Despite scandals and skepticism, America’s supplement industry looks healthy, according to a story in The Economist.
The article sums up recent challenges and headlines and notes the diversity of products at Natural Products Expo.
“America is the industry’s honeypot,” write the authors, “thanks to loyal consumers and uniquely helpful regulations.”
What underlies the industry’s strong sales? “Americans love taking supplements. About half of them do so regularly. They take them for all sorts of reasons—their bones, their hearts, their minds—but mostly for that holy grail of general health. That is not so surprising. Not only are firms good marketers, but conventional health care is expensive and vexingly complex. Supplements let patients take charge of their health. And then there is the placebo effect, the brain’s response to the belief that a given pill will help, which scientists agree is real.”
The story reports how manufacturers have weathered skeptics and conflicting science as well as complex regulations. The gravest threat to the supplement industry, they suggest,
may actually come from elsewhere, according to the authors.
“Consumers are increasingly keen on natural and organic foods. Last year sales grew by 12.7 percent compared to supplements’ rise of 5.1 percent, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. But supplement makers are already adapting. GNC has launched ‘whole-food-based sports nutrition products.’ Last year Pharmavite bought FoodState, which makes vitamins from ‘fresh and local foods.’ Consumers could simply cut out the middleman by eating decently, but the makers of the supplements have good reason to hope that they will not be so sensible. CDC data backs them up. According to a recent CDC release, tens of millions of Americans aren’t getting enough essential nutrients to ensure their bodies function optimally."