Industry grew 8.7 per cent in 2008

After a banner year for the US nutrition industry, market analysts are expecting a slight slowdown in growth for 2009.

"We are seeing right now a slowdown in sales dollars in the natural retail channel," said Patrick Rea, publisher and editorial director of Nutrition Business Journal. "I think this is not necessarily due to a decrease in volume as it is a lot of pricing plays going on, as natural brands try to compete with mass-market prices — and that has to do with the economy. We are expecting slightly slower growth in 2009, based on early indications from companies that consumers are looking to spend less per supplement, less per bottle, and so forth."

Even a slowdown in sales, however, does not necessarily spell bad news. According to research published by NBJ in July, the US nutrition industry grew 8.7 per cent, or $101.8 billion, in 2008.

Sales of dietary supplements were particularly strong as consumers looked to natural products to prevent more expensive medical visits and pharmaceuticals.

Dietary-supplement sales grew from 5.8 per cent to 6.3 per cent in 2008, NBJ reported. Vitamin D was by far the leading supplement in 2008, which is a trend continuing in 2009, Rea said.

In addition to strong sales in the supplements market, 2008 was also a good year for private-label food companies. According to Mintel, a leading market-research company, the private-label food market grew 9.3 per cent in 2008, compared to 4.5 per cent for branded food sales. Many of these new products are functional or organic (see sidebar).

Top supplements of 2008
NBJ figures point to XanGo Juice, a mangosteen whole-fruit puree, as well as Juice Plus+, a branded line of fruit and vegetable powders launched in 2003 and sold via direct- or multi-level marketing.

Also having a strong year was Sierra Mountain Minerals of Vancouver, the makers of SierraSil mineral supplement for joint health, Rea says. The company was awarded NBJ's 2008 achievement award for Growth in Small Companies. Two pharma-based dietary supplements had notable sales in 2008, "and by notable we are talking sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Rea said.

They are Bausch & Lomb's Ocuvite line of dietary supplements for eye health, sold through optometrist offices; and GlaxoSmithKline's fish oil supplement Lovaza.

Launched in 2005 and obtained only through a prescription, Lovaza is the only omega-3s medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat high triglycerides. A daily dose contains 4g of omega-3s.

- JW

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