World Healthcare
Health is big business in Germany
Mar 10, 2006 - 9:27:37 PM

When it comes to wellness, sport, vitality or anti-ageing, German consumers are willing to spend lavishly and this has led to a booming $87-billion market for health products in the country.

According to expert Leo Nefiodov, who studies economic trends, "over the next 50 years health is going to be the most important growth factor for economy and society as a whole."

Nefiodov believes the buoyancy of the health sector marks the beginning of a sustainable period of economic growth and the health industry has already begun usurping information technology at the cutting edge of industrial development.

A survey by a health institute run by Matthias Horx showed that two-thirds of Germans regularly spend money on their health.

The findings are supported by data from the federal statistics ministry which shows that in 2003 private households parted with a total of 29.4 billion euro ($35.3 billion dollars) for health-promoting products compared with 28.5 billion euro the year before.

The figure does not even include the countless cookbooks, gym subscriptions, "active" holidays or the money spent on health additives sold in pharmacies.

Germany's foodstuffs industry has products that are not just nourishing but healthy as well. Modern German supermarkets are more like pharmacies these days with shelves full of "pro-biotic" yoghurts, wine gums with added salts and minerals or calcium-boosted orange squash.

Exact figures are hard to come by since so many sectors of the German economy are trying to cash in on the health-consciousness of the nation's citizens - be they publishing houses, tourist authorities of garment manufacturers.

According to the German Wellness Federation, this wide-ranging sector expects a turnover of 72.9 billion euros ($87.9 billion) this year - an increase of six percent compared to the previous year.

The turnover in organically grown foodstuffs grew by 10 percent in 2004 to stand at around 3.4 billion euros.

Germany's countless, non-profit-making sports associations benefit as well. A total of 27 million Germans are members of around 90,000 clubs and the number is growing.

The trend is matched by the private sector. Around 4.7 million members sweat it out at 5,600 gyms, 400,000 more than in 2004, reported the Deloitte auditing organisation.

Germany's medical health insurance companies have already reacted to the health boom.

"Our bonus programme rewards health-conscious behaviour," said Axel Wunsch of the Barmer Ersatzkasse. He pointed out that 12 million people have already participated in the "Germany Gets Moving" campaign designed to promote regular sporting activity.

The German media has jumped on the health bandwagon too. "Periodicals with articles about natural medicine have seen their circulations rise significantly," said Stefan Michalk of the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers.

The new trend has drawn some ire from within the pharmacological industry which is experiencing a particularly turbulent period along with the rest of the health system.

Manufacturers of generic products such that market cheaper versions of expensive "brand-name" medicines are enjoying a buoyant market. The big companies, on the other hand, have seen their sales stagnate. Turnover in 2003 stood at 23.6 billion euro and last year saw no significant increase, said a spokeswoman for the Federation of Research Chemists.

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