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).