According to the 2017 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 75% of U.S. adults reported taking vitamins/minerals in the past 12 months.
“Overall, usage of multivitamins, and vitamin and mineral supplements in general, has been steadily growing over the past several years,” noted Nancy Weindruch, vice president, communications, CRN, which has commissioned this annual survey for 18 consecutive years.
Consumer confidence in the industry also remains high; 87% of U.S. adults reported confidence in the safety, quality, and effectiveness of dietary supplements overall. “It’s fair to say that high overall confidence, which has increased over the past several years, can be correlated to the industry’s commitment to bringing safe, effective products to market,” Ms. Weindruch said. Continued focus on health and wellness, trust in the supplement industry, and confidence in its products, are all reasons for optimism, she added.
The vitamin and mineral market in the U.S. eclipsed $3.9 billion overall, according to SPINS data for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 5, 2017; growth was flat at 0.5% from the previous year. Multivitamin sales accounted for about $1 billion, according to SPINS data for the same period, down 2.2%.
B vitamins totaled $534.8 million, up 0.2%. Vitamin C reached $470.8 million, up 6.2%. Vitamins and minerals for women were up 6.6% to $435.7 million. Vitamins A, D & K together totaled $402.1 million, up 3.2%. Calcium and calcium formulas fell 6.4% to $281.7 million. Vitamins and minerals for children were down 3.6% to $245 million. And vitamin E was down 2.6% to $68.9 million.
Vitamin D sales overall reached $310.9 million, up 1.6%. While the majority of sales came from conventional multi-outlet retailers ($281.9 million), the growth has really come from the natural channel (6.5%). The same can be said for magnesium, which brought in $100.4 million overall, up 7.1%; $68.2 million came from conventional multi-outlet retailers on 4.6% growth, and $31.2 million came from the natural channel on 12.8% growth.
Also of interest, SPINS noted that “whole food” supplements were up 11.8% to $172.1 million.
Multivitamin/mineral (MVM) products are still the most popular dietary supplements, with 56% of U.S. adults reporting usage, according to the 2017 CRN Consumer Survey.
“In addition, MVMs account for almost one-sixth of all purchases of dietary supplements and 40% of all sales of vitamin and mineral supplements,” noted Shaheen Majeed, worldwide president, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ. “Various factors that might be driving the sales of MVMs are that consumers want to increase nutrient intake and get the required amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially when they fail to meet these needs through daily diet, and to promote health, and reduce the risk of diseases.” MVMs are also far more convenient than taking ingredients individually, he added.
With usage of dietary supplements, including MVMs, increasingly common across the general U.S. population, Mr. Majeed said usage among some subgroups, such as women, boomers and millennials, is even more common.
“Though consumers’ emphasis on health and wellness is propelling the sales of MVMs, demand for more targeted products (i.e., gender- and age-specific) is taking the forefront,” he said.
In a perfect world, everyone would eat real, high-quality, nutritious foods. But that just isn’t the case today, according to Samantha Ford, business development manager, AIDP, Inc. City of Industry, CA. “A number of factors—ranging from busy lifestyles that don’t allow time for meal preparation, to nutrients lacking in the soil where much of our food is grown, to long transport times during which nutrients are lost—all affect the quality of our food and the necessity for supplementing with vitamins and minerals.”
Health status, lifestyle factors, and age also may affect nutrient requirements, she added. “Multivitamins are ideal for filling the nutrient gaps in our diet and general wellness support, especially during times of increased demand. Single vitamins and minerals can provide a more targeted solution for specific needs, like magnesium in AIDP’s Magtein for sleep and cognitive health support. People know they are not getting all the nutrients they need in their foods, so there is more interest in taking vitamin and mineral supplements.”
With increased adoption of healthy lifestyles at all ages, consumers are expanding their consumption of vitamins and minerals, according to Todd Johnson, senior director of marketing, Human Nutrition and Pharma, Balchem/Albion Minerals, Layton, UT. “Minerals are essential to health, and certain minerals are ideal for providing support for some of the most common consumer concerns today, including digestive, heart, and brain health, as well as prenatal nutrition, energy, and immune system support.”
Often consumers look to supplements to help support overall health and wellness, he added, “and many view multivitamin/multi-mineral formulas as a convenient way to get the nutritional support they need. Many consumers also take supplements to fill specific nutrient gaps, or address condition-specific needs, and turn to individual minerals to address these. We are seeing upward trends in formulations as well as single minerals.”
Multivitamins remain the most popular dietary supplement as a matter of convenience, according to Dr. Ralf Jäger, FISSN, CISSN, consultant, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., division of Ashland, Kearny, NJ. “People don’t want to take a handful of pills to obtain what they need, nutrition-wise. Also, the mindset ‘more is better’ most certainly prevails, and more multis are featuring optimal amounts (i.e., those that are higher than the recommended daily value).”
Drivers & Buyers
While some consumers purchase supplements based on price, many others have grown to trust certain brands, said Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. “Savvy consumers know that the amounts of nutrients and quality of them makes a difference, and choose products accordingly. Many consumers look for a formulation that fits their specific needs, such as prenatal, over 55, or gender-specific.”
Nena Dockery, technical services manager, Stratum Nutrition, Carthage, MO, agreed that single-letter vitamins and minerals can be tailored more closely to a person’s individual needs. “However, the convenience of taking one supplement as opposed to several, and the lack of knowledge regarding the function and proper dosing of the RDI for ingredients, are the main reasons most people opt for a multivitamin/mineral supplement.” These products are also less expensive than purchasing several single vitamin or mineral supplements, she added.
Women over the age of 55 represent the largest demographic purchasing vitamin/mineral supplements, according to Ms. Dockery. “However, the biggest increase in vitamin/mineral supplement purchasers is the group of individuals, both men and women, under the age of 55, according to the 2017 TABS Analytical 10th Annual Vitamin and Minerals Study. For some, this could be their acknowledgement that they don’t eat a healthy diet and vitamin/mineral supplementation is an easy way to add nutrients into their diet. Others in this young group may desire to improve certain aspects of their athletic ability or stamina.”
Interest in healthy aging, novel and convenient delivery forms, and the expansion of sports nutrition products are among the many factors driving growth in the mineral supplement industry, according to Balchem’s Mr. Johnson. “With an increased interest in healthy lifestyles, consumers of all ages are expanding their consumption of vitamins and minerals. The growing population of mature adults continues to drive more interest in vitamins, minerals, and other natural products as these individuals strive to get the nutrition they need, and look for more natural solutions to help them remain active and vital throughout life.”
Millennials are highly knowledgeable about the importance of vitamins, minerals, and general nutrition through all stages of life, he added. “In particular, some of the key health concerns of millennials include heart health, brain health, energy, skin and beauty. Minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc and others have long been shown to support these areas. The children’s health market also continues to expand, and we are seeing growing interest in delivering minerals in novel delivery forms like liquids, beverages, and gummies.”
AIDP’s Ms. Ford said parents are purchasing vitamins for their infants and children, as well as their adolescents and teens. “Young adults are getting more hip to starting early with boosting their nutrient intake, and if they were taking supplements at home, are more likely to continue. Certainly adults—boomers and the aging population—are a key demographic as their desire is to live longer, healthier lives.”
“Consumers are all about transparency and clean label these days, so they want to know what’s in the supplement, how much of each ingredient, and that they work,” she continued. “They’re more interested in the ‘how and why’ than ever before, and they want to feel assured they are getting the best quality and value. They also want something that’s easy to take in their busy lives, so combining nutrients into functional foods and beverages is very popular. They tend to adopt a ‘trusted brand,’ so engaging the consumer in conversation, rather than selling them, nets a lifelong fan rather than just someone looking for what’s on sale.”
Healthcare practioners will continue to play a big role in driving growth in the supplement market, according to Deanne Dolnick, science director, TR Nutritionals, Alpharetta, GA. “Since the medical community has come on board and realized that very few people, young or old, are able to get their necessary daily intake of vitamins and minerals through diet, the market has exploded across all demographics. When a medical professional recommends a product, patients tend to listen.”
CRN’s Ms. Weindruch also acknowledged the influence of doctors on supplement use as evidenced by the trade association’s survey. “This year’s survey found 72% of consumers have had doctors talk to them about the benefit of taking supplements. That’s really positive.” Doctors continue to be the most trusted source for information about supplements, she added.
Ms. Dolnick said she believes consumers are also influenced by news on supplements, or what they have been told by someone they consider to be an expert. “Friends and family are constantly coming up to me with something that they read on the Internet about a dietary supplement and they want me to confirm whatever they have read. And if I do not, it does not make them happy.”
From millennials to boomers, consumers are doing their research on dietary supplements, according to Balchem’s Mr. Johnson. “They are looking for brands that respect their knowledge and scrutiny, and cater to their specific needs. ‘Clean and clear’ are important to these consumers in ingredients used and in product labeling. They are drawn to brands that are more transparent and they want ingredients that are researched, proven, and clearly understood.”
It’s also critical for companies to be straightforward about ingredient sources and forms, scientific evidence, and compliance with industry regulations, he added. “When it comes to mineral supplements, consumers want solid, reliable, and accurate information. Consumers have instant access to tremendous amounts of information. It is difficult at times to determine if the information is reliable and accurate. Responsible and successful brands provide educational information and factual guidance to help consumers more easily locate products that are safe, proven, and effective in a manner that consumers can understand.”
Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed agreed that more consumers are scrutinizing products in terms of their source (whole food or synthetic), label claims, and the kind of delivery format best suitable to meet their preference. “Consumers are looking for supplements that are made from ‘whole foods and shying away from synthetic ingredients. Educated consumers know that vitamins work together synergistically in their natural state, but not when they are synthetically isolated. Consumers are also paying attention to label claims, because certain brands have failed to meet label claims by having inconsistent amounts of ingredients, which not only makes consumers more skeptical, but also raises questions on the quality of the product.”
Educated consumers understand that more doesn’t always mean better when it comes to the amounts of individual nutrients in a product, said Stratum’s Ms. Dockery. Instead, opting for “balanced” supplements that contain 100% of the RDI for nutrients of concern is a smart approach. “Those consumers who are even more familiar with vitamin and mineral supplements may also be attentive to the form of a specific nutrient—for example, looking for a supplement that contains d-alpha tocopherol, the natural form of vitamin E as opposed to synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol. They may also look for a particular balance of nutrients.”
Overall, consumers want convenient and safe natural products, she added. “They look for ingredients that are ‘organic,’ ‘whole-food sourced,’ and ‘non-GMO.’ They want a label they can read and understand. Some buyers try to find products that are manufactured in the U.S., from ingredients grown or produced in the U.S. Consumers also need convenience. They look for forms that require a simple dosing routine—usually no more than twice daily; and they want supplements that are in forms that more closely resemble foods, such as gummies or chews instead of tablets.”
Dr. Jäger also said whole food sources are a growing trend, among millennials specifically. “Clean label is a companion attribute, again, as it suggests nothing added that would be superfluous in the body.”
Formulation Trends & Challenges
Balchem’s Mr. Johnson noted rising interest in products that deliver minerals and other nutrients in novel forms, as well as through foods, snacks, and beverages. “Delivery methods for minerals and other supplements have been shifting toward alternative, easier-to-consume forms, such as mix-in powders and gummies.”
Mineral taste profiles can be challenging, he added. “Albion offers its proprietary taste-free options for calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron to remove or limit taste barriers in both supplement production and food fortification. Additionally, through the Balchem Sensory Effects flavor systems and manufacturing innovations, additional customer-specific solutions can be developed.”
AIDP’s Ms. Ford’s agreed that alternative delivery formats are gaining steam, as consumers want more variety from traditional tablets and capsules. “Gummies, beverage stick packs, functional food bars, snacks, and ready-to-drink beverages are becoming more popular. Formulating with these delivery formats is not always as straightforward as taste, texture, and ingredient stability come into play. AIDP specializes in formulation challenges, so we work hard to be sure that our ingredients work well in whatever application the customer is using them for—finished supplements, foods, or beverages. Our focus also lies in well-researched ingredients that are clinically substantiated in areas such as efficacy, safety, and bioavailability.”
Formulators are are also responding to consumer demand for targeted blends, such as AIDP’s KoACT, which is a calcium/collagen combination “that is superior to just calcium for bone health, as it supports strength and flexibility,” said Ms. Ford.
Taste and texture in prepared functional foods and beverages is a challenge, she added. Consumers want the benefits but don’t want to sacrifice taste or mouth-feel. “What’s more, the push for clean label ingredients, reduction in added sugars, and increasing demand for natural flavors and colorants adds another layer of complexity when it comes to product formulation. Losses of efficacy during processing and counter indications when combining ingredients are things to consider as well.”
The most significant formulation challenges for mineral supplements relate to the weight of source material needed to provide 100% RDI, according to Stratum’s Ms. Dockery. “Most mineral sources contain around 20% of the elemental mineral, which means that a lot of material must be added to achieve the 100% RDI amount. Another challenge relates to the desire for ‘all-natural’ or organic sources for vitamins and minerals.”
There are some vitamins that are only readily available from synthetic sources, she added. “Organic sources are also difficult to find. Stratum Nutrition has recently introduced organic ESC, an eggshell calcium ingredient. A steady supply of organic eggshells has been a challenge in the past; but as a result of the continued growing demand for organic egg products, a consistent supply has become readily available.”
Research & Product Trends
Consumers and regulators are demanding evidence of product safety, efficacy, and bioavailability, according to Balchem’s Mr. Johnson. “Consumers are informed regarding the fact that some mineral forms are actually difficult for the body to utilize. Supplementing diets with excessive amounts of inorganic minerals can also cause mineral interferences, which may suppress rates of absorption. Safety and tolerability are also on consumers’ minds. “
In terms of research, he noted that prenatal nutrition was highlighted recently in the British Journal of Nutrition (September 2017). Research showed a reduction in low birth weight and maternal anemia with the administration of a multi-micronutrient during pregnancy.
According to Dr. Jäger, “Although trendy ingredients tend to burn high and flame out, vitamins and minerals all have significant and steadily growing bodies of research, so they will always remain a priority in many Americans’ dietary supplement regimens.”
While some nutrients are more abundant in everyday diets, it is increasingly clear that others are lacking and more consumers may have insufficient levels, noted AIDP’s Ms. Ford. “A couple of noteworthy examples are vitamin D and magnesium. Because vitamin D is naturally present in so few foods, and adequate sunlight exposure is not always feasible, many people may be at risk for insufficiency.”
Research has linked inadequate vitamin D levels to various health risks, including heart, lung, and immune health, in addition to bone health. “Increasing consumer awareness about the importance of adequate vitamin D status is lending to consistent growth in the supplement category. The global vitamin D market is expected to rise more than 11% annually over the next 4 to 5 years. The magnesium market is growing at a similar rate—at least 10% annually. Magnesium is essential to over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including brain and nervous system function, and intake data is showing we are often getting much less than we need from our regular diet.”
As research continues to uncover the important function of vitamin D, understanding of vitamin K2 is also growing. “Vitamin K modifies proteins to bind with calcium,” noted Stratum’s Ms. Dockery. “One form of Vitamin K (K1) binds to proteins in the liver that are involved in blood clotting. The other form (K2) binds to proteins involved in calcium transport and absorption into the bones. Due to research possibly linking calcium intake to some atherosclerotic conditions, there has been an increased interest in the role of K2 in ensuring that proper amounts of calcium are absorbed into the bones and not into arterial walls.”
Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed said selenium is a noteworthy micronutrient when it comes to underlying health benefits. An essential trace element, selenium (Se) is a potent antioxidant mineral found in all tissues of the body. “Research suggests that apart from being relevant to human health, selenium is also found to play an essential role in maintaining several metabolic processes, such as regulation of thyroid hormone metabolism and protection against oxidative damage to body cells by eliminating peroxides. And this trace mineral is not necessarily available in foods, either from depleted soil due to agricultural practices or because it is not naturally present in certain regions, making supplementation crucial. Recent studies have highlighted that antioxidant and immune support potential of selenium play a crucial role in preventing/reducing several degenerative diseases, including cancer.”
TR Nutritionals’ Ms. Dolnick noted a significant increase in the sale of methylcobalamin. “Where this was once the vitamin B12 preferred by companies that only sold into the medical channel, we are now seeing companies who sell into every channel purchase this item.”
Methylcobalamin is the metabolically active form of this essential micronutrient, she explained. “While many companies elect to use cyanocobalamin in their formulations due to its lower cost, the body must first reduce cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin for absorption into the cells. This reduction process utilizes the key antioxidant glutathione, which is essential for many other oxidation-reduction reactions and, along with methylcobalamin, assists in lowering high homocysteine levels, a known contributor to heart disease. The conversion of cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin also utilizes methyl groups, which are essential for many of the body’s chemical reactions. Methylcobalamin is utilized without conversion and therefore does not deplete glutathione or methyl groups.”
Ms. Dolnick also noted a similar trend for Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P), the active form of vitamin B6. “Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate is the metabolically active (co-enzyme) form of pyridoxine and is required by various enzymes to carry out many reactions throughout the body. It is vital for a healthy immune system, formation of glucose and niacin, red blood cell metabolism, and synthesis of several neurotransmitters including serotonin and GABA. P5P is involved in more than 100 individual reactions, and when taken in supplemental form is readily utilized by the body. Using methylcobalamin and Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate elevates a multi-vitamin and sets it apart from others.”