Iran is a developed consumer economy and has always been a large consumer market in the Middle East owing to its large population and booming middle class. Iranian consumers on average have more disposable income than people in developing markets such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa.
Iran has a young and image-conscious population, which is an ideal market for sports nutrition and cosmetics. Women under 40 account for almost 20% of the population (15 million), and wearing make-up on a daily basis is very common among this segment. As a result, Iran is the second-largest cosmetics market in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia, and number seven worldwide. Cosmetics are 0.1% of the country’s $52 billion total imports ($52 million) and there is a strong indication of the potential for growth in the most recent figures for cosmetics imports.
In the health products category, consumer awareness has increased as a result of the activities of key foreign suppliers. Global brands, rather than domestic brands, lead the dietary supplement category in Iran. The Iranian pharmaceutical industry has not been able to produce a wide range of products within the vitamins and dietary supplements category, which has left space for the development of imported brands.
The distribution of most consumer health products in Iran is primarily limited to pharmacies due to the strict regulations set by the Ministry of Health (MOH). There are more than 8,000 pharmacies scattered throughout Iran. Drug pricing is tightly regulated by the MOH and therefore pharmacies receive more margin from selling non-drug health products; a familiar situation growing in Canada and the USA. Most doctors in Iran tend to recommend the consumption of mineral supplements and vitamins when prescribing medications to patients. Moreover, the activities of leading multinational suppliers have played a major role in increasing consumer awareness. In addition, the Ministry of Health is focusing on improving health levels in the country by encouraging the use of food supplements.
As a result, it is not surprising that the most common supplement categories used among Iranians are Iron, calcium, multivitamin and minerals and fish oils. Using supplements is mostly related to age, educational level, and body weight status in this population. Most popular brands in the market are Nature Made, 21st Century, Alpex Pharma, Arnet Pharmaceutical, Vitabiotics, GFR Pharma, Prolab Nutrition, Kendy Pharma Ltd, Natural Organics Inc and Pharmaton.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Education, Food and Drug Administration, is responsible for the regulation and registration of food supplements and cosmetics. Foreign brands and exporters must have a local representative (importer) in Iran in order to present their products in the market. Direct export to retailers/pharmacies is not permitted.
Importers must have an exclusive representative agreement with the foreign company and also introduce a local pharmacist as their official representative. The most common documents required for registration are Site license, GMP certificate, ITC (International Trade Certificate), master file, Certificate of Analysis, Halal certificates, product formula and relevant standards.
Global brand presence in other countries is an important factor for the MOH to consider issuing the required registration number. List of exporting countries where product can be found will always be requested by the MOH. Proof of registration in Canada, USA, Japan, Australia and/or Western Europe is almost sufficient. If the documents meets MOH requirements, IRC number will be issued (Iran Registration Code). IRC numbers must be printed on the product label. IRC numbers are valid for 4 years and subject to review.
NHP Consulting will submit regulatory documents required for market compliance for the Iranian market.