Those unfamiliar with the history of dietary supplements and natural products might easily look at the industry today, both in the U.S. and globally, and assume that it has always been a big business driver. But that is not the case. It took a lot of hard work, well beyond just two decades, by those who believed in the power of supplements and natural products to build a market that is regarded today as a mainstream contributor to health and wellness.
I was not in the trenches when the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was being drafted and signed, nor was I around when dietary supplements were beginning to transition from fad to legitimate products. When I joined Nutritional Outlook in mid-2009, it was 15 years post-DSHEA, and dietary supplements had already become a driving economic force. Since then, I have reported on an industry that has only continued to mature and grow. One of the key changes I believe that has taken place over the past 20 years is industry’s growing acceptance that it must not only continue to try to collaborate with regulators to find solutions that make sense but also to strengthen industry-wide self-regulation in order to cement the good name and fortunes that took so long to build.
Nutritional Outlook’s founding editor, Jim Wagner, saw great promise in the dietary supplements industry 20 years ago, and he certainly was not alone. In Nutritional Outlook’s premiere issue in April/May 1998, he wrote, “Like many of you, we are a company that recognizes the huge potential for dietary supplements and vitamins.” He continued, “A crossroads has been reached where vitamins and supplements are on the verge of being accepted by the ‘mainstream’ yet still possess a unique history and personality.”
Two decades later, we’re there. The industry is now mainstream. Millions of consumers now accept the concept of preventative healthcare and natural alternatives. And while the industry should never take for granted that consumers will always embrace its products, the fact is that the future has never looked brighter for dietary supplements or natural products. Consumer access to these products is more widespread, cross-channel, than ever before. Mainstream investor interest in this industry has never been higher. And, some say, Amazon’s recent proposal to acquire Whole Foods Market could trigger an entirely new era for dietary supplements and natural-product retailing.
Hopefully, Nutritional Outlook has helped the industry navigate and understand these changes as they have happened over the years. We hope to do so for many years yet. In another 10 years, I hope that I am here and able to report that the positive role dietary supplements play in the lives of consumers of all ages has only continued to grow.
Will the industry still have critics 50 years from now? Certainly. Will every person in America be using dietary supplements? Perhaps. Like those who came before me, I have every faith that those who continue to lead this industry in the future will do so with great respect for consumer health and safety and with the spirit of innovation that got the industry to this point in the first place.