The pandemic proved to be a boon for the dietary supplements market, but a closer look reveals more of a mixed economic bag.
Sales soared in the early part of the pandemic. During the six weeks ending April 5, 2020, they were up 44% from that same period in 2019. But sales cooled after the initial surge, up 16% higher year-over-year in the six weeks ending May 17, 2020, according to Kristin Hornberger, Principal, Healthcare at market research firm IRI.
“Vitamins continue to grow at an accelerated rate of 16% over a year ago, which is still very, very strong growth when we think about that relative to 2019 of about 5%,” Hornberger told Nutritional Outlook.
Hornberger added that the growth the market saw between January and May nearly doubled its 2019 expansion.
While vitamins have emerged as the top-selling product in the U.S. healthcare category in 2020, Hornberger pointed out, multivitamin sales lagged behind specific supplement sales. Consumers have gravitated toward:
Gut health: Supplements that include pre- and probiotics.
Immune health: Products with vitamins C, echinacea, elderberry, and zinc.
Sleep aids: Melatonin sales have skyrocketed.
Kathryn Peters, Executive Vice President, Business Development at SPINS, told Nutritional Outlook that consumers shifted their focus after the initial outbreak.
“What’s interesting…is that the longer consumers were staying at home, while certainly cold/flu/immunity was important, other things started to increase as a stronger focus for seeking products, whether that’s sleep or cognitive health or others,” Peters explained. “So again, it just shows that there’s continuing interest in a variety of ways to maintain stronger health.”
Finally, consumers have shown a clear interest in pursuing dietary supplements that don’t come in a pill, whether it’s gummies, powders, and effervescent formats.
But a year of strong sales isn’t the only story featuring dietary supplements to come out of 2020. We decided to emphasize a few other narratives worth mentioning.
Perhaps because of their increased popularity, dietary supplements have attracted the wandering eye of medical professionals and regulators.
Notably, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for stricter regulation of dietary supplements, including:
Bolstering FDA resources, especially to the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, to better supervise the growing dietary supplements sector and increase inspections of manufacturing facilities.
Strengthen FDA enforcement tools and policies, such as mandatory recall and related authorities, utilization of risk-based inspections for manufacturing facilities, and improving adverse event reporting systems.
Advanced research related to the efficacy, safety, and long-term effects of dietary supplement products.
The association also advocated for the modernization of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) to include a mandatory product listing that contains a unique identifier for each product while providing the ability to identify and track all products produced by manufacturers that have received FDA warning letters.
“We need the federal government to step up its regulation and enforcement of the dietary supplements industry to remove unsafe products from the market and protect public health,” AMA Immediate-past Board Chair Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld said in a release.
The AMA statement received the support of leading supplements trade group – and TraceGains partner – the Council for Responsible Nutrition, particularly regarding the proposed product listing database.
“We strongly agree with the AMA that a mandatory product listing would create a stronger and safer marketplace of responsible companies,” CRN President and CEO Steve Mister said. “With a mandatory listing, FDA could better identify when new products are introduced and act more quickly to remove illegal products from the market. CRN also continues to advocate for increased resources to the agency, so it can bolster enforcement action against companies that do not comply with federal regulation.”
The good news, bad news trend for dietary supplements in 2020 continued with the release of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which – among other things – backed the use of dietary supplements. The joint report, published every five years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, specifically encouraged the use of:
Folic acid supplements for expectant and lactating mothers.
Vitamin D supplements for newborns and infants.
B12 supplements for older Americans.
The report also supported the use of supplements to make up for widespread deficiencies in vitamin D, iron, calcium, dietary fiber, and potassium that researchers link to health problems.
“Underconsumption of key nutrients is a public health concern,” CRN Senior Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Haiuyen Nguyen said in praising the report. “We’re pleased to see USDA and HHS recognize certain U.S. population groups do not achieve recommended nutrient levels from dietary intake alone. The Guidelines reflect how dietary supplements can support the health of all Americans.”
The federal endorsement further strengthens the dietary supplements market’s move into the mainstream.
The pandemic wasn’t so kind to the CBD market. Industry analysts, such as cannabis research firm Brightfield Group, predict the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic will put thousands of CBD retailers out of business.
“A lot of companies that were kind of dabbling in the category have found it to be unsustainable for them,” Brightfield Managing Director Bethany Gomez said. “A lot of brands that had tried this out; it’s not something that they’ve been able to turn a profit on.”
But the market downturn hasn’t tempered the political will to legalize the use of CBD in dietary supplements in the United States. In December, 30 U.S. representatives announced their planned sponsorship of the reintroduction of H.R. 8179. The legislation would allow “the use of hemp, cannabidiol (i.e., CBD) derived from hemp, or any other ingredient derived from hemp in a dietary supplement, provided that the supplement meets other applicable requirements.”
The renewed push for legalization follows the hemp provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill that pulled hemp and hemp products from the Controlled Substances Act.
CRN has pushed hard for the passage of H.R. 8179, while remaining opposed to bad actors that try to circumvent the law.
TraceGains Can Help
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Suppliers can ensure their ingredients enter the supply chain with the necessary documentation.
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