Market research from Mintel, Chicago, IL, indicated steady growth in sales of vitamin and mineral supplements, despite their already widespread use. Total U.S. retail sales of vitamins were estimated to reach $10.5 billion in 2018 (up 3.7% from 2017), while sales of minerals were estimated to reach $2.5 billion in 2018 (up 5% from 2017) (“Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements, U.S.,” September 2018).
Meanwhile, a survey commissioned by Lonza, Morristown, NJ, and carried out by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), Harleysville, PA, indicated 58% of U.S. consumers believe taking vitamins and minerals is very important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“As consumers continue to look for ways to be healthier, the NMI data showed that three in five people do not feel they are getting enough nutrition in their diet, and about half believe they can manage many of their health issues by taking supplements,” said Juliana Erickson, senior marketing manager, Consumer Health & Nutrition, Lonza. She also suggested that consumers are generally more aware of the support vitamins and minerals can provide them, compared to other ingredients. Yet despite general acceptance of product efficacy, consumers are demanding cleaner labels, increased transparency and safety, as well as information on ingredient source.
To get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals, the vast majority of supplement users turn to the convenience of a multivitamin, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), which reported 75% of supplement users take a multivitamin.
“It’s not that surprising that multivitamins continue to appeal to consumers,” said Brian Wommack, senior vice president of communications for CRN. “It’s convenient, it hits all the RDAs [recommended dietary allowance], and it’s a really useful product. That said, there is an increased push toward personalization, and in general consumers are developing a deeper understanding of what individual vitamins and minerals are doing to support their specific health needs.”
Despite the fact that multivitamins are far and away the most popular options for consumers, there has been growth across the board for single-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplements. CRN found 38% of supplement users take vitamin D; 30% take vitamin C; 26% take calcium; 26% vitamin B/B complex; 20% take magnesium; 15% take vitamin E; 13% take iron; 11% take biotin; 8% take folic acid; and 5% take vitamin K. While there hasn’t been standout growth with a particular vitamin or mineral, Mr. Wommack said, “it’s interesting that there is an upward trend in just about all of them.” Even ingredients that already had high levels of usage saw moderate growth within the last few years, he added.
Meanwhile, Lonza’s proprietary consumer research with NMI found use of many single vitamins, minerals, and supplements has increased over the past three years, particularly with millennials and gen X consumers. “Between 2009 and 2017, single-vitamin supplement use in millennials grew by 122%, while single-mineral supplement use by the same group grew by 162%, and multivitamins use by 40%,” noted Ms. Erickson. “In some cases, consumers are customizing their own condition-specific formulations using multiple individual supplements which target their specific or varied needs.”
Samantha Ford, business development director, AIDP, City of Industry, CA, also suggested “single-ingredient formulas are where the growth is at.” She noted particular interest in vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium. “This is likely related to increased education and growing desire for more personalized nutrient regimens based on individual lifestyle.”
Combination products for specific conditions are also growing in popularity, according to Sam Wright IV, CEO, The Wright Group, Lafayette, LA. “A product containing vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid, for example, addresses excess homocysteine, a marker for cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C and zinc are often used to fight colds and boost immunity.” Consumers are latching onto the idea of blending specific ingredients for an intended health concern, without unnecessary or unneeded additional ingredients.
Looking ahead, Mr. Wommack predicted continued growth, despite near market saturation. “With multivitamins, you see that 75% of supplement users are taking a multivitamin. I almost wonder, how much more penetration can there be? Are we starting to reach a peak? Are we going to level out at this percentage? That’s a pretty impressive level of usage.” Yet, he noted that when looking into usage among specific demographics, multivitamin use is higher among younger age groups. “Eighty-three percent of supplement users 18-24 are taking a multivitamin. So multivitamin usage may not even have crested yet.”
While vitamin and mineral usage is vast, consumers won’t just accept any supplement complacently. Strong interest in clean-label formulas and sustainably-sourced ingredients that are backed by clinical research is driving innovation.
Dan Murray, vice president of business development for Xsto Solutions, Morristown, NJ, noted mounting pressure for companies to support ingredients with high-quality scientific validation. “The demand for more and better science is a positive challenge for the nutrition industry, but it also means higher costs to be born along the value chain,” he said.
The push toward whole-food, plant-based, and clean-label vitamins and minerals is “soaring” according to Ms. Ford of AIDP. “We are looking to bring those ingredients to our customers. For example, we recently launched VegD3, a 100% pure, plant-based vegan D3 product. Another new and unique ingredient is tiger nut, which is a very good natural source of both potassium and magnesium,” she noted.
Lonza’s study with NMI highlighted the importance of non-GMO, organic, and natural labeling to consumers. The report found 54% of respondents said they would prefer to buy supplements derived from natural sources.
Jost Chemical Co., St. Louis, MO, a supplier of high-purity calcium, magnesium, and zinc citrate, stressed the need for low levels of heavy metals in ingredients and product formulations. Exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium, has been linked to serious health conditions such as cancer, digestive issues, cognitive and learning difficulties, among other concerns. The company suggested consumer demand for safety and transparency has been motivation to manufacture mineral salts that surpass established purity standards.
The Wright Group’s Mr. Wright noted that consumers looking to take control of their health through diet and lifestyle are driving interest in vitamin and mineral fortified foods and dietary supplements. “As the cost of healthcare rises and uncertainty exists as to who will help pay for it, consumers have become much more focused on prevention in order to stay out of the healthcare system to the extent possible.”
Jayesh Chaudhari, senior director of research and development for Carol Stream, IL-based Prinova, suggested emerging science will help consumers identify specific and personalized supplementation routines. “The days are not far when consumers will start testing DNA for determining their nutrient regime for optimizing health, wellness, and performance. Based on the genes tested, one has to modify the diet, lifestyle, and nutraceutical intervention to offset the imbalances in the pathways caused by the genetic variants consumers carry.” Such testing will be a “powerful tool” for consumers looking to enhance their health and longevity, he said.
Additionally, Mr. Wright said interest in condition-specific products—such as those targeting digestion, immunity, diabetes, heart health, mental acuity, and other issues supporting the aging population—offer significant potential.
Ms. Erickson noted a broadening of categories for which consumers take vitamin and minerals (as well as dietary supplements in general). For example, “formulations that support busy lifestyles and the pressures of modern life, such as mood health and stress, cognitive health, eye health, sleep support and energy” are indicative of where the industry is moving.
“We’re also seeing categories subdivide further in order to appeal to the specific needs of different demographics,” she added. For instance, within the healthy aging supplements category, NMI data found that health concerns varied according to the age of the respondent. “This means a one-size-fits-all approach to formulation and product development can limit market appeal. As such, we’re seeing more supplement product development around formulations that specifically support generational needs.”
While research backing the use of vitamins and minerals to support health has a long history, new science continues to validate traditional use.
CRN’s Mr. Wommack said an updated position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics was one of the most significant pieces of recent science supporting the use of vitamins and minerals. Published in November 2018 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the paper “Micronutrient Supplementation” affirmed the academy’s position that “micronutrient supplements are warranted when requirements are not being met through the diet alone.” The report named “growth, chronic disease, medication use, malabsorption, pregnancy and lactation, and aging” as conditions which may put people at risk for inadequate intake levels. Additionally, the report’s authors specified that “many Americans are inadequate in some micronutrients, so micronutrient supplements can be used to help individuals meet a nutrient requirement or to treat a diagnosed deficiency.” However, the report concluded there is a lack of scientific evidence showing routine use of micronutrient supplements for the prevention of chronic disease.
CRN’s Mr. Wommack called this study “yet another trusted, independent group showing why supplement use can be such an important part of a healthy regimen.”
Other research, while not as cutting edge, continues to demonstrate how widespread the issue of nutrient shortfall is in the U.S. “Research continues to show children are not getting enough vitamin D, calcium, or magnesium. Vitamin D and calcium have both been listed as ingredients of public concern. We’re continuing to see science uncover specific gaps in our diets, and nutrient shortfalls in certain life stages, associated health concerns, or need by demographic,” added Mr. Wommack.
There has been some scrutiny, however, over the “rigor” of the science supporting vitamins and minerals, according to Mr. Murry of Xsto Solutions. “It’s not surprising that vitamin research is routinely conducted on smaller populations or that it doesn’t answer as many questions as we hoped,” he said. “Perhaps the variability of the results of vitamin research speaks to the genomic influence of smaller pilot-type studies.”
Mr. Murray noted conflicting science as an issue, or for example, “pushback on vitamin D research” just as science is uncovering “positive research on vitamin D combined with vitamin K2.” Looking ahead he believes research will uncover further evidence supporting vitamin K2 in combination with vitamin D for cardiovascular health.
While consumers express interest in single-ingredient formulas, taking an excessive number of pills can be an obstacle. “Pill burden continues to be a concern for some consumers, particularly those managing multiple health conditions or those taking prescribed medications,” said Lonza’s Ms. Erickson. “Products that target key health areas by combining active nutrition ingredients in convenient formats, for example using innovative capsule technologies such as Lonza’s DUOCAP capsule-in-capsule technology, can ease this while also providing a better consumer experience and encouraging long-term use.”
Citing “pill fatigue,” AIDP’s Ms. Ford said consumers are actively seeking out alternative delivery formats such as “functional foods, gummies, drinks, stick packs, even chocolates.”
Xsto’s Mr. Murray agreed that diversity of delivery formats has emerged as a significant trend. “Consumers love options and innovative delivery systems allow us that expansion.”
He suggested functional food is a “winning strategy,” noting the success of fortifying salt with iodine and milk with vitamin D. However, he added, regulating dose levels can make delivery through food a struggle. “The challenge of adding nutrients to food is both a formulation and economic one. Food manufacturers have traditionally used nutrients to attract consumers, but without increasing the cost. Adding value and cost puts tremendous pressure on the economics of supplementation of traditional foods. Perhaps the economics of fortifying food is pushing functional ingredients into beverages, where the price sensitivity is lower.”
Research from Mintel found that consumers are clamoring for vitamins and minerals in convenient functional beverages. In a survey, Mintel found 49% of consumers cited vitamins and minerals as the top attributes they consider when purchasing a “hybrid drink,” a product that combines two or more drink categories.
Ease of use and serving size are critical factors determining consumer purchasing behavior, according to Mr. Chaudhari with Prinova. “To manage ever-demanding lifestyles, consumers are seeking a small serving size packed with clinically validated nutrients that are easy to consume,” he suggested. “Gummies, in addition to gels, strips, bites, and shots are expected to expand the market share.”
Despite the appeal of novel delivery formats, conventional methods remain the most popular, according to Ms. Erickson. “While consumers are open to new delivery and dosage formats for vitamin and mineral supplements, tablets and capsules remain the preferred format, with 36% and 41% of U.S. consumers surveyed by NMI in the SORD study indicating their preference for each one, respectively. The desire for alternative formats is highest among the youngest generations, helping to promote supplement growth across a whole new array of categories from beverage shots, bars, and driving the proliferation of gummy-type products.”
Dosage & Formulation Trends
Above all, consumers want supplements that provide the ingredients and associated health benefits they’re expecting. With this in mind, bioavailability and nutrient absorption are significant concerns for supplement users.
“Consumers want to know that the vitamin and mineral supplements they are taking will actually support their health needs—for example, that the active ingredient is at the right dosage level to have an effect, that it is delivered to the right place in the body to be beneficial, and scientific proof that it works,” stressed Lonza’s Ms. Erickson. “The latter is particularly important in such a crowded marketplace.”
NMI data found consumer concern over nutrient absorption of supplements is high, she added. “This continues to promote bioavailability as a successful platform, and is also helping to drive the expansion of new formats and delivery systems.”
In terms of dosage, Mr. Chaudhari with Prinova said “it’s all about the bioavailability of nutrients, better absorption, and minimal impact on sensory profile of the product.”
Prinova is exploring the realm of nanotechnology for nutrient delivery. “As the liposomal ingredients can offer superior stability within the environment and deliver small amounts of therapeutic nutrients to the specific tissues of the body, use of encapsulated nano-forms of vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals using liposomes (phospholipids) will continue to expand,” he predicted.
While “nano is still a growing segment,” Mr. Chaudhari said, micro-encapsulation and time-release technologies can provide useful formulation tools. “For example, a product can contain a certain amount of caffeine to start off with and then be formulated with the balance in a micro-encapsulated form to be slowly released. Prinova manufactures custom formulations targeted for time-released concepts using key nutrients for dual or multiple delivery systems. One example is a blend of sleep-aiding nutrients and another blend of energy-enhancing nutrients encapsulated separately to promote a restful night’s sleep and provide energy the next morning.”
For multivitamins and combination products, delivery formats such as modified or timed-release profiles continue to gain prominence, noted Ms. Erickson, to help ensure that active ingredients reach their intended target location in the body while also masking odors and taste for a better consumer experience. “DRcaps modified release capsules from Lonza meet this need. Made from hypromellose (HPMC), they are also certified vegan, non-GMO, vegetarian, Halal and Kosher.”
The Wright Group also offers value-added nutrient platforms and advanced ingredients such as SuperCoat and SuperTab lines of microencapsulated and direct compression materials. “As product dosage forms have evolved to include gummies, chews, shots, bars, shakes, sachets, and other food-like dosage forms, taste, odor, appearance, and stability have become more important to consumers,” said Mr. Wright. “We have been able to create end-to-end solutions to these sometimes-difficult technical challenges.”
France-based Naturex has partnered with Cura Global Health Inc, Ames, IA, to develop a naturally formulated, slow-release line of whole food minerals utilizing koji fermentation. “Koji culture (Aspergillus oryzae) is a traditional fungus that has been used for 2,000 years in Asia to make miso, sake, and other foods,” said Zoraida DeFreitas, PhD, vice president, marketing and sales, Cura Global Health Inc. “The one difference between our product and traditional koji fermentation is that koji is produced through a solid fermentation process where koji culture is left to ferment in rice. Koji Minerals are fermented with minerals and food-grade ingredients in liquid.” Through the fermentation process, the koji culture can take up to 10% of its biomass in minerals, she noted.
The company first attempted this process with iron, leading to the development of its branded ULTIMINE Koji Fermented Iron product. “Through this natural, patented/patent-pending process the fungi are able to absorb more than 90% of the iron into their mycelia,” said Dr. DeFreitas.
This unique process offers specific benefits, including slow release and highly bioavailable minerals, according to the company. “Clinical trials in humans demonstrated these,” she said.
A 2008 study showed that ULTIMINE Iron had bioavailability comparable to ferrous sulfate, which is considered the standard for bioavailable iron (Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2008). “This is significant because we offer a naturally derived product, versus a synthetic.”
An internal report from Naturex showed that ferrous sulfate offers rapid release into the body, while ULTIMINE iron is released slowly. “When examined over eight hours, those taking ferrous sulfate showed rapid release in the bloodstream.”
Meanwhile, ULTIMINE offered less of a surge of the mineral into the bloodstream. “This is important, and something people are not talking about enough,” said Dr. DeFreitas. “When you get such high level of iron in the blood, there is production of free reactive iron. This form of iron is very reactive, leading to oxidative stress. It’s going to attack your DNA, it’s going to attack your proteins, it’s going to attack your fat, and even shorten telomeres. The iron in ULTIMINE is slow release, so the body can handle the iron so it doesn’t lead to high surges of iron into the blood.”
The company also noted ULTIMINE iron offers less risk of side effects, such as constipation. ULTIMINE also assists the off-flavors associated with minerals, making it an ideal mineral format for gummies, bars, beverages, and more.
Koji fermentation allows for unique combination formulas, in one fermentation process, with up to seven minerals, according Dr. DeFreitas. “ULTIMINE Multi 7 contains chromium, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, zinc, and iron. With this technology you can say the product offers an ‘excellent source’ of all the minerals as you can offer a minimum 20% Daily Value.”