Examine the packed multivitamin aisle and it's immediately apparent that the days of the one-size-fits-all supplement are dwindling. Although multivitamins remain the best-selling dietary supplement category, constituting 18.9 percent of the supplements market in 2007, according to Nutrition Business Journal, the category has seen better days. In April, Chicago-based global research company Mintel projected that vitamin and mineral sales across all channels to drop 1.9 percent this year as consumers trade down or do without.
There is an exception, however. "Brands that have a strong history and dedication to the natural channel, as well as very clean ingredient profiles continue to perform well," says John Pavlenkov, a business consultant for market research company SPINS, based in Schaumburg, Ill. "Companies that are focusing on particular segments of the population, such as men, women or seniors also seem to be doing well."
Based in Brattleboro, Vt., New Chapter, which offers gender-specific multivitamins, was the top-selling multivitamin brand in the natural channel in the past year. Garden of Life, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., which launched a raw age- and-gender specific line in 2008, saw a 175 percent spike in sales, according to SPINS. Maximize the trend in your store and help your customers choose the best-fitting multi with these gender- and age-specific tips.
Premenopausal women should look for a multivitamin that contains supplemental iron because iron is flushed out during menstruation, says Victoria Drake, Ph.D., a research associate at the Linus Pauling Institute in Corvallis, Ore. Meanwhile, men and postmenopausal women typically get and retain enough iron from food sources. Women of childbearing age also need folate (important for preventing neural tube defects) and vitamins A, C and D; calcium and magnesium (for bone health). They may also benefit from hormone-regulating minerals and herbs, such as zinc, chasteberry, maca root or black cohosh, says Marcus Laux, a naturopathic doctor in Las Vegas.
Unless he is vegetarian, a man probably shouldn't take a multivitamin with extra iron in it because it may cause oxidative damage to tissues and lead to disease, Drake says. However, he should consider a multivitamin with nutrients aimed at promoting prostate health (lycopene and saw palmetto) and heart health (coenzyme Q10). Men's multivitamins also often include herbs associated with virility, such as schizandra and maca.
Drake says that because senior citizens have a harder time metabolizing vitamin B12, a critical nutrient for neurological and cardiovascular health, it's important for them to look for it in a multivitamin, along with calcium and magnesium to support strong bones. Formulas for people age 50 and older also often contain vitamins B, C and D to preserve memory and concentration; antioxidants such as cinnamon and fenugreek to fight age-related diseases triggered by free radical damage; and herbs such as chamomile and lavender to combat stress. However, multis usually don't contain enough calcium, so Drake recommends that seniors take an additional calcium supplement.
Writer Lisa Marshall is a mother of four, who would love to have a "one size fits all" for her entire family.
Beyond the multi: