Herbal supplement retail sales up 7.9% in 2013

New HerbalGram report estimates that total U.S. retail sales of herbal dietary supplements reached $6 billion dollars for the first time. 

Sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States increased by 7.9 percent in 2013, reaching a total estimated figure of $6 billion for the first time. These statistics are conclusions of a new report published in the current issue of HerbalGram, the peer-reviewed quarterly journal of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC).

Sales in the mainstream market channel (food, drug, and mass-market stores, plus club and convenience stores) continued to grow, increasing an estimated 7.7 percent over 2012 sales, while sales in natural food stores rose by a stronger estimated growth of 8.8 percent. 2013 marks the 10th consecutive year that herb sales have increased, according to data from previous HerbalGram herb market reports.

“Consumers continue to express strong demand for a wide variety of herbs, phytomedicines, and other plant-based ingredients for their many health benefits,” said HerbalGram Editor-in-Chief and ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “Over the past decade—even during the major economic downturn—retail sales statistics demonstrate the increasing level of interest and confidence that American consumers place in the herbal sector of the dietary supplement market.” 

The annual HerbalGram herb market report is based on herb supplement sales statistics from the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) and market research firms IRI and SPINS. The report covers only retail sales of herbal dietary supplements and does not reflect the sales of most herbal teas, botanical ingredients in natural cosmetics, or government-approved herbal drug ingredients in over-the-counter or prescription medicines.

NBJ, a publication of New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colo., estimated the total herb supplement sales figures for 2013 based on data from market research firms, company surveys, interviews with major retailers and industry experts, and various published and unpublished secondary material.

In previous years, HerbalGram has featured separate mainstream multi-outlet sales data from the Chicago-based IRI and Schaumburg, Ill.-based SPINS. For 2013, the two firms collaborated to present a combined report, with market channel coverage including food, drug, and mass-market retailers as well as military commissaries, select buyer’s clubs, and so-called dollar stores. (The collaborative SPINS/IRI reporting does not include convenience store sales.) In the mainstream multi-outlet channel, SPINS/IRI determined a total sales figure of $994,228,073 for botanical dietary supplements in 2013—an increase of 9.4 percent over 2012.

The top-selling herbs—as coded by primary ingredient—of 2013 in the mainstream multi-outlet channel, according to SPINS/IRI, were horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a key ingredient in throat drops; yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe), used in numerous athletic performance and sexual enhancement products; cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), popular primarily for its claimed benefit of helping to prevent urinary tract infections; black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), a popular aide to manage menopausal symptoms; and senna (Senna alexandrina), used as a stimulant laxative. 

SPINS calculated sales of botanical dietary supplements in the natural channel to be $320,722,598, a significant increase of 9.9 percent over 2012 sales in this channel. SPINS’ figure does not include sales from the United States’ largest natural foods chain store, Whole Foods Market, which sells a significant quantity of herbal supplements. (This 9.9 percent increase also contrasts with NBJ’s more conservative estimate of 8.8 percent noted above, based on NBJ’s range of market data sources for natural food retail outlets.)

The five top-selling herbal supplements—as coded by primary ingredient—of 2013 in the natural channel, according to SPINS, were turmeric (Curcuma longa) and extracts standardized to curcumin; grass (wheat and barley; Triticum aestivum and Hordeum vulgare, respectively); flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) and/or flax oil; aloe vera (Aloe vera); and spirulina/blue-green algae (Arthrospira spp.). Turmeric showed a 26.2 percent increase in sales in 2013, taking the top ranking in the natural channel (turmeric ranked third in 2011 and 2012). 

The online version of the HerbalGram report comprises five tables illustrating herbal supplement sales, including a table of the 40 top-selling herbal supplements in the mainstream multi-outlet channel as determined by SPINS/IRI, as well as a table of the 20 top-selling botanical supplements in the natural channel as determined by SPINS. The top-selling herbal supplements in each channel are different, both due to different preferences and values of shoppers in health and natural foods stores versus those in mainstream stores.

In addition to the retail channels discussed, herbal dietary supplements are sold in the United States through mail order catalogs, Internet sites, radio and television direct sales outlets, network marketing firms that sell directly to the consumer, health professionals who sell supplements from their offices, and various other channels.

HerbalGram is available at some bookstores and natural food stores and is mailed to members of ABC. The annual HerbalGram herb market report article is posted on the ABC website, accessible here.


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