Children’s health supplements get specific

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 25 No. 9
Volume 25
Issue 9

A multivitamin is still a good foundation, but there’s considerable white space in the market for trendy, condition-specific kids formulas.

Photo © Goodmoments -

Photo © Goodmoments -

As the COVID-19 pandemic settles into a new normal, so too do kids’ routines and parents’ demands for their children’s supplements.

“One recurring topic is that some children tend to be picky eaters, which may affect their intake of certain nutrients,” says Chris Hachey, U.S. business development manager at GC Rieber VivoMega (Norway). “Supplements can be a helpful tool for parents to ensure a balanced and healthy diet, including such nutrients as pre- and probiotics, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and omega-3 fatty acids.” As a result, says data from SPINS, the children’s supplement market is not just holding steady but flourishing in brick-and-mortar, posting nearly 14% growth and reaching over $800 million in sales.

Multivitamins still make up the largest share of the children’s supplement market, representing $308 million in sales, says SPINS; however, this doesn’t tell the whole story. “Although children’s multivitamins report the highest market share, sales are flat compared to the succeeding five ingredients: melatonin, probiotics, elderberry, ivy leaf, and vitamin C,” says Kimberly Kawa, natural-industry insights product expert for SPINS and a member of Nutritional Outlook’s Editorial Advisory Board.

She points out that the top three overt health focuses in the children’s supplement market right now are cold and flu, sleep, and digestive health. “The ingredient trend is shifting from a more generalized approach to focus on targeted health concerns, with proof in the growth rates we’re seeing in these functional ingredients as well as their alignment with top health focuses,” she adds. Other high-growth ingredients for kids, according to SPINS, are vitamin D, zinc, and fish oil—especially as pediatricians may recommend these ingredients in higher amounts than what’s found in a typical multivitamin, says Kawa.

Indeed, while multis represent the foundation of the children’s supplement market, they’re not where the greatest opportunities lie. “Brands have the opportunity to use multivitamins as a springboard to launch products that extend beyond a general multivitamin in favor of vitamin blends that address specific health concerns,” agrees Francis Lau, director of scientific affairs at OLLY PBC (San Francisco, CA), “such as immune health and sustained energy or sleep health with stress-relief products.”

Brushing Up on the Basics

According to Saumil Maheshvari, senior vice president of business development at Orgenetics Inc. (Brea, CA), parents are increasingly seeking condition-specific supplements for their children, specifically in the areas of growth, bone health, mental focus, and stress management. “The latter two areas could be a result of COVID-related school disruptions, among others, and parents are starting to become aware of it,” he says.

In the area of general wellness and growth, omega-3 gummies for kids are growing in popularity, especially since gummies mask the flavor of fish oils so well, says Hachey. Another back-to-basics ingredient showing promise for children’s supplements is vitamin K2. According to Stacey Smith, marketing and communications manager, NorAm, at Gnosis by Lesaffre (Lille, France; and East Brunswick, NJ), the brand’s MK-7 vitamin K2 ingredient promotes bone health via osteocalcin, a protein that binds calcium to the bone mineral matrix.1 According to one study of healthy children and adults, children had the highest levels of inactive osteocalcin—eight to 10 times higher than adults—indicating low vitamin K status and a great need in this population.2

Gut and immune health are other solid foundational areas for children’s condition-specific supplements, and brands are getting creative with format to appeal to picky eaters. At Goodbelly (Boulder, CO), a new children’s product called Goodbelly KIDS! is optimized for smaller bellies and available in 32-oz quarts. It features the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum 299V (LP299V), which has been evaluated in more than 16 clinical trials and shown to help balance the gut and promote healthy digestion. “Each kid-appealing flavor with no sugar added—Fruit Punch Party, Apple Juice Adventure, and Berry Blast Off—is USDA Organic, non-GMO, dairy-free, vegan, and soy-free,” adds Shannon A. Garcia, MDS, RD, LD, on behalf of Goodbelly.

Emerging Supplement Areas for Kids

Offering condition-specific ingredients and products that align with parents’ timely concerns is the greatest opportunity for brands and suppliers in the children’s health market. For example, says Lau, kids’ melatonin is surging in popularity as parents recognize that sleep is a very important part of kids’ overall health and seek to proactively manage their sleep cycles.

Mental health—and, on a related note, cognition—is also on parents’ radars, since the pandemic disrupted many children’s lives and learning in a profound way. “Children are still experiencing the negative effects even after life begins to move on to the next normal,” says Lau. “Higher levels of stress and anxiety underscore the need for parents to focus on their children’s mental health.”

Relatedly, says Tom Druke, director of marketing at Balchem (New Hampton, NY), products positioned for kids’ cognition have also become particularly popular, especially those containing choline. Brands like Horizon Organic, Ingenuity Brands, Gerber, and Ripple Kids have all recently released products containing choline for its role in supporting brain development. In fact, research shows that infants whose mothers supplemented with increased choline during pregnancy had improved information processing speed compared to those born to moms consuming the recommended daily intake.3 Seven years later, researchers checked in with this group and found that the children born to mothers in the high-choline group also had improved attention spans.4

“The ability to maintain one’s attention during challenging situations is critical to nearly all areas of cognitive performance,” says Druke. “As such, this benefit has profound implications for individual expecting moms and for public health at large.” As a result, as Balchem Market Research Manager Rob Tomeo points out, while choline is an up-and-coming ingredient in the pre- and postnatal space, “there is also an opportunity to drive growth for the kids’ space with the brain health and developmental benefits that come from this key nutrient.”

Clean for Kids

One of the most important attributes going forward for children’s supplement brands and ingredient suppliers is clean label. This means focusing on cleaner excipients and ingredients like natural colors, flavors, and preservatives, as well as the use of no- and low-calorie sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, says Kawa. This is because the demographic of parents is changing, and new parents—millennials—are conscious consumers who take advantage of the breadth of information available to them online.

“The larger macro trends [in the children’s supplement market] will be on point with what we have been seeing with millennial-conscious and informed consumerism: a large focus on products that contain clean-label ingredients from sustainable and transparent supply chains,” agrees Maheshvari. “The back of the bottle becomes all the more important, along with what the brand stands for.”


  1. van Summeren MJH et al. “The effect of menanquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children.” The British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 8 (October 2009): 1171-1178
  2. Theuwissen E et al. “Vitamin K status in healthy volunteers.” Food & Function, vol. 5, no. 2 (February 2014): 229-234
  3. Caudill MA et al. “Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: A randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study.FASEB Journal, vol. 32, no. 4 (April 2018): 2172-2180
  4. Bahnfleth CL et al. “Prenatal choline supplementation improves child sustained attention: A 7-year follow-up of a randomized controlled feeding trial.” FASEB Journal, vol. 36, no. 1 (January 2022): e22054
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