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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
With more U.S. adults taking dietary supplements than ever before, continued consumer confidence in the safety, quality, and efficacy of supplements will remain of utmost importance to those with stakes in the industry.
With more U.S. adults taking dietary supplements than ever before, continued consumer confidence and trust in the safety, quality, and efficacy of supplements and the supplement industry will remain of utmost importance to those with stakes in the industry. Industry members will be pleased to hear that consumer confidence in the safety, quality, and efficacy of dietary supplements remains steady-and quite high-according to an annual survey commissioned by industry association the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC).
The online survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on 2000 U.S. adults over five days during August 2019. The survey results were weighted to correspond with the current overall U.S. population. This is the 20th year that CRN has commissioned the annual survey. Niki Yas, vice president of marketing international for Atrium Innovations Inc., shared findings from the survey at CRN’s 2019 The Conference in Carlsbad, CA, on Thursday, November 7.
U.S. adult usage of dietary supplements is record-breaking this year, according to the annual poll. The numbers indicate that 77% of Americans, or more than 170 million, are taking dietary supplements in some fashion, whether regularly, seasonally, or occasionally. This is two percentage points above 2018’s usage number and reflects a steadily upward trend, from 68% of U.S. adults using supplements in 2015 to 77% in 2019, just five years later.
“It’s really quite high across all age groups,” Yas said during her presentation. “Basically, everyone is interested in what we have to sell.”
Consumers are also confident in the safety, quality, and efficacy of supplements. The 2019 poll numbers show that 85% of Americans are confident in the safety and quality of supplements overall-and, unsurprisingly, in vitamins and minerals especially, which received an 88% confidence response. Do consumers believe the supplements they are taking work? The 2019 poll shows that 82% of Americans are confident in the efficacy of supplements overall, led again by high faith in vitamins and minerals. Yas noted that these numbers are similar to 2018’s survey numbers, indicating steady confidence year over year.
There was a small dip in consumer trust in the industry, however, both in terms of overall adults polled (with trust down 2% from 2018’s survey) and in terms supplement users (with trust down 4% from 2018’s survey).
“Is it perhaps the rollercoaster media ride we’ve experienced with cannabidiol (CBD)? Is it some of the other media attention that’s going on?" Yas said it's difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. Despite the small dips, the numbers are still quite high, she said: 76% of Americans believe the supplement industry is trustworthy, while 84% of supplement users believe the industry is trustworthy.
“Let’s just focus there,” Yas said. “Those are great numbers.”
Who Is Taking Supplements?
The survey also indicates who the highest supplement user groups are. Among those who use supplements (1500 of the poll’s respondents), the highest-usage group in 2019 is adults aged 35-54 (at 81%), followed closely behind by adults 55+ (at 79%), and then adults aged 18-34 (at 70%). In terms of gender, 79% of women are taking supplements, while 74% of men do the same.
What Supplements Are Consumers Taking?
Vitamins and minerals continue to lead the way, with 99% of supplement users polled saying they take vitamins and minerals. This is followed by specialty supplements (which 52% of respondants reported taking), herbs/botanicals (50%), sports nutrition supplements (36%), and weight management supplements (22%). Yas highlighted the notable 9% growth this year in consumption of herb/botanical supplements.
The top-10 supplements users take, per the poll, are:
• Multivitamins (76%)
• Vitamin D (43%)
• Vitamin C (37%)
• Protein (27%)
• Calcium (26%)
• Vitamin B/B Complex (25%)
• Omega-3/Fatty Acids (21%)
• Green Tea (19%)
• Magnesium (18%)
• Probiotics (17%)
• Iron (16%)
• Vitamin E (16%)
• Turmeric (16%)
“What’s interesting here is while everything is fairly similar to the previous year, both vitamin D and protein saw a 5% increase over last year, so that’s fairly significant,” Yas pointed out.
When sorted by age of users, multivitamins are the highest-used supplement across the board, whether 18-34 years of age, 35-54 years of age, or 55+ years of age. Priorities after that shift somewhat. For the 35-54 and 55+ age groups, the next most-used supplement is vitamin D, but for adults 18-34, the next most-used supplement is protein. (Protein also ranks among 35-54 supplement users, but is outranked by vitamin D and C.)
And then there is CBD. CRN’s poll showed that 12% of supplement users are taking CBD, with usage highest in younger U.S. adults aged 18-34 and in those living on the West Coast.
Based on the supplements the poll shows users taking, “I do think it’s interesting to note that as you see more users taking supplements, we’re always getting caught up in what’s new, new dietary ingredients, etc.,” Yas said. “But as we get more and more supplements out there, and people are taking more and more supplements, it’s interesting to take note that these time-tested, well-researched categories like protein, turmeric, vitamin C, B complex-these are really important categories to consider for new product development because they’re going to be new to a big audience, and what better way to introduce supplements to a newer audience than with a ton of research and validation?”