WATCH: Future's bright for vitamin D as UK supplements market booms

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

The ‘sunshine drug’ has outshone vitamin C to become Britain’s favourite vitamin supplement, Mintel has revealed, while overall supplement sales swell as dieters fill nutrition gaps.

Usage of Vitamin D has rocketed 7% in the last year and today it is used by 33% of vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) users in the UK, up from 26% in 2017, says Mintel.

The rise in Vitamin D use saw it overtake Vitamin C in 2018, to become Britain’s most popular single vitamin supplement.

While usage has ticked upwards for all age groups, it is 35-54 age group which is the main driver as their usage rose 13% in one year to 35% (2017-2018).

According to the research, Britain’s top five single vitamin supplements are Vitamin D (33%), Vitamin C (27%), Vitamin B complex (15%), Vitamin A (12%) and Vitamin E (10%).

A long-term favourite with Brits, cod liver oil, remains the nation’s number one supplement, taken by 37% of VMS users, while calcium (29%), iron (28%), magnesium (16%) and zinc (16%) fill the remaining top five supplements spots.

Mintel's research reveals that six in ten (59%) Brits have taken VMS in the last year. Around one in three (34%) take VMS daily, with women (38%) much more likely than men (29%) to do so.

Five-year forecast

Sales of VMS reached £442 million in 2018, according to Mintel, and the market is estimated to grow by 8% over the next five years to reach £477 million in 2023.

Anita Winther, research analyst at Mintel, says the ongoing focus on health, both among consumers and in the public debate, is seeing people take a proactive approach towards their wellbeing.

"The interest in health is expected to be a major driver for vitamin, minerals and supplements sales, while the ageing population should continue to drive growth in the over-50s segment.

"Vitamin D has proved to be a star performer in the sector, with its health benefits during the winter months continuing to be a popular topic. This will have undoubtedly helped boost usage, raising its profile among Brits.”

Meet the meat-reducers 

Winther suggests that a flexitarian lifestyle is likely to be affecting the market. This could well be why calcium and iron sales have soared in the last year; calcium usage is up 9% (to 29%) and iron up 6% (to 28%) among VMS users .

The biggest increase for calcium was seen among 25-34-year-olds (25% to 39%), while 35-44-year-olds have driven iron's uptake (22% to 36%).

“The trend towards meat reduction diets – including both strict vegan diets and the more lenient flexitarian approach – is likely boosting usage of iron," ​adds Winther.

"With as many as half of meat eaters believing their red meat intake should be limited, it is likely that people are looking to supplements to fill the iron gap left if they are reducing the amount of red meat they eat.

"The rise in usage of calcium could also be linked to the growing focus on plant-based foods, both in terms of vegan diets and dairy avoidance."

Mintel also notes that more than one in ten (11%) people who use and buy VMS see a vegetarian or vegan claim as an important factor when choosing one vitamin or supplement over another.

"With just three in ten adults in agreement that fortified foods and drinks are a better source of vitamins and minerals than taking supplements, consumers may well be feeling the need to complement these foods with a supplement.” ​concludes Winther.

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