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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Not only do 75% of Americans take supplements, but 87% of U.S. adults have overall confidence in the safety, quality, and effectiveness of dietary supplement products, the survey found.
Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults take some kind of dietary supplement, according to new numbers out from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. Not only did 75% of Americans surveyed say they take dietary supplements, but 87% said they have overall confidence in the safety, quality, and effectiveness of dietary supplement products-a notable feat in light of the negative press often published about dietary supplements these days.
Nikki Yas, vice president, professional brands, for Atrium Innovations, presented the 2018 topline survey results yesterday at the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN; Washington, DC) annual conference in Dana Point, CA. She pointed out that the percentage of Americans still confident in dietary supplement products (87%) remains the same as last year. “This is an incredible achievement,” she told conference attendees. “We’re holding our ground nicely, despite the constant drumbeat of negative press from the media.”
The percentage of U.S. adults who take some kind of dietary supplement (75%) is actually down one percentage point from last year-when it was 76%-but Yas said the survey's conductor, Ipsos Public Affairs, said this drop is not worrying-it is actually statistically insignificant and within the normal margin of error-and is likely due to some variances in this year’s survey population, which skewed slightly younger. Overall, Yas pointed out, there has been a 10% increase over the past 10 years in the number of Americans that take a dietary supplement.
Growth among Categories
Many supplement categories saw growing consumer usage, Yas said. The 2018 survey found that those surveyed who take dietary supplements use supplements in the following categories (based on the categories addressed by the survey):
• Vitamins/minerals (98%)
• Specialty supplements (51%)
• Herbs/botanicals (41%)
• Sports nutrition (32%)
• Weight management (20%)
Vitamins/minerals remain the most popular kind of supplement U.S. consumers take year over year. As far as the other categories, Yas said, “the rest are up one or two percentage points over the last year.”
Diving deeper into specific ingredients, the survey revealed which types of supplements that those who use supplements take:
• Multivitamin (75%)
• Vitamin D (38%)
• Vitamin C (30%)
• Calcium (26%)
• Vitamin B/B complex (26%)
• Protein (22%)
• Magnesium (20%)
• Omega-3 fatty acids (20%)
• Probiotics (17%)
• Green tea (16%)
• Fiber (14%)
• Vitamin E (15%)
• Turmeric (14%)
Yas said that growth in protein (up 3% over last year), magnesium (up 4% from last year), and turmeric (up 5% from last year) was especially notable. Other ingredients gaining consumer attention overall in 2018 were melatonin (up 50% in the past five years) and energy drinks/gels.
The survey also took a look at which kinds of consumers are taking certain types of supplements.
For instance, in 2018, vitamin D and magnesium were used most heavily by consumers 55 years and older, followed by ages 35-54 and ages 18-34, respectively. By contrast, in 2018, vitamin B and probiotics usage is more evenly split among the age groups. And, surprisingly, fiber usage is most popular in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, as was green tea usage.
Geographically, usage across the U.S. was fairly even, Yas said.
Consumer Confidence and Trust
The report also breaks down which types of supplements U.S. supplement users have greatest confidence in:
• Vitamins/minerals (87%)
• Specialty supplements (65%)
• Herbs/botanicals (64%)
• Sports nutrition (54%)
• Weight management (46%)
When asked whether they have trust in the dietary supplements industry, 78% of U.S. adults said yes this year compared to 73% who said the same when the survey began asking the question in 2016. This is notable, said Brian Wommack, CRN’s senior vice president, communications, in a press release: “We’re pleased to see a 5% increase in consumer trust in just two years."
Yas also noted how those confident in the industry are divided among age groups. When asked whether they perceive the dietary supplement industry as being trustworthy, survey respondents ages 35-54 replied yes (80%), followed by adults 18- to 34-years-old (78%) and adults 55 and older (74%).
She said there are opportunities to increase loyalty among age groups. “What’s interesting here is you can look at the younger group-the 18- to 34-year-olds-and see this as an opportunity to garner some loyalty, some trust, and some long-term customers,” Yas said. “Our Gen Xers are usually our biggest supporters as well” because these consumers grew up taking supplements, she said. And the growth in trust among the 55+ age group is good to see, she said. “This 74% is up 5 percentage points over last year. This is really interesting because this group of adults didn’t really grow up with supplement use in their houses. So the fact that it’s up 5% means our message is reaching that audience."
When asked who they trust most for reliable information on dietary supplements, survey respondents said:
• Medical doctor/physician (57%)
• Nutritionist (41%)
• Pharmacist (40%)
• Physician’s assistant (30%)
• Registered dietitian (30%)
• Nurse practitioner (30%)
• Friends and family (22%)
• Trainer (9%)
• Celebrity or sports spokesperson (1%)
Yas said the 1% trust in a celebrity or sports spokesperson should be heeded by marketers. “I think a lot of us have spent some time and energy garnering influencers-paying influencers, maybe even getting some of those really well-known celebrities to speak for our brands. In general, [this data] shows a shift that [consumers] still trust their healthcare practitioners versus some of these celebrity spokespeople, so it’s something to consider when we look at our budget planning for next year,” she said.
Seventy percent of respondents said that a product’s label is the most important feature to them when making a purchasing decision. In addition, survey respondents also ranked what kind of information most influences their dietary supplement purchasing decisions:
• Quality seal (i.e., NSF, UL, USP) (36%)
• Label claims (e.g., “maintain heart health) (30%)
• Labeled as natural (25%)
• Labeled as organic (17%)
• Marketing claims indicating a product or ingredients are backed by science (15%)
• Marketing claims indicating that product is “#1 Recommended” or the “#1 Brand” (8%)
Yas said that the last two results for marketing claims may come as a surprise to marketers who might think that these are top purchase drivers when in fact they are not. “I think a lot of us have spent some time and energy really trying to substantiate that we’re number one: number-one recommended, number-one trusted. When in fact, people just want the facts. They want to know your product is of high quality. They want to see what it can do for them. They want to know what the ingredients are,” Yas said.
Price and Loyalty
Finally, the survey questioned respondents on price and loyalty. It found that 56% of supplement users said price is most important when purchasing supplements-a decrease from 63% in 2013-which could indicate shoppers are willing to pay more for high-quality products. More woman than men ranked price as important (60% versus 51%), and more Gen X women identified price as important compared to Gen X men (67% versus 44%).
In terms of loyalty, 60% of supplement users said they remain loyal to a supplement brand (instead of switching to a different brand). The demographic that stays most loyal to brands is Gen X (82%), followed by Gen Y (69%), Boomers (58%), and seniors (64%). Also, male supplement users tend to stay more loyal to brands than women (68% versus 54%).
Looking ahead, 60% of supplement users surveyed said they anticipate increasing their use of supplements in the next five years.
Age-wise, 71% of users who plan to increase usage are 18-34 years old, followed by 67% of users 35- to 54-years-old and 45% of users 55 and older.
The full survey can be purchased from CRN. The survey was conducted online by Ipsos Public Affairs in late August 2018. Sample size was 2,004 adults ages 18 and older in the U.S.