How can the industry keep the momentum going after the pandemic?


New reports from Nutrition Business Journal confirm the impressive growth of the U.S. dietary supplement market in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During a panel discussion at the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD) AHPA Botanical Congress this week – the first time the event has taken place virtually – industry experts discussed strategies to ensure that the additional sales gains seen last year do not follow once the pandemic is over.

Nutrition Business Journal Growth reports

Presenter Claire Morton Reynolds, Senior Industry Analyst for Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), reported the NBJ’s updated and “hot” assessment of “record” sales of US supplements in 2020, in particular an increase of $ 7.08 billion in 2020, reflecting growth of 14.5%. This brought the valuation of the US supplement market to a total of $ 55.75 billion by the end of 2020. Morton Reynolds has set 2020 as the biggest year of growth for the industry on record. “For context,” she said, “over the past five years we’ve added between $ 2 billion and $ 2.5 billion each year, so it really resonates how much we need to add $ 7 billion. dollars in a single year. “

The NBJ predicts that the U.S. supplement industry will actually see a sustainable “permanent increase” in annual sales for years to come, Morton Reynolds said, surpassing pre-COVID estimates of the market trajectory. For example, by 2023, sales of supplements are expected to exceed $ 1.4 billion from what they would have been before COVID-19. By 2024, the NBJ estimates that the U.S. supplement market will be valued at $ 66.24 billion – a growth of $ 10 billion from 2020.

Don’t expect the same record-breaking 14.5% growth rate as 2020 each year. “We can’t maintain 14% every year,” Morton Reynolds said. “[W]We expect to see a natural slowdown in growth. “

Regardless of any slowdown, the good news is that sales aren’t expected to drop anytime soon. Said Morton Reynolds, “[W]We have permanently energized the industry beyond $ 55 billion, in our eyes.

Which category of supplements grew the fastest in 2020? Vitamins led the pack with astronomical sales growth of 22.3%, which is not surprising given the huge spike in media attention and demand for products like vitamins like C and D. experienced during the pandemic, she stressed. Equally impressive was the growth in sales of herbs and plants in 2020, at 17.3%. Morton Reynolds noted that herbal supplement sales rose further – especially for immune herbal remedies like elderberry, fungi and echinacea – even despite a 6% drop in cannabidiol sales from hemp (CBD) last year.

Sales of minerals also increased by 11.4%. Specialty supplements, a category that includes ingredients like pre- and probiotics, omega fatty acids, collagen, CoQ10 and melatonin, rose 12.0%. Sales of meal supplements increased 5.4%. Sales of sports supplements, however, remained stable, with growth in 2020 of 6.6% against 6.5% in 2019.

In terms of sales channels, online sales are expected to more than double between 2019 and 2024, the NBJ predicts. By 2024, e-commerce sales are expected to be roughly equal (at 24%) to sales of natural / special retail channels (25%) and mass market (25%). “It’s not news to say that e-commerce is growing, but the pandemic really accelerated that, ”Morton Reynolds said. She added, “We see online shopping as one of the most permanent changes in consumer behavior, especially when it comes to supplements.”

Morton Reynolds also touched on the major categories of health issues in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the common cold / flu / immunity topped all other conditions, with sales up 51.2% in 2020 to $ 5.2 billion. . But other conditions also led to sales growth. The other top performing countries, 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, children’s health and gastrointestinal health. Categories that experienced stagnant or negative growth rates were eye health and sport / energy / weight management.

Morton Reynolds has called immune health a new “gateway” to supplements for new supplement users. “Now we are really seeing that immunity has increased, with general well-being as a gateway to supplements for consumers,” she said.

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

Mood and mental health are another category to watch out for. NBJ estimates that sales of this category increased by 30% in 2020 and will continue to increase at least until 2023, driven by ingredients like CBD hemp, multivitamins, homeopathy, 5-HTP , magnesium and St. John’s Wort. “We’re just seeing more and more consumers understand the inner play of mood, mental health, stress, sleep, immunity and well-being,” said Morton Reynolds.

How to make growth last

Other panelists discussed how to keep existing and new customers interested in supplements once their interest in health maintenance wanes after COVID.

Graham Rigby, director of innovation for the direct-to-consumer supplement company Care / of, said: “Now we ask the question: how do we retain these new consumers and how to consolidate that growth and keep all those who have discovered it. benefits. of health and well-being, food supplements and herbal supplements … to keep them in their life [and] integrate them into their way of life? “

One of his tips is to keep the health “conversation” with consumers alive. During the pandemic, brands that have made themselves available to answer consumer questions from a desperate audience for health information have become a resource. “Many brands have done a great job starting a conversation during COVID,” he said.

This type of education and awareness should continue after the pandemic, he advised. “There may not be the grim consequences of the pandemic, but there are things that consumers care about – stress, mood, focus…. These things will live on – unfortunately, beyond the pandemic – and there are ways for herbal products to intervene in a positive way. So, don’t lose sight of that bond or relationship with your consumer and continue to use all the different avenues you have available to continue this conversation. “

Encouraging consumers to establish and maintain supplement routines will also be essential, he said. “[W]We want to encourage people to continue to incorporate dietary supplements into their health and wellness regimen, ”he said. “How can you encourage these habits?” For example, he says, his company has developed an app to support clients’ health routines.

The idea is to get consumers to continue to have the big picture of their health, he said. “How can you be on a healthy path rather than just selling them products? And when you do that, don’t just think about the impact your product has on them, but consider giving them tips and advice that go beyond the herbal supplement or dietary supplement you are selling them. A lot of times we want to use all of our marketing techniques and levers to just boost the quality of our products, but the truth is, if you can get someone to meditate, exercise and hydrate, besides taking your product, there is a good chance that the product will work better collectively with all these health interventions … And so by encouraging this routine, this reflection, [and] allowing them to measure every day how their commitment to their health and well-being continues will be really important because once we get back to normal we know it is harder to get into the habit and it is easy to lose healthy habits. So how can we continue to encourage people to maintain this self-care that they have optimized during the pandemic in a non-pandemic world? “

He also asked, “What can you do to remind them that these [supplements] are not drugs, that these products do not work instantly overnight, and that continued and repeated use is the way to maximize the benefits of herbal supplementation and consumption? “

Staying visible to consumers is essential, said another speaker, Amy Summers, public relations expert and founder and president of Pitch Publicity and INICIVOX. Optimizing public relations was especially important during COVID, she said, because it helped businesses stay ahead of the public. PR will be a big part of the future to help brands stay relevant, and she encouraged companies to be consistent with the messaging and continue to ‘do good’ to emphasize how they give back. “Many times,” she said, it is the relationships built through public relations “that create the greatest return on investment … especially during any time of crisis, downturn, transition, or change.” If you take a break from public relations, she warned, you lose the consistency of educating and connecting with the public; you lose momentum.

This is also a good time to encourage new customers to try other types of dietary supplements. “A lot of times people come up with an onramp product like a multivitamin or fish oil, but can suddenly be convinced to take a second product,” said Rigby.

Fortunately, Summers said the pandemic has helped the supplement industry attract a new generation of consumers. “From my perspective, I think we’ve crossed the age barrier with this pandemic,” she said, noting that Gen Z customers, college-age consumers, are now using drugs. supplements.

Finally, said Rigby, in order to reach consumers on all fronts now, social media and beyond, brands need to ensure that they have maximized their digital outreach and e-commerce capabilities. “If you have delayed optimizing your online marketing, web presence, page design, layout, if you don’t have engaging videos or content, do it now, because it will not go away. ”he warned.

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