Survey reveals fastest growing supplements

Probiotics, B vitamins, coenzyme Q10 ... see what else consumers are clamoring for.  

A recent survey of over 10,000 people who take supplements shows that coenzyme Q10, digestive enzymes, probiotics and B vitamins are the four categories experiencing the most growth over the prior year. The percentage of respondents using these supplements rose, respectively, by 5.1, 5.0, 3.0, and 2.5 points compared to the prior year. The most popular supplements, based on the percentage of respondents using them, are fish/marine oils (71.7 percent), multivitamins (65.4 percent), vitamin D (55.5 percent), CoQ10 (54.1 percent), calcium (48.4 percent), B vitamins (44.2 percent), and vitamin C (41.2 percent), followed by 25 other common supplements. The largest declines were in the use of calcium supplements and multivitamins, which fell, respectively, by 2.2 and 1.7 percentage points.

Results are based on responses to the most recent Survey of Vitamin and Supplement Users, which is conducted among e-newsletter readers each November. The majority of respondents (87 percent) are 45 years of age or older and female (55.5 percent). On average, the respondents take 6.6 different supplements daily.

According to the survey, women are much more likely than men to take supplements containing vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, probiotics or iron. Men are more likely than women to take CoQ10, vitamin C, herbs, glucosamine/chondroitin, other minerals (i.e., other than calcium, magnesium and iron), vitamin E, resveratrol, melatonin, amino acids, plant sterols/stanols, vitamin A/beta-carotene, SAMe, "super fruits," sports supplements, and "enhancement" supplements (which less than 1 percent of women indicated using, compared to over 6 percent of men).

The survey uncovered other important trends, particularly regarding use of the Internet in buying supplements. Online stores were used by 45.4 percent of respondents, rising 2.6 percentage points over the prior year to further distance it from the next most popular vendors: health food stores (used by 28.8 percent of respondents), warehouse clubs (28.2 percent), mail order catalogues (27.7 percent), supermarkets (25.7 percent), vitamin stores (24.7 percent), pharmacies (24.4 percent), mass merchants (16.8 percent), direct distributors (12.3 percent), and health care practitioners (7.6 percent).

Further evidence of the influence of the Internet is that among the 851 different retailers from which respondents buy supplements, Amazon is the 3rd most popular, up from 10th the prior year, 13th in 2010, and 16th in 2009.

Other notable findings regarding the use of the Internet to purchase dietary supplements:

  • People who use the most supplements are especially likely to shop online. Among those taking 10 or more supplements daily, 56.7 percent purchase online compared to 24.2 percent of those taking only one supplement.
  • 49.2 percent of men shop online vs. 42.8 percent of women.
  • Although Internet shopping decreases with age, 30 percent of those over age 85 shops online for supplements -- up from 15 percent last year. More than 58 percent of respondents under age 45 shop online.

Respondents also rated 1,438 brands and 851 merchants they used. The supplement brands and merchants receiving the highest rating on overall consumer satisfaction within their specific market segment are listed on the website.

"We began the annual survey several years ago to direct our product testing toward supplement categories and brands of greatest interest to members," says Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of "It has evolved into an excellent barometer of the nutrition marketplace."


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