Mood and Relaxation Dietary Supplements: Hope in a Bottle

Apr 23, 2015

Some still consider the market for mood and stress-relief supplements niche. But could things start looking up?


The U.S. market for mood-supporting dietary supplements clocks in at roughly $500 million–$550 million, according to Julian Mellentin, director of global nutrition insights firm New Nutrition Business (London). But if you’re thinking, “Not bad,” Mellentin is quick to point out that the value “looks impressive until you remember that sales of pharma products are over $28 billion.” And though mood-supplement sales are growing, the wide berth between supplement and pharma numbers “really puts the two different approaches in perspective,” he says.

So Mellentin classifies mood supplements as a niche category, accounting for less than 2% of U.S. supplement sales and “likely to stay that way for some time.” Standing in the way of breakout velocity are issues like safety, efficacy, and, most importantly, tangible consumer benefits, he adds—all of which are “just too big” for the category to reach full speed, at least for now.

Just consider that last point. How many times have we been told that in order for a health product to be successful, consumers need to be able to “feel the benefit”? When consumers take a supplement for the express purpose of feeling less stressed or melancholy, Mellentin says, “they want to feel the benefit—and fast.” By contrast, consumers taking supplements as a hedge against, say, poor heart or bone health may be more inclined to accept that they may see results down the road.

But in the mood aisle, consumers expect to feel the change. Perhaps that’s why antidepressant and antianxiety medications so dominate the landscape—they work for many, and expediently so. Supplements that address the same needs, Mellentin says, just don’t yield the same rapid results.


But Is There Hope?

But results delayed aren’t necessarily results denied—at least not for consumers growing weary, and wary, of medicating away their blue or anxious moods. For them, addressing depression and stress via “natural” interventions may well be worth the wait.

As Deanne Dolnick, vice president, Next Pharmaceuticals (Salinas, CA), says, “The trend to take supplements is getting a stronger foothold across all demographics, as well as in the medical community. The consumer is getting smarter when it comes to taking prescription medications, and they’re asking doctors the tough questions and getting frustrated with the side effects of drugs.”

Even setting side effects aside, it’s worth noting that not all patients improve with pharmaceutical therapy in the first place, prompting some to “go looking for a natural solution when they’re not getting the results for which they’d hoped via mainstream medicine,” says Cheryl Myers, head of education and scientific affairs, EuroPharma Inc. (Green Bay, WI). “This may be the impetus for many to explore natural or integrative options.”