Supplement survey underscores key trends, need for consumer education

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags Sustainability Mental health Millennials Collagen Turmeric Prebiotic Coq10

The Trust Transparency Center (TTC) released their findings from the 2nd Annual National Supplement Consumer Survey on Emerging Ingredient Categories.

The strategy and insights firm for the natural products industry surveyed just over a thousand American supplement consumers. The survey examined general supplement purchasing habits of established and emerging ingredient categories such as CoQ10, astaxanthin, prebiotics, turmeric and collagen. Over 60 percent (64%) of respondents said they take vitamins, minerals, herbs or other dietary supplements on a daily basis.

The why

Understanding why ​people are buying dietary supplements is key. According to the survey, consumers cite their top five health concerns. Coming in at number one? Mental health.

Len Monheit, Trust Transparency Center, tells NutraIngredients-USA,“This data matches other sets that show that cognitive benefit supplements including mood and stress are increasing. These supplements can also be experiential, that is, there is a tangible, sometimes measurable benefit and experience when taking them. This increases compliance dramatically.”

Followed by mental health, 30% of consumers say they are motivated by anxiety or stress, while high blood pressure comes in second at 26%, followed by joint or other pain at 25%, high cholesterol and lack of energy are tied at 24%.

Supplement consumers provided wellness-related reasons for their supplement usage. Eighty-three percent said they did so to better manage their health, while 81% said higher than eating good food and 64% cited 'being proactive'. The relative ranking of these health attitudes remained consistent year-over-year.

Purchase power

Triggered by aging populations and heightened interest in preventative health, dietary supplements sales aren’t slowing down.  Consumers purchase supplements from a variety of retailers and the relative popularity of purchase location was mass market retailers (38%), online (27%), grocery (26%) and club stores (25%). Over half (57%) of supplement users spend $20 or more per month on supplements.


Committing to sustainability is a smart move, according to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report. While most respondents didn't point to sustainability as a factor for dietary supplements, 69% of younger dietary supplement consumers were influenced by sustainability factors.

The Nielsen poll studied 30,000 consumers in 60 countries around the world. They wanted to know more about what influences how people feel about brands, and how those feelings impact buying behavior. The report​ found that an overwhelming amount of Millennial consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainability. A full 73% of Millennials are willing to pay more because they consider sustainability imperative.

"Despite the fact that Millennials are coming of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in the past 100 years, they continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings--almost three-out-of-four respondents,"​ says Nielsen.

Emerging ingredient categories highlight need for consumer education

Growing demand for products specifically targeted at skin health, heart health, and digestive health are booming. Fish Oil, Vitamin D and Probiotics have reached nearly complete awareness among supplement users. Sports nutrition and beauty from within ingredients like collagen and protein powder are experiencing the largest increase in usage, especially among regular consumers who take supplements four or more times a week. Prebiotics and synbiotics are gaining traction, but 29% of respondents believe prebiotics are just as fiber, indicating consumer education is necessary.

"We're not surprised that this is a patient process – growing supplement awareness. Education and experience lead to loyal customers, but a lot of work needs to be done. This can be seen with prebiotics where more education is needed on what exactly a prebiotic is,"​ said Monheit. "With collagen, turmeric and astaxanthin, there are also significant education gaps. Confusion is category is a problem for uptake. Regular users of a particular supplement are generally confident in their knowledge even if they don't know everything they should/could. This survey found a strong correlation between supplement knowledge, experience of benefits and usage levels."

What’s next?

As for what to keep an eye on, Monheit says, “Prebiotics is emerging as a standalone category not reliant on piggy-backing off probiotics. We’ve added collagen to this survey this year, and it’s certainly an ingredient to continue to watch. It may be that the time of ‘nutribeauty’ has finally arrived, and the popularity of bone broths is invigorating the ingredient across multiple formats. We’re also very intrigued by the future potential of mushroom as a health ingredient and will be watching that in the near future.”

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