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NBJ Sales Channel Report reveals strength of brick-and-mortar stores

E-commerce isn't the standout across the industry's channels anymore. Mass market retail is dominating, particularly with supplements.

Rick Polito

May 23, 2023

2 Min Read
bottles of supplements on the shelves of a mass market retailer

If the pandemic taught the natural products industry anything, it might be that old habits die hard. That’s certainly a chief takeaway from the Nutrition Business Journal’s new Sales Channel Report, a deep drive into natural products sales across channels. The research proves that brick-and-mortar channels and mass market retail, in particular, still have plenty of life left in them. 

The report, which includes 79 charts and 102 pages of analysis and insight and examines natural products sales across channels and categories, is available here. Among the findings is strength in mass market retail: By NBJ estimates, mass market beat e-commerce in growth, 7.6% to 5.4%. Not only did sales grow faster in the big chain stores but the growth in dollar volume wasn’t even close. Mass market retail added 10 times as many dollars to the market than e-commerce.

The difference was especially remarkable in supplements. Online sales have been eating into the other channels for so long that the dominance of e-commerce in sales growth can be assumed in most years. In 2020, it was online sales that made the historic sales boom for supplements possible. That’s not what 2022 looked like, however. Sales growth for supplements online slowed to 4.9%, behind the 5.7% for mass market retail. Natural and specialty, which includes both natural grocery stores and standalone supplement outlets like GNC, showed declining sales for supplements, while MLM had an especially bad year in the category. 

The report also features consumer research that reveals which products consumers are open to purchasing online and which they still prefer to buy in brick-and-mortar , and also where they believe they can find better deals (hint: think wide aisles and fluorescent lighting). Taken together, the sales data and consumer sentiments reveal that brick-and-mortar is still a powerful force for natural products, particularly in product discovery. The emergence of mass market retail as the dominant player in natural and organic food, now commanding the majority of the market, illustrates how important the channel will be for launching products going forward. 

The NBJ Sales Channel Report is the first compilation of the deep dive data since before the pandemic began and clearly reflects the “old habits die hard” lesson. In 2020, the future for natural products sales looked very digital, but the new data reveals that the draw of brick-and-mortar was powerful enough to draw consumers off the couches and into stores. 

NBJ 2023 Sales Channel Report reveals strength of brick-and-mortar

Learn more about the 2023 Nutrition Business Journal Sales Channel Report at the NBJ store.

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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