While supplement fads come and go (Dr. Oz's African mango recommendation, anyone?) it's clear that among regular supplement users, several brands and supplement retailers are anything but a passing trend. In fact, a recent survey of nearly 10,300 vitamin and supplement users by ConsumerLab.com revealed that of the 88 leading brands, two were named tops on consumer satisfaction for some of the most popular supplements.
- Puritan's Pride for calcium, glucosamine & chondroitin and probiotic
- Life Extension for coQ10, fish oil and multivitamin
The popularity of these mass, direct-to-you online supplement sellers come as no surprise. Nutrition Business Journal estimates that U.S. consumer sales of dietary supplements through the Internet channel were $1.3 billion in 2010 and will surpass $3 billion by 2017.
Convenience is a big driver of online supplement sales. Life Extension offers convenience with its auto ship option, so consumers never run out of supplements, and invests heavily in education with its magazine—free for Life Extension members. Puritan's Pride—which claims 6 million customers and manufactures more than 1,000 nutritional supplements—has made ConsumerLab.com's list for the past two years as the top catalogue/Internet supplement brand, but this year was inched out by Swanson.
The complete list of top-rated supplement brands on consumer satisfaction:
- Catalogue/Internet Brand: Swanson
- Direct Selling (MLM) Brand: Nutrilite
- Discount/Warehouse Brand: Kirkland (Costco)
- Grocery Store Brand: Trader Darwin (Trader Joe’s)
- Healthcare Practitioner Brand: Pure Encapsulations
- Health Food Store Brand: Nutricology
- Mass Market Multi-Category Brand: Biotivia
- Mass Market Single-Category Brand: Citracal
- Pharmacy Brand: CVS
- Vitamin Store Brand: Vitamin World
- Canadian Brand: Webber Naturals
Of note in this list is Biotivia, which also appeared on last year's survey. Biotivia has moved into prominence with resveratrol and antioxidant supplements in the past two years. NBJ's latest data for the market reports that U.S. sales of resveratrol supplements grew 13 percent in 2010 to $35 million. While few breakout ingredients have entered the supplement market, manufacturers that can capitalize on the feeling of ingredient "newness" are capturing more customers.
The vital factor that influences supplement satisfaction, sales
In addition to reporting on top supplement brands, the survey also ranked supplement merchants. Natural retailer Trader Joe's has been ranked the top-rated supplement merchant for the grocery store category for three years running. The rest of the 2012 merchant lineup remains virtually unchanged from last year's survey ranking.
Top-rated supplement retailers
- Catalogue/Internet: Life Extension
- Direct Sales (MLM): Nutrilite
- Grocery Store: Trader Joe's
- Mass Market: Target
- Online Multi-Category Retailer: Amazon.com
- Online Supplement Retailer: iHerb.com
- Pharmacy: Walgreens
- Vitamin Store: The Vitamin Shoppe
- Warehouse Store: Costco
Perhaps these retailers seem like the usual suspects. But the absence of natural giant Whole Foods Market is telling about the store's brand and how supplements fit into its product mix—and about the store's higher supplement prices.
Lower prices, higher satisfaction?
Based on who made the list, price seems to be a main motivator for satisfaction. Amazon.com and iHerb.com are appealing outlets for bargain shoppers, with the allure of free or same-day shipping guarantees and no tax charges.
This same "cut out the middlemen" mentality could be why Trader Joe's was chosen as the top grocery/supplement retailer—the retailer's prices are low because they distribute the product, have a large volume and pass overhead savings on to shoppers.
The takeaway for independent supplement sellers? If you can't match price, be clear on the true cost of supplements with shoppers. Education is key for selling these products, and the more knowledgeable you and your staff are, the more satisfied shoppers will be with their purchase.
Do any of these top-rated supplement brands or retailers surprise you? Share in the comments.