Sales in the mainstream market channel—which includes retail outlets such as food, drug, and mass-market stores, plus club and convenience stores—continued to grow, increasing an estimated 2.1% over 2013 sales, while sales in natural and health food stores rose by a stronger estimated growth of 5.2%. 2014 marks the eleventh consecutive year of increased herbal supplements sales, according to data from previous HerbalGram herb market reports.
“Consumers continue to demonstrate their interest and confidence in botanical dietary supplements for a wide variety of health reasons,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and editor-in-chief of HerbalGram.
The annual HerbalGram herb market report is based on herbal supplement sales statistics from Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) and market research firms SPINS and IRI. The report covers only retail sales of herbal dietary supplements and does not reflect the sales of most herbal teas, botanical ingredients used in natural cosmetics, or government-approved herbal drug ingredients in over-the-counter medicines.
NBJ, a publication of New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, CO, based its total herb supplement sales figures for 2014 on data from market research firms, company surveys, interviews with major retailers and industry experts, and various published and unpublished secondary material.
Schaumburg, IL-based SPINS and Chicago-based IRI collaborated to present a combined report, with market channel coverage including food, drug, and mass-market retailers as well as military commissaries, select buyer’s clubs, and so-called dollar stores. (The collaborative SPINS/IRI reporting does not include convenience store sales.) In the mainstream multi-outlet channel, SPINS/IRI reported total sales of $802,299,049 for botanical dietary supplements in 2014—an increase of 2.1% over 2013 sales. NBJ—which includes convenience store data in its mass-market channel—estimated slightly higher sales of $1.12 billion.
According to SPINS/IRI, the top-selling herbal supplements, as coded by primary ingredient, in the mainstream multi-outlet channel in 2014 were horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a key ingredient in throat lozenges; cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), popular primarily for its claimed benefit of helping maintain urinary tract health; echinacea (Echinacea spp.), which enjoys widespread use during cold and flu season; black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), a popular aid to manage menopausal symptoms; and flax or flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum), a source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids used in the management of a variety of conditions, including high cholesterol and heart disease.
SPINS calculated sales of botanical dietary supplements in natural and health food stores to be $330,088,019, an increase of 5.2% over 2013 sales in this channel. The SPINS figure does not include sales from the largest natural foods chain store in the U.S., Whole Foods Market.
The five top-selling herbal supplements of 2014 in the natural channel, as coded by primary ingredient, according to SPINS, were turmeric (Curcuma longa) and extracts standardized to curcumin; wheatgrass and barley grass (Triticum aestivum and Hordeum vulgare, respectively); flaxseed and/or flax oil; aloe vera (Aloe vera); and spirulina/blue-green algae (Arthrospira spp.). Turmeric showed a significant 30.9% increase in sales in 2014, continuing its rise in popularity from 2013, where it took the number-one ranking in the natural channel for the first time. In 2011 and 2012, turmeric was the third top-selling herbal supplement in natural and health food stores.
Following the actions of the New York attorney general’s investigation of herbal supplements that began in February 2015, the natural products community began speculating as to its effect on the market, expressing concern that 2015 sales could be impacted by the negative press. However, SPINS data show that sales of herbal formula (combination) supplements for the 52 weeks ending in mid-July 2015 were up 12.6% from the same period a year earlier.
The 2,700-word online version of HerbalGram’s 2014 Herb Market Report comprises six tables and one figure illustrating herbal supplement sales, including a table of the 40 top-selling herbal supplements in the mainstream multi-outlet channel as determined by SPINS/IRI, as well as a table of the 20 top-selling botanicals in the natural channel as determined by SPINS. The top-selling herbal supplements in each channel reveal the different preferences and values of shoppers in health and natural foods stores versus those in mainstream stores.
In addition to the retail channels discussed, herbal dietary supplements are sold in the U.S. through mail order catalogs, internet sites, radio and television direct sales outlets, network marketing firms that sell directly to the consumer, health professionals who sell supplements from their offices, and various other channels.
HerbalGram is available at some bookstores and natural food stores and is a benefit of ABC membership. The annual HerbalGram herb market report article is posted on the ABC website, accessible here.