How did supplements fare in Q4 2008?

Following a recent blog post from NBJ Editor Carlotta Mast that detailed strong 2008 sales in the supplement industry, NBJ received a number of inquires regarding supplement sales performance in the 4th quarter of 2008.

Though a complete analysis of supplement industry sales channels (natural/specialty retail, mass market and direct to consumer) is still in the works and will be published in NBJ's Nutrition Industry Overview Issue soon, we have had a chance to look at a few data sources so far.

In particular, we've had a chance to look at calendar year 2008 and Q4 2008 data from Information Resources Inc., a leading provider of scanner-based retail sales and trending data in the mass market (food, drug, mass).

IRI data shows mixed results across the leading supplement products when one compares the first three quarters versus the final quarter of 2008.

Great News:

Multivitamin sales were up 3.4% in Q1-3 and up 4% in Q4.

Calcium sales were up 4.8% in Q1-3 and up 7.7% in Q4.

Vitamin A&D were up 91.9% in Q1-3 and up 97.6% in Q4.

Good News

Total herbal supplement sales were up 7.4% in Q1-3, but up only 6.2% in Q4.

Total non-herbal or specialty supplement sales were up 14.3% in Q1-3, but in Q4 only up 11.6%.

Glucosamine & chondroitins were up 5.3% in Q1-3 and up only 0.3% in Q4.

EFAs were up 28.5% in Q1-3 and up only 25.7% in Q4.

Bad News:

Most supplements tracked by IRI showed softness in the 4th quarter of 2008. This tells us that the supplement industry is not immune to the effects of the sour economy. Consumers may be turning to dietary supplements and self-care efforts in lieu of rushing to the doctor, but as a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide moves them just the same.

2009 will be a year to closely track supplement industry trends and Nutrition Business Journal will be there to report on every subtlety and nuance in the market. Stay tuned to The NBJ Blog for more on the supplement industry as 2009 unfolds.


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