How can the industry maintain momentum after the pandemic?

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New reports from the Nutrition Business Journal confirm impressive growth in the U.S. nutritional supplement market in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During a panel discussion at the American Herbal Products Association’s (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD) AHPA Botanical Congress this week – the first time the event has been held virtually – industry experts discussed strategies to ensure that the supplements made last year Revenue growth doesn’t let up after the pandemic is over.

Nutrition Business Journal reports growth

Presenter Claire Morton Reynolds, senior industry analyst for the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), reported on NBJ’s updated assessment that U.S. supplement sales in 2020 were record sales of $ 7.08 billion in 2020 which corresponds to 14.5%. Growth. This brought the valuation of the US supplement market to a total of 55.75 billion US dollars by the end of 2020. Morton Reynolds called 2020 the biggest year of growth the industry has ever seen. “For context,” she said, “we’ve added between $ 2 billion and $ 2.5 billion every year for the past five years, which really confirms how much it costs to add $ 7 billion in a single year . “

NBJ predicts that the U.S. supplement industry will indeed see a sustained “sustained increase” in annual sales in the coming years, Morton Reynolds said, beating estimates of pre-COVID market trends. For example, dietary supplement sales are expected to be $ 1.4 billion higher than pre-COVID-19 by 2023. NBJ estimates the U.S. supplement market will be valued at $ 66.24 billion by 2024 – up $ 10 billion from 2020.

But don’t expect the same record growth rate of 14.5% every year in 2020. “We can’t hold 14% every year,” said Morton Reynolds. “[W]We expect a natural slowdown in growth. “

Regardless of a slowdown, the good news is that sales are unlikely to decline anytime soon. Morton Reynolds said: “[W]We have permanently boosted the industry beyond that $ 55 billion mark in our eyes. “

Which supplement category sales grew the fastest in 2020? Vitamins led the pack with an astronomical 22.3% sales growth – not surprising given the huge surge in media attention and product demand that vitamins like C and D saw during the pandemic, she pointed out. Herbs and plants sales growth in 2020 was also impressive at 17.3%. Morton Reynolds noted that sales of herbal supplements – especially for herbal immune products like elderberry, mushrooms and echinacea – continued to grow despite a 6% decline in hemp cannabidiol (CBD) sales last year.

Mineral sales also rose 11.4%. Specialty supplements, a category that includes ingredients like pre- and probiotics, omega fatty acids, collagen, CoQ10, and melatonin, grew by 12.0%. Sales of nutritional supplements rose 5.4%. However, sales of sports supplements remained unchanged. Growth in 2020 was 6.6% compared to 6.5% in 2019.

In terms of sales channels, e-commerce sales are expected to more than double between 2019 and 2024, predicts NBJ. By 2024, e-commerce sales (24%) should correspond to sales from the natural / specialty retail (25%) and mass market (25%) channels. “It’s not new to say that e-commerce has grown, but the pandemic really accelerated this,” said Morton Reynolds. She added, “We see online shopping as one of the more permanent changes in consumer behavior, particularly when it comes to nutritional supplements.”

Morton Reynolds also touched on the leading categories of health condition in 2020. No wonder the common cold / flu / immunity streamed before any other medical condition, with sales up 51.2% to $ 5.2 billion in 2020. But sales growth was also recorded under other conditions. The next best performers in order of highest to lowest growth rates were: Sleep Support, Mental Health / Mood / Stress, General Health, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Diabetes, Heart Health, Healthy Aging, Child Health, and Gastrointestinal Health. The categories that saw stagnant or negative growth rates were eye health and exercise / energy / weight management.

Morton Reynolds described immune health as a new “gateway” to nutritional supplements for first-time nutritional supplement users. “Now we are really seeing that immunity has risen along with overall well-being as a gateway to nutritional supplements for consumers,” she said.

Will the immunity boom continue after COVID? NBJ predicts consumer interest will continue beyond 2021, especially in ingredients like prebiotics and probiotics, mushrooms, elderberry, cranberry, blueberry and vitamin D.

Mood and mental health are another category that needs to be watched closely. NBJ estimates that sales in this category increased 30% in 2020 and will continue to increase until at least 2023, led by ingredients like hemp CBD, multivitamins, homeopathics, 5-HTP, magnesium and St. John’s wort. “We’re just seeing consumers increasingly understand the inner play of mood, mental health, stress, sleep, immunity and wellbeing,” said Morton Reynolds.

How to make growth last

Other panelists discussed how existing and new customers can become interested in nutritional supplements once their acute focus on maintaining health after COVID wears off.

Graham Rigby, Chief Innovation Officer of the direct supply company Care / of, said, “Now let’s ask the question, how do we keep these new consumers and how do we consolidate that growth and keep those who have discovered the benefits of health and wellness, nutritional and herbal supplements … to keep them in their lives [and] make it a part of their lifestyle in the future? “

One of his tips is to keep the “conversation” about health with consumers alive. During the pandemic, brands making themselves available to answer consumer questions became a resource from a public desperate for health information. “A lot of brands did a great job starting a conversation during COVID,” he said.

This type of education and outreach should continue after the pandemic, he advised. “There may not be the dark aftermath of the pandemic, but there are things that consumers are interested in – stress, mood, focus…. These things will – unfortunately beyond the pandemic – live on and there are possibilities for herbal products to intervene positively. So don’t lose sight of the connection or relationship with your consumer and continue to use the various ways that you can have that conversation. “

Encouraging consumers to establish and maintain supplement routines will also be crucial, he said. “[W]We want to encourage people to keep adding nutritional supplements to their health and wellness programs, ”he said. “How can you encourage these habits?” For example, his company developed an app to support customers’ health routines.

The idea is to get consumers to keep thinking about their health, he said. “How can you be on a health journey instead of just selling products? And when you do, don’t just think about how your product will affect them, give them tips and advice beyond the specific herbal or dietary supplement you may be selling. Often times we want to use all of our marketing techniques and levers to improve the quality of our products. To be honest, if you can get someone to meditate, exercise, and hydrate in addition to taking your product, chances are the product will work better overall with all of these health measures. And so this routine, this thinking [and] It will be very important to enable them to measure every day how their commitment to their health and wellbeing is continuing because once we are back to normal we will know that the habit is more difficult to get used to, and it is easy to get out of healthy habits. How can we continue to encourage people to maintain this self-sufficiency that they optimized during the pandemic in a non-pandemic world? “

He also asked, “What can you do to remind them? [supplements] Is it not medication that these products do not work immediately overnight, and that continued, repeated use is the way to maximize the benefits of supplementing and consuming herbs? “

It’s important to stay visible with consumers, added another speaker, Amy Summers, PR expert and founder and president of Pitch Publicity and INICIVOX. Optimizing public relations is particularly important with COVID, as this has helped companies keep an eye on the public. Public relations will be vital to helping brands stay relevant, and it encouraged companies to stick with messaging and continue to “do good” to emphasize how they are giving back. “Many times,” she said, it is the relationships built through public relations “that have the greatest return on investment … especially during times of crisis, downturn, transition, or change.” If you interrupt public relations, she warns, you will lose the consistency in educating and connecting with the public. You lose momentum.

It’s also a good time to encourage new customers to try other types of supplements. “Often people come in with an onramp product like a multivitamin or fish oil, but can suddenly be persuaded to take a second product,” Rigby said.

Thankfully, Summers said the pandemic has helped the dietary supplement industry attract a new generation of consumers. “In my view, we have passed the age limit with this pandemic,” she said, noting that Gen Z customers, college-aged consumers, are now using nutritional supplements.

Finally, Rigby said, in order to reach consumers on all fronts, on social media and beyond, brands need to make sure they have maximized their digital opportunities and e-commerce capabilities. “If you’ve postponed your optimization of your online marketing, your web presence, your page design, your layout, if you don’t have videos or compelling content, do it now because it won’t go away,” he warned.

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