A small minority of the US population accounts for the vast majority of sales in most categories of dietary supplements, according to a recent report. Future growth will depend on further consumer education, the report claims.
The Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) report, Consumer Research in the Nutrition Industry II, shows that consumers are expressing a strong and growing desire for better health through their beliefs, and to a lesser extent through purchases of food, supplements and other healthy lifestyle products.
Unfortunately, many are also at best vague - and at worst confused or ignorant - about everything except basic nutritional messages, the report claims.
Reviewing the results of more than 30 credible consumer surveys for NBJ's annual consumer issue, the report suggests that while researchers believe long-term trends for dietary supplements and organic, natural and functional foods remain positive, the nutrition industry also rides on the back of a very "pliable" consumer.
Consumers lack education in nutritional science, brands, and regulations - and without it they will remain vulnerable to misconceptions, misinformation and the best-funded entrenched interests.
According to consumer use models compiled from over 30 surveys by Nutrition Business Journal and reconciled against manufacturer and retailer sales figures, 70 per cent of American adults can becharacterised as supplement users. Supplement users are further classified into sub-segments based on their volume of purchases.
For all supplements, 4.3 per cent of adults or 9.6 million Americans are heavy users making an average of 5 purchases or spending about $43 per month; 32 per cent are regular users making between one and two purchases a month or spending around $11 per month.
Occasional users make a purchase about once every two months and rare users only once every five months.
Similar methods are used for usage in the six sub-categories of supplements by NBJ, but aggregation into overall supplement use is tricky, claims the report, since heavy or regular consumers overlap in many supplement sub-categories.
The report notes that perhaps the most interesting factor - and most revealing when pondering future market growth - is not who is taking supplements, but who is not. The NBJ concludes that about 45 per cent of Americans do not take vitamins, 70 per cent do not take herbal supplements, 75 per cent do not take minerals,85 per cent do not take speciality supplements and 95 per cent do not take sports supplements.
The numbers of rare and occasional users are also high, leaving a vast majority of sales in a small minority of the population for every category with the exception of multivitamins.
For supplements, 36 per cent of the adult population accounts for 82 per cent of sales. In vitamins 14 per cent accounts for 70 per cent of sales. In herbals 15 per cent accounts for 82 per cent of sales. In speciality supplements 5 per cent accounts for 67 per cent of sales.
The most specialised sectors, liquid meals and sports supplements, show the highest statistics: in liquid meal replacements 2 per cent of the population accounts for 70 per cent of sales and in sports less than 1 per cent of the population accounts for 85 per cent of sales.
The NBJ's report also compiles results from leading consumer research companies and their perspectives on supplement and functional usage, demographics, psychographic buying patterns, consumer concerns, influence of media and other factors affecting consumer buying patterns.
Organisations profiled include Walnut Acres, Sterling-Rice Group and Efficient Labs. For more details see the NBJ website.