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Piqued Interest For Probiotics And Manuka Honey, & Emerging Trends In Pharmacy Retail

New Zealanders have tied strong interest in immunity boosting ingredients, piggybacking on probiotics and manuka honey products in order to strengthen general immunity to be better prepared to fight off the wave of novel coronavirus. While the world races to test laboratory-developed drugs such as remdesivir for the virus treatment, New Zealand seems to be shifting its focus on building healthy lifestyle.

Jacinda Ardern’s Government has been reopening the economy in phases where stepping down from Level-3 to Level-2 is going to be the next big catalyst in bringing the island country up and running again. Some businesses like retail outlets and hairdressers, hospitality industry, education, community sports and travel would reopen under Level-2 with certain guidelines to follow basic hygiene in force, told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

On Wednesday, Ardern said ‘A trip from Wellington to Napier to see your mum is fine, a trip from Wellington to Napier to go to a big conference with an open bar is not fine.’

The restriction on mass gathering would reportedly remain in place under the relaxed lockdown norms, with the final decision to be made by the government following the Cabinet review meeting on 11 May 2020.

What Life Looks Like Under New Zealand Healthcare Diary?

New Zealand is making international headlines for its speedy success on containing the spread of the disease like no other nation in the world. Nation’s tally sits at total 1,492 confirmed and probable cases, out of which 1,368 have already recovered while the death toll stands at 21 as on 9 May 2020 (9:00 AM).

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The numbers charted on the COVID-19 graph are taking the government closer to its goal of crushing the infection curve with no community transmission.

In this success story, Healthcare sector seems to be have stayed at the top in gaining consumers’ attention with wider population building piqued interest in digestive well-being and immunity development to fight the contagious disease that currently has no scientifically proven treatment to prevent or cure it.

Let’s take a look at three core markets that are capturing prominence in healthcare industry- Probiotics, Manuka Honey and Pharmacy Retail

Probiotics and its Immunity Boosting Capability

Increased consumer awareness for supplements intake to maintain their well-being amidst the current health crisis is expected to contribute to the global growth of probiotics sales in the coming years. Probiotics are usually recognized for their role in supporting general immunity and maintaining natural balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut.

In the wake of COVID-19, people are getting increasingly inclined to probiotics for their potential to improve immune biomarkers required for higher resistance against illness. Some probiotics have also shown the ability to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections, while others have depicted anti-inflammatory effects, the two possible complications that have been found to affect the body of COVID patients.

Biotechnology company, BLIS Technologies Limited (NZX: BLT) experienced significant growth in product sales during the month of March, and therefore expects better than previously stated guidance for the financial performance of the year ended 31 March 2020. The latest guidance of the company stands at – revenue ~$10.6 million (previous guidance: ~$10.0 million) and EBITDA ~$2.1 million (previous guidance: ~1.5 million).

BLT stock traded at $0.086, up 7.50 percent on 8 May 2020.

Brian Watson, CEO of BLIS Technologies, mentioned that the “unprecedented demand for the probiotics products were witnessed both in the domestic and overseas market through the pharmacies and online channels.

Dairy nutrition group, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (NZX: FCG) reported stable earnings in its Ingredients division during 1H 2020 to be on track to achieve its overall earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share, gross margin of over $3 billion and reduced debt for 2020. Its ingredients and solutions brand, New Zealand Milk Products (NZMP) has highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic had boosted the enquiries on its immunity increasing products like probiotics.

Senior Research Scientist at Fonterra Dr. James Dekker said that “our (company’s) probiotics can be used to support general immunity of the wider population, rather than targeting the prevention of a specific disease.”

Fonterra has recently partnered with German Startup, YFood to introduce innovative Foodtech solutions into the research for developing drinks, bars and powder. FCG stock traded at a price of $3.570 on 8 May 2020.

Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey, a highly priced commodity owing to its antibacterial properties, has seen a steep rise in global demand amid the coronavirus outbreak. One of the world’s leading exporters of manuka honey, New Zealand eyes substantial marketing opportunities for the product with some dominating players in the industry.

Comvita Limited (NZX: CVT) reported strong demand for its manuka honey products throughout March, resulting in double digit growth during the quarter year-on-year. The company also announced that its honey harvest has increased by over 60 percent this year with improvement of 150 percent in the quality of the crop. Besides, CVT stock price went up by 6.10 percent to settle at $4.00 on 8 May 2020.

During lockdown, many stores in New Zealand went online offering manuka honey at discounted prices in order to sell it within the shelf-life of the product. NZ Manuka industry further seems to be back in action with the recommencement of the exports to China. The Chinese consumers’ drive for immunity boosters has skyrocketed the demand for manuka honey.

UMF Honey Association Chief Executive John Rawcliffe confirmed “the strong demand for manuka honey coming in from China and further stressed on the need to inform Chinese consumers that manuka honey and the rating system has real value.”

Pharmacy Retail

Different facets of healthcare industry have gained focus as the pandemic amplified health consciousness among people. Pharmacy Retail has been at the frontline extending unique credible support during current health crisis, meeting strong demand for sanitizers, masks, gloves and medicines for mild to moderate health conditions.

While some pharmacies placed order limits on the purchases to ensure stock availability, others ventured into dedicated online deliveries during the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown. Besides, telemedicine was also seen as an emerging trend, offering support to needy patients.

Additionally, the steep rise in the delivery of prescription medicines during lockdown seems to be providing a new direction to current business model of pharmacy retail.

While pharmacy retail deserves all the appreciation for being a key pillar of support in strengthening healthcare services during the critical health crisis, Probiotics and Manuka Honey seem to be playing crucial role in ensuring healthy and balanced diet of people to weather the virus storm.

New Zealand has been grabbing international headlines with only two fresh novel coronavirus cases reported this week and apparently no undetected community transmission. The nation is set to enter relaxed Level-2 alert, following the Cabinet meeting scheduled to review alert level decisions on 11 May 2020.

With death toll remaining at 21, number of confirmed cases currently stands at 1,139, while 1,332 have recovered so far.

Flattening, perhaps crushing of COVID-19 curve in New Zealand is setting the stage for robust financial stabilisation backed by dedicated Government initiatives and Central Bank’s robust monetary stance, offering a strong competitive advantage to economy to rebuild itself.

Meanwhile, spirited business efforts and growing popularity of digital platforms are innovatively carving out new paths for economic revival.

Microsoft’s latest proposal of investment in NZ’s digital infrastructure to set off its first data centre region marks its maiden step towards providing local access to enterprise-grade cloud services, validating outstanding spirit of nation’s innovation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden quoted on Wednesday: ‘New Zealand’s success in curbing the coronavirus has given it a “safe haven” advantage, allowing the country to be open for investment.’

She further stressed on NZ’s efficient approach to tackling the health crisis further underpinning the nation’s brand as high-grade, sound and safe place to invest in.

Backed by strong virus containment, prospective ‘travel bubble’ discussions between Australia and New Zealand have further rekindled hopes for trade, travel and tourism space. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden joined Australia’s emergency cabinet meeting on 5 May 2020 for discussing the possibility of opening borders as a part of the ‘trans-Tasman Covid-safe travel zone’ proposal allowing virus-safe two-way travel between countries.

Market Confidence Extended

S&P reaffirmed New Zealand’s AA Rating with positive outlook while indicating that situation would improve as the pandemic subsides. Besides, revamped business strategies along with calculated Government moves seem to foster optimism in the market scenario.

S&P NZX 50 settled at 10,573 points on Wednesday, up 0.78 percent. Pushpay Holdings (NZX:PPH) and Smartpay (NZX:SPY) joined the rally with gain of 20.88 percent and 1.30 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, market seems to have extended April gains with Consumer Staples, Health Care, and Financial Services Sector Index posting a positive return on month-to-date (MTD) basis as on 6 May 2020.

  • S&P/NZX All Consumer Staples Index was up 0.87 percent MTD to 6,489.02.
  • S&P/NZX All Health Care Index gained 2.84 percent to 2,342.43 on MTD basis.
  • S&P/NZX All Financials Index was up 0.3 percent MTD to 707.314 points.

Looking at real estate space, it was noted that ASX-listed fund manager Centuria Capital has finally agreed to acquire up to 25 percent of stake in leading real estate fund manager Augusta Capital (NZX: AUG) in New Zealand. It comes after Centuria initially withdrawing the offer in March due to high market volatility led by the coronavirus outbreak. Centuria has decided to take out of its cash reserves a maximum of NZ$23.6 million in order to invest in Augusta Capital, which it believes is a unique opportunity to develop a strong presence in New Zealand.

On the other hand, Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent’s investment in Afterpay (NZX:APT) has amplified investor confidence in fintech products that are boosting online sales across the country.

Consumers’ Confidence Increases for Fifth Straight Week

Economic reopening along with the Government stimulus is broadly directed at free flow of cash in New Zealand market. ANZ-ROY Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence gained further 5.3 percent, up for the five weeks straight.

The increase in confidence over last week is majorly attributable to further easing of virus-induced lockdown restrictions and optimism building around no new daily cases, said David Plank, ANZ Head of Australian Economics.

Stockpiling of essential goods during the lockdown continued to drive market momentum as S&P Consumer Staple index rose by 14.56 percent and 22.39 percent on Quarter-to-Date (QTD) and Year-to-Date (YTD) basis, respectively, as at 6 May 2020.

Meanwhile, the nation has witnessed piqued online alcohol sales while overall online retail sales was up by around 350 percent as per Retail NZ.

The trade, for the time being, is reportedly aimed to be localised with e-commerce integration eyed to remain the primary driving force for consumer spending as New Zealand gradually reboots its operations.

Potential Recovery Prospects Budding for Travel Industry

While travel and tourism industry is grappling with grave health and financial crisis, the NZ travel space is witnessing some momentum these days. Trans-Tasman travel bubble could come as a substantive relief for the beaten-down travel sector of Australia and New Zealand in the near term.

In the optimism building around the travel space, global surf brand Kathmandu Holdings (NZX: KMD) is planning to reopen its Australian stores while many of its New Zealand stores are already back in operations. Subsequently, KMD stock price rose by 9.64 percent on 6 May 2020.

On a related note, Napier’s Council-owned Kennedy Part Resort has further strengthened its position to continue to provide high-quality accommodation as hopes of domestic tourism recovery emerged with strong future growth.

Notably, Tourism Holdings (NZX: THL) witnessed more than 8% rise in its stock price during its early trade on 7 May 2020.

Adding to odds of getting through the pandemic without the Government intervention, some companies are aiming to stay afloat backed by varied innovative measures. Boeing was recently in news for raising USD 25 billion after huge bond sale.

With virus spread under control, New Zealand’s COVID-19 success story continue to grab attention backed by increased consumers’ confidence, strategic business survival and bounced back market momentum. With hopes of less-intense travel restrictions with neighbours, upcoming Cabinet meeting remains the key to gauge further path to recovery.

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