Making over the Multivitamin

Apr 12, 2016

Multivitamins: they may not be as sexy, glamorous, or headline-grabbing as the latest exotic herb or plant-protein superstar, but they remain one of the most popular, trusted products in the dietary-supplement market. “Multivitamins continue to be one of the top-selling products within the supplements industry,” confirms Duffy McKay, ND, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC). “It is fair to say that the multivitamin is a product that really reaches mainstream America. When you consider that more than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements, we know that many, many of those individuals are using multivitamins as an insurance policy to fill nutrient gaps,” he adds.

Indeed, CRN’s latest Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, published late last year, provides some pretty solid, encouraging figures regarding multivitamin use in the United States. For instance, of the 68% of Americans who took dietary supplements in 2015, more than three-quarters took a multivitamin. Analyzed by demographic, 83% of supplement users aged 18–34 took a multivitamin, 80% of users aged 35–54 took a multivitamin, and 71% of senior supplement users (aged 55 and up) took a multivitamin. Examined by gender, the numbers are nearly equal at 79% of male supplement users taking a multivitamin and 77% of female users doing the same.

Perhaps most edifying for industry is the high level of trust Americans have in vitamins and minerals in general: CRN’s survey showed that 85% of Americans have overall confidence in the safety, quality, and effectiveness of vitamins/minerals.


Strong Sales

Recent sales of multivitamins, both in the United States and abroad, reflect their popularity and trustworthiness among consumers. SPINS natural products specialist Kimberly Kawa reports that multivitamins had a good year in the United States in 2015. Total sales through natural (excluding Whole Foods markets), specialty gourmet, and conventional multioutlet channels were calculated by SPINS at just over $1 billion, with overall growth of nearly 5% over the previous year. Significant gains were made in the sales of men’s multivitamins (14.5% growth in sales via all combined channels over the previous year), women’s multivitamins (7.9% over the previous year), and general adult multivitamins (2.1% over the previous year), according to SPINS data. “Self-care is becoming more prominent as more consumers are looking to steer away from the conventional healthcare paradigm,” comments Kawa on why multivitamins’ popularity seems only to grow. “Consumers realize that the standard American diet is probably not up to par with optimal vitamin and nutrient requirements, and they are seeking primary prevention methods [such as multivitamin use] for filling in dietary gaps.”

Kawa’s comment is in line with some statements made in the newly published 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which point to dietary supplements in general as being “useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less than recommended amounts or that are of particular concern for specific population groups.” The guidelines identify vitamins A, D, E, and C, calcium, and magnesium (among others) as nutrients that are “consumed by many individuals in amounts below the estimated average requirement or adequate intake levels.” CRN’s McKay calls the newest guidelines “one of the strongest reasons for multivitamins’ popularity in 2015.”

Data-analysis firm Euromonitor’s methodology calculates the total value of U.S. multivitamin sales in 2015 to be $5.2 billion retail value, which accounts for roughly half of all sales in the vitamin/multivitamin category. Internationally, that multivitamin sales figure increases to $14 billion. A December 2015 Euromonitor report on vitamins and multivitamins attributes growth in multivitamins to “the sustained purchases and the unit-price increase” of the products. “The price of multivitamins continued to grow as more manufacturers launched new products with different delivery formats and condition-specific formulations tailored to a specific age, gender, and other characteristics” in 2015, the report reads. “By positioning, women, including pregnant women, were the largest target segment” for multivitamins. Euromonitor forecasts continued growth for multivitamins in 2016, both domestically and internationally.