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Pandemic Potential: COVID-19 sends consumers shopping for supplements

Pandemic Potential Part 1: COVID-19 paired with 7 out of 10 Americans living with home-shelter orders has savaged industries. But for the dietary supplement business, the new coronavirus has been a boon.

Rick Polito, Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

April 5, 2020

3 Min Read
Pandemic Potential intro article

It could seem difficult to see an event defining an era while that event and that era are still happening, but the COVID-19 outbreak defies such myopia. A civilization rattled to its core leaves little room for overstatement. So, in this moment, a virus comes to define an entire decade still in its very first months.

While it’s easy to see chaos and entire business sectors brought to ruin, it might be more difficult for some to recognize opportunities.

This has not been a problem for the supplement industry.

One of brightest silver linings in the history of dark clouds is shining on supplements, with the most radiant light falling on brands with immunity products among their SKUs. Some companies are reporting sales spiking in the hundreds of percent and bottles backordered into the many thousands. Even products well outside the immunity realm are doing well, very well.

With all that opportunity, of course, come challenges of immense and ominous variety, and nobody is hopscotching across the apocalypse. An uncertain supply chain, a workforce that could fall ill or worse tomorrow, the specter of adulteration, turmoil in sales channels and an economy sputtering into recession: the opportunity comes paired with any number of calamities in waiting.

Squinting into that kaleidoscope of scenarios, Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) offers this collection of views from various vantages.

The opportunity is enormous and yet eclipsed by unknowable outcomes. All of them difficult to see.

In this collection of stories from the Nutrition Business Journal's Industry Overview issue, we explore what the pandemic means for supplements in different ways, from different viewpoints.

This Pandemic Potential series includes these articles:

Demand: Supplement brands with immunity SKUs are seeing an unprecedented spike in sales and interest is already spreading into adjacent categories.

Supply: Chinese factories are coming back online after the surveillance state clamped quarantine restrictions on the world's largest country. But as the virus spreads globally, shipping and logistics loom as problems around the globe.

Retail Channel Shifts: Lines are out the door at grocery stores, and big chains are limiting supplement sales to combat hoarding. Meanwhile, business moves online as consumers avoid public places.

Safety First and Second and Third: Supplement manufacturers know they won't be able to meet soaring demand if their workers get sick. 

Essential Elements: Natural products industry trade associations are lobbying to keep supplement manufacturers on the "essential businesses" lists as a patchwork of quarantine restrictions go into effect state by state.

Claims Questions: Regulators are already going after natural products brands that make specific claims about coronavirus. The words "virus" or "viral" could be the next targets.

Enforcement Issues: The Food and Drug Administration has announced that routine inspections are on hold, leaving the industry to police itself as demand grows.

The "R" Word: A recession grows more likely by the day, but supplements might escape the fate of other industries.

The Long Game: The COVID-19 outbreak may be the loudest wake-up call in the history of nutrition as millions of consumers begin to make the connection between good nutrition and good health.

Pandemic Potential Part 1

Go to the first article: Demand   >>

About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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