72% of EU consumers express confidence in safety, quality of supplements: FSE survey

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

The EU survey canvassed consumers in 14 countries.    Image © Suwaree Tangbovornpichet / Getty Images
The EU survey canvassed consumers in 14 countries. Image © Suwaree Tangbovornpichet / Getty Images

Related tags Food supplements European union Food supplements europe

Usage of food supplements remains high across Europe, with almost 90% of respondents to a recent survey reporting to using the products, with trust in the reliability of information from brands also high, says a new survey.

Among the non-users, almost 50% of them said they would consider supplementation if recommended by a doctor or other healthcare professional, according to an Ipsos Consumer Survey commissioned by Food Supplements Europe (FSE).

In terms of trust, 69% of respondents indicated they trust supplement brands, with even higher levels for consumers in Germany (73%), Italy (85%), and the Netherlands (76%).

The EU survey canvassed consumers in 14 countries to understand behaviour, attitudes, and practices in relation to food supplements. Although a minority had reservations, results suggest widespread use and satisfaction.

Top supplements

Overall health was the top reason for taking supplements (52%), with demand increasing with age; immune support was a close second (45%) and more often cited by middled-aged consumers (between 25-44 years and 45-64 years).

Energy came next (29%), followed by skin, hair, and nail health (17%), gut or digestive health (17%), and heart health or blood pressure (14%).

Findings show that more than half of users had regularly taken omega-3 or fish oils (63%) in the last 12 months, 56% had taken fibre, 54% vitamin D, 51% calcium, 50% magnesium and folate or folic acid.

Almost nine in ten respondents (88%) had used a food supplement at some point in their lives, and these were mainly vitamin D and C (taken by 50% and 48% of respondents respectively), magnesium (41%) and a multivitamin or mineral supplement (39%).

Other supplements, including probiotics, prebiotics, iron, and enzymes were taken on an occasional or seasonal basis.

Primary motivation         

Nutrient and ingredient content were cited as important when choosing supplements by 84% of respondents, as well as trusted recommendations (81%), and product form (66%). Organic, natural or GMO labelling and use of recycled packaging were broadly considered less important.

Consumers in France and Finland (75%) were more likely to mention form as a consideration, while references to organic, natural, or non-GMO on labels were more common in Romania, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia, France, Poland, and Finland.

Female consumers were more receptive to trusted recommendations, nutritional information, supplement form, and price when buying products, whereas men were slightly more influenced by brand name (46% vs 44%).

Similarly, respondents aged 75 and over, deemed trusted recommendations and nutritional information as important, and form was a primary concern among younger consumers.

Divergent attitudes

The survey revealed disparities in attitudes towards supplements between men and women, older and younger consumers, and in different EU regions.

Findings revealed that women are more likely to take supplements than men and consult product labels for information on health benefits, ingredients, contraindications, dosage, and possible side-effects.

Furthermore, men took supplements to support heart health and blood pressure, manage cholesterol, and aid sports recovery, while women were attracted by products targeting gut, digestive or mental health, or to fill nutrient gaps in their diet.

Older consumers were more likely than younger ones to say they did not need supplements (37% of 65 years or over vs 24% of 18-24-year-olds), that they already took too many pills (10% vs 3%), or that they were discouraged from taking supplements by doctors and healthcare professionals (4% vs 2%).

The majority of non-users cited lack of personal need (45%), sufficient dietary intake (31%) and an aversion to swallowing pills (14%) as reasons for not taking supplements. Young consumers attributed non-use to lack of confidence in choosing the right supplement or the motivation to maintain regular intake (10%).


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