Hispanics more likely to alter dietary supplement routine during COVID pandemic, a key finding in CRN’s annual survey on U.S. supplement usage

Hispanics were the leading group of respondents who reported changing their supplement routines during the pandemic, outnumbering the number of white and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders who did so.

Hispanic dietary supplement users were more likely to have made changes to their supplement intake routine during the COVID-19 pandemic. This and other key findings are reported in the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN; Washington, DC) new 2021 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.

CRN’s 2021 survey was conducted by Ipsos in 3,089 U.S. adults, both supplement users and non-users, during August 20-26, 2021. This year, the survey respondents included an oversample of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian American/Pacific Islanders to provide more insight on how these groups of color use and perceive dietary supplements.

Hispanics were the leading group of respondents who reported changing their supplement routines during the pandemic, outnumbering the number of white and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders who did so. Compared to other ethnic groups surveyed, more Hispanic supplement users cited their motivator for taking supplements as being recommendations from friends and family.

Altogether, 50% of supplement users surveyed reporting changing their supplement routines since the pandemic started, with 55% adding new supplements to their existing regimen.

Vitamin D Usage Up

Another key survey finding was that vitamin D usage rose 10 percentage points over the past year, with 52% of survey respondents reporting using vitamin D in 2021 versus 42% who did so in 2020.

Other supplement ingredients to see significant growth were zinc (22% usage in 2021 versus 15% in 2020) and vitamin C (40% usage in 2021 versus 35% in 2020). These are all ingredients whose relationship to COVID-19 has been highlighted in the past year, a fact that may have driven more consumer interest in them. Probiotic usage also grew by 3 percentage points from 2020, with 14% of supplement users now indicating they use probiotics, including to support gastrointestinal health, general health, and immune health.

Tom Druke, marketing director, minerals and nutrients, Balchem Corp. (New Hampton, NY), who presented CRN’s survey data on October 21 at the association’s Now, New, Next Conference, added that “45% of all respondents actually indicated they’ve had their vitamin D levels checked by a healthcare provider at some point during the pandemic. So people are getting tested, and they’re acting on that.”

Overall, the survey found the top five supplement ingredients consumers are taking are 1) multivitamins (75%), 2) vitamin D (52%), 3) vitamin C (40%), 4) calcium (25%), and 5) vitamin B/B complex (24%).

More Americans Using Supplements Than Ever

The survey found the highest percentage of users taking supplements in 2021 compared to years past. Data indicate that 4 in 5 Americans are now using dietary supplements. “With 80% of Americans now using supplements, these products are now mainstream and broadly accepted by the American public,” said Brian Wommack, senior vice president of communications, CRN, in a press release.

Druke said it’s also good news that those who use dietary supplements report taking a variety of supplements, making them “multi-product users.” Demographically, he added, supplement users still skew slightly to females (53% female versus 43% male), people 55 years of age and older (38% in this age bracket compared to 27% ages 18-34 and 35% ages 35-54), and those with an annual household income of more than $50,000. White users are the majority of users (at 76%), compared to 6% Asian, 12% Black, and 7% Hispanic.

Those taking supplements rank their top reasons for doing so as maintaining general health and wellness (44%) and supporting immune health (36%). An increasing number of respondents this year (38%) also reported energy support as a reason for using supplements. Demographically, Asian Americans were more likely to take supplements for immune support, while Black supplement users were more likely to use supplements for blood pressure support.

Increasing numbers of Americans also believe the dietary supplement industry is trustworthy. The survey found that 79% of Americans believe the industry is trustworthy, compared to 74% who felt the same way in 2020.

Those who reported not using dietary supplements cited their main reason for abstaining as being they don’t feel a need to take supplements. Said Druke: “What we see is those who cite not having a need for supplements tend to be most likely white, while one in four non-users indicates that their diet is sufficient. Asian American non-users are more likely than any other group to say this, and they’re also more likely to cite concerns about supplement safety as the reason for not taking supplements—though that’s at a low level of 16%.”

Finally, for the first time, the survey asked questions about branded ingredients and found that: 1) 57% of supplement users agreed branded ingredients work better, 2) 63% of users agreed they’re willing to pay more for branded ingredients, 3) 70% of users agreed being more confident in using branded ingredients, and 4) 63% of users agreed that branded ingredients can cost more because they are more effective and of higher quality.

CRN says much more data is included in the full report, which is available for purchase here.