5 take-aways we learned during our Business Leaders Forum
The forum, which took place on January 25, featured Caroline Beckman, CEO of Nouri, Jeff Boutelle, CEO of Pharmavite, Jim Emme, CEO of NOW Health Group, and Marc Washington, CEO of SuperGut. The forum can be viewed on demand for free HERE (registration required).
We covered a lot during the hour-long discussion, and here are some of the key quotes from the event:
1. Despite year-on-year sales declines, 2022 was still a good year for dietary supplements
“The category had a very strong 2020 with about 20% growth. This was followed by growth of about 9% in 2021, which is really impressive because it came off a really strong and elevated 2020 base,” said Boutelle. “In 2022, the overall category – as we measure it – declined about 2% as COVID abated. Nature Made grew in the low single digits. The good news is that the category isn’t going back to where it was before COVID. It has established a new base.”
“We’re seeing similar to the larger brands here: A rising tide,” said Beckman. “I don’t think anything is going anywhere. We just need to be really mindful of what we’re bringing out, what the purpose of the product is, and of course the pricing and getting that right, because I don’t think the price sensitivity is going to lift anytime soon.”
2. Consumer enthusiasm remains high, with key issues motivating the grassroots
The pandemic attracted a lot of new consumers to dietary supplements, and Boutelle said that their data shows that many consumers have stayed in the category.
“We attribute that to one positive aspect of the pandemic, which is consumers are much more invested in their health and wellness, and that’s translated to increased commitment to their supplementation routines,” said Boutelle. “We say household penetration grow around five points during the pandemic, and we’ve seen that pull back by 2.5 points dues to concerns being less top of mind, plus the economic impact on consumers’ wallets.”
“One phenomenon we have seen in consumers, and this is global and not just North America, is the excitement about products,” said Emme. “If we were to do a person of the year for the dietary supplements industry in 2022, my view is it’s the American consumer.
“One of the metrics for that is the grassroots efforts rallying around NAC, MPL, and such. It was incredible the number of passionate responses we got. Those metrics are subjective but they’re significant.”
3. Awareness of the central role of the microbiome in health is growing
“I do think there’s a rising tide of awareness from the consumer around the importance of the gut microbiome and gut health, but we’re still in the early stages,” said Washington. “There’s still a ways to go to fully educate the mass consumer about gut health being more than digestive health and explaining the connection between gut health and total health, whether it’s immunity, metabolism, appetite control, mental health…”
4. Sports Nutrition has rebounded
“[Sports Nutrition] is our largest growth category in 2022,” said Emme. “Protein prices started dropping so we were able to hold the line on costs on many of those items.
“Two areas that were pain points for use were creatine and egg white powder. Everyone’s heard about the price of eggs going up and certainly that translated into either availability or cost. The cost of creatine went up 1,500% at one time, and we just said forget it and temporarily stopped selling it. Thank goodness we’re seeing some relief in supply chain, so we’ll be bringing some of that back.”
5. E.D.I. Progress made but much more needs to be done
While conscious efforts have been made in the industry to promote equality, diversity, and inclusivity, more still needs to be done, said Washington. “We have a ways to go,” he said. “This is something I’m personally passionate about as one of the few minority business leaders in the space and going to trade shows over the years and being the one, or one of the few. I feel good about the progress and that this remains a topic of conversation and more eyes are opening about the benefits around diversity in teams.
“Does the industry reflect the consumer base? That’s one level, but I think the bigger question is are we being inviting to the consumer base to actually reflect the market need and opportunity. When you look at the health condition, and the challenges we struggle with domestically and globally, macro issues like obesity and diabetes, every single issue that we fight so hard day in and day out, every single one disproportionally impacts communities of color. I believe at the outset, the consumer base for nutraceuticals, supplements, functional foods needs to be broadened, as well as the industry diversifying to meet the needs of a broader, more diverse consumer base.
“I’m at least encouraged that this remains a top-of-mind conversation that something needs to be done.”