While the pandemic has been hugely challenging for many, it has also been a time of unprecedented growth, change and opportunity. If you’ve been paying attention, it’s obvious that consumer trends are driving the rapid evolution of the business landscape in Australia, and the message is clear – innovate, or risk getting left behind.

One of the biggest and most significant changes to come out of the past 18 months is that consumers have started to become far more aware of where the products they are purchasing are made. This renewed appreciation for locally produced goods can be traced back to the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, which exposed Australians to the downsides of globalisation.

As the pandemic wore on, we witnessed multinational organisations come unstuck, and the breakdown of global supply chains revealed our vulnerability in being an isolated, island nation with a limited ability to manufacture our own goods.

In this way, the nature of the pandemic inversed the logic of globalisation. Local manufacturing means businesses can supply and deliver on-demand to meet rapidly changing consumer needs, rather than rely on importing products from overseas.

Because PharmaCare’s products are made here in Australia, we also have the unique advantage of giving our people a far greater ability to have complete ownership over our products, allowing them to innovate and respond quickly to local consumer demands and market conditions – which is in stark contrast to multinationals.

“Sourcing from domestic partners is what makes sovereign manufacturing a powerful foundation for a business. Sovereign manufacturing prevents companies from relying on overseas markets and supply chains, and therefore ensures efficient delivery to consumers.”

Despite our increasingly globalised world, our individual experiences of the pandemic varied greatly depending on the country, state, city or even postcode in which we live. However, what has been almost universal during this time is a renewed focus on preventive health and wellness.

Research from Nicholas Hall’s CHC. Newsflash, 2021, revealed that almost two thirds (65%) of consumers are more concerned with immunity, resulting in a huge shift away from a traditional ‘defensive’ mindset when it comes to our health, as more people adopt a holistic, proactive, and prevention-based approach.

On the flip side, an unintended ‘side effect’ of the heightened hygiene standards we’ve found ourselves adopting in the name of prevention – including sanitising, washing our hands regularly and wearing masks – can actually play a role in weakening our immune system, which is less than ideal in the midst of a pandemic. 

This renewed focus on health and wellbeing is also illustrated by recent consumer behaviour in the UK, which is currently seeing a marked spike in sales of cold and flu products in response to rising cases of COVID-19.

Products with functional ingredients that support a healthy immune system are also increasingly attracting attention from Aussie consumers. Over the past 18 months, noticeably more Australians have been actively searching for ways to incorporate immune-supporting supplements, such as probiotics and vitamins C and D, into their daily routine.

According to data from Complementary Medicines Australia’s 2021 Industry Audit, almost two-thirds (60%) of consumers plan on improving their overall health and wellness in the next 12 months. At PharmaCare, we’ve seen this reflected by a steady increase in demand for supplement products across brands including Nature’s Way, Bioglan and EaseaCold.  

E-commerce is yet another trend that is testing the ability of businesses to meet consumer demands. In response to the pandemic, we’ve seen e-commerce erupt across Australia’s health and personal care sector, rising from 5% in the pre-COVID-19 era, to more than 10% today.

Additionally, rising demand for sustainable and ethical products has handed businesses a whole new growth opportunity to jump on. However, companies need to weigh up whether going green is the right fit for them and their customers. Although not impossible, it’s important to consider if your business is able to cater to the growing demographic of conscious consumers, while still striving to meet demands around price and convenience.  

“As a major marketer of fish oils, PharmaCare ensures that our products are sourced only from eco-friendly fisheries, so that we can all benefit from a sustainable supply of Omega 3 for years to come.”

Last but certainly not least, is the importance of culture and team when it comes to fostering innovation, meeting the consumer demands of the future, and setting your business up for success.

A culture of innovation requires an innovation mindset. While this begins with the DNA of every employee at PharmaCare, it’s imperative to invest time and effort into developing innovative leaders and training design-thinking facilitators. To create a culture that encourages innovation, make sure to always lead by example, and ensure teams are given explicit permission to be proactive, without fear of failure.

We have all learnt many valuable lessons over the course of the pandemic. It’s been a crucial reminder to never take our health for granted, as well as the growing importance of the need to manufacture our own goods right here in Australia. Across the business community, we’ve seen that nothing is certain, and change is constant.

To meet consumer demand of the future, companies need to pay close attention to evolving consumer behaviour, understand the environment around them, operate with agility and an innovation mindset, and most importantly, develop and look after their number one asset – their people.

Glenn Cochran is CEO of PharmaCare Laboratories.

Photo credit: Brendon Thorne/The Photo Pitch.