Which Supplements Are Customers Buying Now?


The Latest Data from IRI Market Research

Over the past few years, consumers have broadened their view of nutritional supplements. Traditional products like multivitamins; single-entity vitamins like vitamin B12, D, or E; and mineral supplements like calcium remain the foundation of the consumer supplementation repertoire. However, healthy and/or functional foods such as oatmeal and kale, meal replacements such as Ensure, mineral supplements like magnesium and selenium, and products with health claims such as maca root and acai berry are also now part of a consumer’s consideration in their quest towards a healthy lifestyle. Recent focus group research we conducted revealed a fascinatingly wide range of products consumers viewed as falling under the definition of supplements, from Flintstones multivitamins for kids to protein powder.

Because consumers now take a broader view of what they define as nutritional supplements, IRI now monitors a more extensive array of products in the category. Based on IRI’s broader definition of “mineral and other supplements”-which in addition to such minerals as calcium, magnesium, and iron also includes such nutrients as omega-3 fatty acids, pre- and probiotics, joint-health supplements, and even melatonin-we estimate that total category nutritional supplement sales at retail in 2014 amounted to $12 billion, up only 1.3 % from 2013. (See Figure 2. Click to enlarge.)

 Comparatively, total category sales in 2011 and 2012 were higher than normal due to innovation-in particular, the widespread introduction of the gummy dose form, which certainly has had initial appeal for adults and children alike. In 2013, after the excitement from the launch of this new dose form by several manufacturers dwindled, category growth reverted to its average annual pace of around 5%.

In 2014, however, the category rate of growth diminished precipitously due mostly to sales losses versus a year ago for multivitamins. Multivitamins took a hit largely due to widespread negative media coverage on the category, which started in late 2013.


“Minerals and Other Supplements” Lead, but Meal Replacements and Liquid Vitamins Growing Fast

Looking at the segments of products which make up this broader definition of nutritional supplements, we see that sales of “mineral and other supplements”-which, again, in IRI’s categorization also includes items like probiotics, chondroitin, omega-3s, as well as minerals like calcium-and meal replacements are both larger than sales for multivitamins, which as recently as 10 years ago was a much more robust segment of this overall category. Specifically in 2010–2014, sales of “mineral and other supplements” accounted for 38% of the total, followed by meal replacements (27%), multivitamins (18%), single-entity vitamins (11%), and liquid vitamins and minerals (5%). The overall nutritional supplement category saw a strong compound annual growth rate of 5% in 2010–2014, with meal replacements and liquid vitamins/minerals leading that growth, including products like Emergen-C and pediatric liquid vitamins. (See Figure 3. Click to enlarge.)


Also read: Are Health Food Stores Losing Relevance?


Robert Sanders, executive vice president and Healthcare Practice Leader for IRI, brings more than 30 years’ experience to the marketplace, sets the strategic initiatives for IRI’s Home and Healthcare Practice, and is a frequent keynote speaker at healthcare industry events.

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