Nutrition Business Journal

CRN: Supplements Are Still a Priority for Consumers, Despite Slumping Economy

It’s the question on every supplement executive’s mind: How will the cratered economy affect supplement usage?


Well, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)’s 2008 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, the global downturn has yet to motivate the majority of consumers to give up their multivitamins, fish oil pills and other supplements. In the survey, conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs for CRN, 51% of supplement users said that the economy will not change their supplement-purchasing habits. Of those 51% of consumers who don’t plan on changing their supplement routines, 13% classified supplements as “an essential part of my wellness regimen” and one “that I cannot do without.”

Although CRN’s survey showed that most supplements users don’t plan on cutting supplements out of their health and wellness routines, some did say that they may alter their purchasing habits. About one-third of supplement users surveyed said that price will become a more important factor in their purchasing decisions. An additional 13% said that, although they will continue to buy some supplements, the economic downturn will likely force them to purchase fewer products in the future.

Other findings from CRN’s research, which was formerly called the CRN Consumer Confidence Survey, found that 81% of American adults are confident in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements. This was up from 80% in 2007. According to CRN, confidence levels in dietary supplements have been on a gradual rise, with 79% of American adults indicating a favorable level of confidence in dietary supplements in 2006.

Although confidence in dietary supplements remains steady, the online survey showed a slightly lower percentage of adults who label themselves as supplement users, with 64% classifying themselves as such. In 2007 and 2006, 68% and 66% of Americans identified themselves as supplement users, respectively.

The survey results also found a rise in the percentage of supplement consumers who take a variety of supplements regularly—48% in 2008, versus 42% in 2007 and 34% in 2006.

“We’re encouraged both that consumers who take supplements are demonstrating an interest in a wider variety of products and are more committed to a supplement regimen,” said Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications for CRN, in a statement. “The multivitamin remains the cornerstone product for our industry with 82% of supplement users taking a multivitamin, but consumers are clearly looking at the benefits of other products too, like fish oil supplements and calcium.”

According to CRN’s research, 85% of those surveyed further indicated that they believe vitamin and mineral supplements are safe, the same figure that was reported in 2007; similarly, 72% agreed that herbal supplements are safe, with 70% reporting that belief last year.

“The self-regulatory programs that this industry is engaging in, along with emerging science that supports the value of supplements, are vital to the industry’s reputation, and to consumer confidence,” said CRN President and CEO Steve Mister, in a statement.

The 2008 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements was conducted online August 20-25, and included a national sample of 2,013 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel. The survey has been conducted annually since 2000, with a migration from telephone to the Internet beginning in 2005. The survey was weighted to reflect the actual U.S. adult population with an estimated margin of error of +/-2.2 percentage points.

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