U.S. Herbal Supplement Sales Climb 7.5% in 2015

Sep 9, 2016

U.S. sales of herbal dietary supplements posted a 12th straight year of consecutive growth in 2015, increasing by 7.5% last year to reach a total of $6.92 billion, according to a new report published in the American Botanical Council’s (ABC; Austin, TX) HerbalGram. That marks the second highest year-over-year growth rate for U.S. herbal supplement sales in more than a decade, ABC notes.

The annual HerbalGram report, which is based on supplement sales statistics provided by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) and market researchers SPINS and IRI, finds that mainstream retail sales of herbal supplements increased by 1.5% in 2015 to reach a total of $943 million. But as in years past, herbal supplement sales in the natural channel (excluding Whole Foods) grew at a faster rate than in mainstream retailers—rising by 4% in 2015 to post a total of $365 million.

The fact that U.S. herbal supplement sales continued to climb at a rate more or less in line with previous years (7.5% in 2015 compared to 6.8% in 2014 and 7.9% in 2013) is especially noteworthy in light of the negative publicity that dogged the herbal supplements industry for much of last year. Last year saw New York Attorney General (NYAG) Eric T. Schneiderman’s months-long investigation into allegedly mislabeled herbal supplements, which spawned numerous negative headlines about the category despite many experts criticizing the methodology of Schneiderman’s investigation. But judging from the sales figures in the new HerbalGram report, it doesn’t appear consumers were discouraged by the bad press.

“Herb supplement sales continue to grow to record levels, evidence that much of the public considers herbs to be an essential component of a healthy lifestyle,” says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC.

 

Mainstream Channel

Among mainstream retailers, including mass market, grocery, drug, military commissary, convenience, and club stores, horehound (Marrubium vulgare) was the top-selling herbal dietary supplement for the third year in a row. The ingredient, commonly used for relief from upper respiratory symptoms, posted 2015 sales of nearly $115 million in mainstream outlets. It was followed by the next bestsellers cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), echniacea (Echinacea spp.), garcinia cambogia (Garcinia gummi-gutta), and green tea (Camellia sinensis).

Propelled by a surge of interest in anti-inflammatory ingredients, boswellia (Boswellia serrata) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) both posted some of the highest mainstream sales increases, with boswellia in particular having a “remarkable year in 2015” with its 673.6% sales increase over 2014, the HerbalGram report points out.

It’s also interesting that many of the ingredients that took center stage in the NYAG’s February 2015 investigation, such as echinacea, garlic (Allium sativum), ginseng (Panax spp.), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and valerian (Valeriana officinalis), all experienced sales changes of less than 15% last year, with most continuing to see sales growth.

“Mainstream sales of many well-known herbal supplements, such as the seven originally targeted in the New York attorney general’s investigation that began in February 2015, remained fairly stable in 2015,” the report states.

Meanwhile, herbal ingredients that experienced significant percentage sales decreases in the mainstream channel last year included green coffee extract (Coffea arabica), isoflavones, rhodiola (Rhodiola spp.), and acai (Euterpe oleracea).

The top-10 selling herbal ingredients in the mainstream channel were:

  1. Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  2. Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
  3. Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  4. Garcinia cambogia (Garcinia gummi-gutta)
  5. Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
  6. Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
  7. Flax or flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum)
  8. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  9. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
  10. Bioflavanoid complex

*View the HerbalGram article for a complete list of the top 40 sellers.

 

Natural Channel

Turning to the natural channel, turmeric took the top-selling spot on the sales chart for the third year in a row with more than $37 million in total sales. The popular Ayurvedic ingredient experienced 32.2% sales growth in 2015—second only to Ashwagandha's 2015 natural-channel growth rate of 40.9%.

“The popularity of turmeric and ashwagandha in the natural channel—as well as boswellia’s 674% sales increase in the mainstream channel—reflects a broader trend in herbal dietary supplements in 2015: increased consumer familiarity with and acceptance of Ayurvedic herbs,” the HerbalGram report explains.

Following turmeric in top sales were wheatgrass and/or barley grass, flaxseed and/or flax oil, Aloe vera, and elderberry (Sambucus nigra). The only herbal ingredients to experience significant percentage sales decreases in the natural channel last year were garcinia cambogia and chia seed and/or chia oil (Salvia hispanica).

The top-10 selling herbal ingredients in the natural channel were:

  1. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
  2. Wheatgrass and barley grass (Triticum aestivum and Hordeum vulgare, respectively)
  3. Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) and/or flax oil
  4. Aloe vera
  5. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
  6. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
  7. Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
  8. Echinacea (Echniacea spp.)
  9. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
  10. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

*View the HerbalGram article for a complete list of the top 40 sellers.

 

In addition, U.S. direct-channel sales of herbal supplements increased by 7.2% in 2015 to hit a total of more than $3.36 billion—a slight increase over the year before.

It should be noted that the report covers only sales of herbal dietary supplements, while sales of most herbal teas, botanicals for cosmetics, and herbals sold as over-the-counter medicines were excluded.

HerbalGram is mailed to members of ABC and can be found in some bookstores and natural food stores. Additionally, the annual herb market report can be found for free here, where it is posted on the ABC website.

 

Read more:

Dietary Supplements: New Testing Tools to Catch Botanical Adulteration

Turmeric Rising: Turmeric and Curcumin Research Is Hot

U.S. Hemp Food, Beauty Sales Climbed to $283 Million in 2015

 

Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine
[email protected]

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