Industry reports boom in vitamin C as supply chain issues set to continue
03 Apr 2020 --- Global upheaval as cases of COVID-19 reach the million-mark has seen revitalized consumer interest in immunity. Activity in this space has flourished as people look to ways to bolster their immune system, with vitamin C emerging as an area of particular intrigue. NutritionInsight speaks to experts who flag vitamin C-related supply chain challenges, shipment delays and increased prices amid booming demand.
“There has been a significant increase in demand for vitamin C and its derivatives in the past eight weeks. As the spread of COVID-19 outside China increased, the demand for immunity support products – of which vitamin C is probably the most well-known – increased dramatically,” Nic Dam, Prinova Group’s Managing Director, tells NutritionInsight.
“Furthermore, as ascorbic acid and its derivatives are widely used in staple products – ranging from bread, cereals and beverages to infant formula and vitamin supplements – we have seen a strong spike in demand. This is because consumers have increased purchases of these items in many countries due to movement restrictions. All these factors combined have put a lot of pressure on the market, which has, of course, caused a price increase,” Dam explains.
BulkSupplements.com, which is a major US dietary supplement distributor, reports that its vitamin C sales skyrocketed in early March. “We are nearly out of stock. Additionally, our raw material costs have almost tripled and we expect an industry shortage,” says CEO Kevin Baronowsky.
US-based Boardroom Organics also reports a major increase in demand for its Ultimate Liposomal Vitamin. As a result, it has limited purchases to one jar per person. Other health retailers have also enacted limits to purchase numbers, including UK-based Holland & Barrett, which limited certain products in its immunity lines to two per customer.
Additionally, a range of companies in recent weeks has been highlighting the immunity effects of vitamin C. According to HTC Health, a UK-based bulk health supplements supplier for private label, there is evidence to show that high doses of the vitamin can decrease the length of a cold by 8 percent in adults and 14 percent in children. The company further states that vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection. The vitamin then helps these cells function more effectively, as well as protecting them from some harmful molecules.
Continuing supply chain disruption
Dam explains that the market price for ascorbates had been at a record low in January. Additionally, China, which accounts for around 95 percent of the ascorbate world market, had good product availability. This meant that the general market consensus was quite relaxed with end-users happy to rely on just-in-time deliveries.
“Within China, the COVID-19 situation caused some supply disruption. However, this was not necessarily in the form of factories closing, but around the transportation of goods as we saw delayed shipments from several producers. Several weeks of delays had a serious impact on supply around the world. At the same time, end-users wanted to increase their stock levels to give them a buffer in case of further delays and this is what caused the first spike in demand,” states Dam.
He notes that all the Chinese factories that Prinova deals with – including those related to B vitamins and amino acids, which were some of the worst hit categories – have now restarted production. “However, there is no doubt that supply chain disruption for those products produced in the worst-hit Hubei region will continue for several months, as suppliers work through their backlog of orders. We are now seeing a new challenge, with India in lock-down. Shipments have been delayed and despite seaports being open, there is not the workforce to allow for the movement of goods to take place,” he adds.
After seeing the severe impact of the coronavirus in China, Prinova is focused on making contingency plans for the business, which have been triggered globally. Dam says this means something different for each of its locations, but that it is able to continue to operate – although at reduced capacity in some locations.
Vitamin C has long been a popular vitamin, with Innova Market Insights reporting it present in over half of new product launches in 2018 that featured vitamins. However, the latest global situation has spurred further activity in the category, with Brazil-based Duas Rodas highlighting Acerola fruit, which contains up to 30 times more L-ascorbic acid than oranges. The multinational offers powdered Acerola with a standardized natural vitamin C concentration up to 34 percent, allowing for the enrichment of foods and supplements.
Earlier this week, NutritionInsight reported that Northwell Health, New York state’s largest healthcare provider, is administering large doses of vitamin C to some COVID-19 patients in its hospitals. The news comes as a clinical trial with vitamin C is underway in China, examining to what extent coronavirus symptoms can be treated.
In light of these rapid developments, NutritionInsight has launched a daily news feed for the coronavirus-related information and insights you need to guide your business through this challenging period.
By Katherine Durrell
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