of important issues surrounding the CHC Market, including Innovation, Success Factors, Digital Engagement, Competition and much more. It is an essential read for all players striving to compete in this rapidly evolving marketplace. To find out more or to place your order, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com

Alibaba buys in to “digital silk road” vision

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According to a report in the FT over the weekend, Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba is close to agreeing a deal with Russian internet company, Mail.ru, and sovereign wealth fund, Russian Direct Investment Fund, to form a joint-venture e-commerce company.

As highlighted in our earlier blog on Chinese investment in Africa, there is a clear vision from China and Chinese companies to invest in the physical infrastructure for a new silk road (Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative) connecting Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and this latest news on a China-Russia e-commerce tie-up underlines the appetite for a digital silk road too.

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In October 2017, the Russian Government approved a Ministry of Health bill to allow the online purchase and home delivery of OTCs, which came into force in January 2018. As a result, Mail.ru announced the launch of its online pharmacy in April 2018. At present, established western e-commerce giants like Amazon are largely absent from Russia, giving Alibaba the freedom to chart new territory in a market of 147mn consumers at an opportune time.

As the FT article points out, Alibaba is also fighting back against Amazon in certain markets, like Indonesia, where the US retail giant has stolen a march. For example, Alibaba has invested heavily in two e-commerce companies, Tokopedia and Lazada, both of which market goods, including healthcare products, across southeast Asia.

Explore the digital landscape at Nicholas Hall’s upcoming OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference. Other topics on the agenda include Medical Device Regulations, Medical Cannabis, Switch and Smart Probiotics. This will be an inspiring day on 12 September in London, focusing on Where Innovation Meets Regulation. For details of the full agenda or to reserve your place contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

OTC e-commerce: China

The rise of e-commerce, especially in key markets like the USA and China, as well as certain European countries such as Germany and the UK, continues to alter the dynamics of the consumer healthcare market and this is a trend we plan to monitor ever more closely here at OTC DASHBOARD over the coming years.

In addition, regulators across the world are still getting to grips with the issue. The China Food & Drug Administration has said that it is welcoming comments until 12th March 2018 on a draft regulation entitled Provisions for Supervision & Administration of Online Drug Sales. This stipulates that online sellers of medicines must be licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers. Manufacturers and wholesalers must not sell medicines to individual consumers and retailers must not sell Rx or controlled medicines online (legalising the online sale of Rx drugs has previously been considered in China).

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The platforms through which online medicines are sold must also adhere to and assist with product recalls where there are safety or quality issues. The regulation also stipulates that the CFDA will develop a national online medicine surveillance system and supply details of violations to provincial authorities, which will investigate and enforce any follow-up action.

Given the popularity of smartphones in China, and the rise of mobile payments and online shopping sites like Tmall (Alibaba) and Taobao and social media platforms like WeChat, it has become ever more difficult for regulators to monitor the online sale of medicines. This also presents a challenge for those trying to gauge the true size of the OTC e-commerce sector in China, but all indications point to this being a fast-growing channel that can no longer be ignored.

Embark on The Evolving Consumer Journey at our 5th Asia-Pacific OTC Conference & OTC Academy Training Workshop! Held in Singapore on 17-18 October 2018, this meeting aims to help guide you through this complex and ever-changing landscape. The half-day workshop will take a look at Inspiring Self-Care. Book before 15 August to take advantage of our early bird rates! Please contact maricar.montero@NicholasHall.com to book your place today or for more information. 

Chinese investment in Africa

One business book from my Christmas list that I’ve just finished reading is The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa, by McKinsey consultant Irene Yuan Sun. This book highlights in great detail a trend that is noticeable across several industries, including pharmaceuticals – fast-growing investment in Africa by Asia-Pacific marketers. China is leading the way, especially in terms of expanding Africa’s manufacturing base, but there is a wider trend (encompassing OTCs) of companies across Asia-Pacific looking for growth opportunities in Africa.

Irene Yuan Sun’s book highlights two important economic fundamentals:

1) Over the past quarter century, China has gone from generating 2% of global GDP output to 25%
2) Over the next decade, 8 out of the 10 fastest-growing economies are projected to be on the African continent

The author makes the case that, from the start of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the 18th century, economic prosperity has always followed where new factories are built. Citing the theory of the flying geese paradigm (see video below), the book examines how manufacturing shifts across countries and continents, as labour costs rise and competitiveness falls. Today, it is China that has reached this inflection point and it is Chinese entrepreneurs that are driving business investment in Africa.

Focusing on four countries (Nigeria, Lesotho, Kenya and Ethiopia), the book is structured in two main parts: the first about the reality of these factories being built, and the second about the economic, political and social possibilities. The author points to the irony that, despite high demand across the continent for certain drugs, notably antiretrovirals, Africa’s pharmaceutical firms are small and in some cases on the verge of collapse.

In Ethiopia (population: 100mn), there are just 9 pharmaceutical manufacturers, while Germany (population: 81mn) has nearly a 1,000 pharma manufacturers. With the exception of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, most African countries have no more than a handful of manufacturers. Kenya is the standard bearer in East Africa (40 factories, but generally of low quality), while Nigeria has about 40 too, the leading number in West Africa, but again few meet GMP standards.

There are reasons to be positive, however. South Africa, Kenya (national plan to encourage domestic production) and Ethiopia (similar plan) are all taking steps to revive pharma manufacturing in their countries. A few years ago, GSK showed showed interest in building a local manufacturing plant in Ethiopia, but after two years of deliberation the company decided not to go ahead. This is leaving a space that Chinese pharma companies appear more willing to fill. For example, in 2016 Humanwell decided to invest US$80mn in a manufacturing facility near Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Having seen rapid economic transformation in their own country with their own eyes, Chinese entrepreneurs are perhaps better placed to recognise the potential for similar change in Africa.

Next week on the blog, we’ll take a closer look at how several Asia-Pacific OTC marketers are looking to expand their operations across the African continent.

OTC DASHBOARD remains your best port of call for the latest consumer healthcare trends in the Middle East & Africa. In the coming months, we will be updating our reports on 11 countries across the region, including Nigeria and South Africa. 

Q3 2017: Global OTC growth stays at 4.7%

According to the latest figures published by Nicholas Hall’s global OTC sales database DB6, the OTC market maintained 4.6% growth in MAT Q3 2017. Commenting on the results, DB6 VP Celine Waller said: “Russia remained the fastest-growing leading market, though its growth slowed slightly compared to MAT Q2 2017 (+17.3%). Brazil and Turkey (+13.1%) also both achieved double-digit growth. Growth in the US increased marginally, with an improved performance in cough & cold offset by continued weakness in gastrointestinals and dermatologicals. France and Australia (-0.7%) remained in decline – France owing to the poor performance of the large OTx sector and reverse switch of some cough ingredients, and Australia driven by a slowdown in demand from Chinese consumers buying VMS products for resale in China (daigou or ‘suitcase entrepreneurs’).”

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Though OTC growth remains high in many of the Emerging Markets, the established markets of North America, Japan (+0.6%) and western Europe – notably Germany (+1.8%), France (-1.2%), Italy (+2.0) and UK (+1.7%) – remain relatively flat. Innovative Rx-to-OTC switches, such as the UK MHRA’s recent approval of the POM-to-P reclassification of Viagra Connect, or the emergence of new OTC categories, such as e-cigarettes or medical cannabis, offer the most promising route back to growth for many of these established OTC markets.

Nicholas Hall said: “Q3 data confirms 4.6% as the baseline for CHC growth, and frankly it’s not good enough!! Only the sleepiest or most risk-averse companies will accept competing in a market where growth is only modestly ahead of inflation + higher population. That is why the first serious step by Pfizer to switch Viagra is so important. Since we made our first detailed review of the ED category for a Big Pharma client exactly 5 years ago, we have been convinced that Viagra is potentially the world’s largest consumer health brand. Some might say that it already is, although that would be true only for the use of the Viagra brand name on the internet as most of the blue pills sold in that channel are not from Pfizer. As a legitimate CHC category, and with recreational use included — which Big Pharma companies dislike as they see ED brands as treatments — the overall CHC reproductive health category, including ED brands, condoms, oral contraceptives, EHC and conception products and diagnostics, could easily reach sales of US$20bn at MSP in all channels of distribution.”

Q3 Results Reveal USA Slowdown

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The Q3 2016 results are now available on Nicholas Hall’s DB6 database, and the trend information will soon be updated on the OTC DASHBOARD website. In this week’s blog, we take a closer look at the latest growth trends for the Top 20 OTC markets in the world.

Overall, the global OTC market performed steadily in Q3 2016 with a 4.3% rise, the same growth rate as we saw in Q2 2016. However, this performance can be seen as mediocre compared to the full-year 2015 period, when OTC sales were up by 5.5%.

The global No.1 market, USA, showed signs of deceleration in Q3, with sales up by only 2.2%. This is largely owing to the slowing down of sales for major switches, such as Flonase allergy remedy and Pfizer’s Nexium 24HR antacid. That said, the USA should enjoy an upturn in the new year with switches such as GSK’s Flonase Sensimist (allergy remedy) and Galderma’s Differin Gel (acne remedy) in the pipeline. Compared to other categories, Lifestyle OTCs in the USA showed continued dynamism in Q3 2016, with sales up by a steady 5.0%; this was owing in part to double-digit growth for obesity treatments (+43.4%).

China’s growth also continued to lose steam in Q3 2016, where sales were up by 6.0%. China’s OTC market continues to grow year-on-year, but in recent years growth has gradually slowed; this is considered to be owing to a weaker economy, new regulations and also the crackdown on MNCs and domestic companies. Weaker growth overall in Q3 came despite continued growth for analgesics, which were up by 8.4%, making it the most dynamic OTC category in China, thanks to high levels of innovation and advertising in this area.

In Q3, growth also weakened in Japan and Europe as a result of low levels of Rx-to-OTC switch activity and weak cough, cold & allergy growth in early 2016. Italy was an exception to sluggish growth in Europe, where sales of OTCs were up by 3.5%; this was thanks to strong growth for Lifestyle OTCs (+11.1%), with a particularly dynamic performance from emergency hormonal contraceptives, sales of which rose by 226%.

Latin America remains the strongest performing region, with growth up by 15%. This is thanks to significant growth from Venezuela, up by 39% in Q3, owing to high levels of inflation. Despite a tough economic climate in Brazil, the OTC market remains robust with sales up by 9.5%, as a result of increased awareness of health and wellbeing.

Elsewhere in Q3 2016, India’s growth accelerated with sales up by 9.5%, owing to a strong performance from gastrointestinals (+10.3%). Turkey also performed well with growth up by 6.8%, thanks to VMS sales and a strong upturn for Lifestyle OTCs.