US supplements industry urged to invest to maintain growth

The US supplements industry is unlikely to maintain the healthy growth that has seen sales double to $22 billion between 1995 and 2006 unless it more aggressively targets mainstream health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes according to California-based trade journal, Nutrition Business Journal in its "Supplement Business Report 2006."

"The business is more challenging and competitive," said NBJ editor and lead report author, Grant Ferrier. "Unless the industry makes a more concerted effort at investment in science, marketing, consumer education and interaction with practitioners, insurers, HMOs, policymakers and others in the healthcare industry, such growth rates are unlikely to occur."

The report observes that while American consumers have been using supplements for decades, only in recent years has the US supplement industry demonstrated signs of maturing. "Declining growth, price pressures, commoditisation of many products and intensifying competition have become commonplace across many sectors of the supplement business," it noted. "In addition, a sceptical media and the recent flatness in mass-market sales contribute to an emerging sense that the health-motivated customer base may be approaching a measure of market saturation."

Ferrier observed that the supplements sector must reach beyond the 35 per cent of health-motivated Americans who account for 80 per cent of supplement sales and tap those consumers who may need convincing that supplements can help relieve their health problems. "Each successive layer of the population is increasingly more difficult to convert into regular consumers," he said. "With healthcare likely to remain as one of the critical issues facing America in the next ten years, supplement companies are well advised to cast themselves as part of the solution."

Despite its market wariness, NBJ expects the US supplement industry to grow at a 4-5 per cent per annum until 2012 when sales are expected to top $29 billion.

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