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The Editor's Take: Medical doctors uplift dietary supplement industry

Physicians represent the largest and fastest-growing share of the practitioner channel, which is second only to e-commerce in growth. Learn more.

Bill Giebler

January 24, 2024

2 Min Read
Bill Giebler is the director of content for Nutrition Business Journal.

The doctor is in—bought in to dietary supplements, that is.

According to an NBJ survey conducted in late 2023, a significant majority of physicians take and recommend dietary supplements, although that buy-in is exaggerated because we recruited survey respondents via supplement companies. NBJ partnered with five leading practitioner brands and Holistic Primary Care magazine to understand practitioners’ beliefs and behaviors around supplements.

Still, physicians, who represent the largest and fastest-growing share of the practitioner channel, are delivering more than $1 billion in dietary supplement sales. It’s clear that doctors believe in supplements, and supplement brands would be wise to listen to their preferences.

Our survey of nearly 2,000 practitioners across disciplines, over 200 of whom were physicians, was part of NBJ’s latest Practitioner Report, which also examines the practitioner channel by way of market sizing and consumer research. The report is timely because we’re predicting the practitioner channel, which is growing second only to e-commerce, will account for more than 10% of the supplement market by 2026.

The recipe for this growth consists of trust and convenience. Practitioners trust quality brands, science-backed formulations, branded ingredients and brand-led education programs. In turn, patients trust their practitioners, as a significant number report buying (and rebuying) the supplements their practitioners recommend.

Related:The Analyst’s Take: Herbs and botanicals market to regain strength

 

Convenience comes with the double-edged sword of digitization. Both patient visits and product dispensing are increasingly happening online. In the survey, nearly a third of doctors are seeing 40% or more of their patients via tele-consults, and nearly two-thirds are selling through a gated online dispensary or order-fulfillment tool that offers a cut to the practitioner.

These affinities are good news for a channel losing its exclusivity to ungated sites like Amazon, a conundrum for the channel and the other cut of the sword. Nearly every top practitioner brand now sells on Amazon, which puts the practitioners' trust at risk. More than half of surveyed practitioners claim supplement sales to be “essential” or “very important” to their business, and a quarter rank “practitioner exclusivity” as a top driver for brand selection.

The doctors have bought into the product. Practitioner channel success may depend on maintaining their buy-in to the business.

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To learn more about the practitioner sales channel within the dynamic supplements industry, check out the Practitioner Report 2023.

Related:Practitioners largely passing on genetic testing

About the Author(s)

Bill Giebler

Content & Insights Director, Nutrition Business Journal

An award-winning writer and natural products industry veteran—with decades of experience in food and supplement retail, lifestyle mail order and organic textiles product development—Nutrition Business Journal Content & Insights Director Bill Giebler reports on dietary supplements and food and agricultural trends and opportunities across New Hope Network properties.

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