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Liquid assets: drinkable vitamins fuel profits

Consumers weary of popping pills are increasingly turning to liquid supplements, fuelling growth in a still small but viable market niche, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

According to IRI data, $70 million in liquid vitamins were sold through direct mail or mass market channels in 2005, a 9.1 per cent growth rate. During the same period, IRI scanned $760 million in multivitamins (6.5 per cent growth) and $320 million in 'one- and two-letter' vitamins (down 16 per cent). The figures did not include the natural retail channel Wal-Mart, club stores or network marketing companies.

"It would be very safe to say that, at a minimum, annual domestic liquid nutrition supplement sales in network marketing are well in excess of $500 million and continue to rapidly climb," said Dr Benjamin Baechler, vice president and chief medical officer at Minnesota-based Eniva Corp, a network marketing company specialising in liquid nutritionals.

Ken Hassen, PhD, chief operating officer at Maryland-based Sigma-Tau HealthScience, maker of LivingTonics, estimated liquids account for eight per cent of the total supplements market.

Hassen said liquid-vitamin quality was highly variable. "You will find some products have significant sediment or are heavily formulated with gums, so they are more of a suspension of particles, rather than in a true water-soluble or compatible state. Most companies are trying to just grind up tablets, mix them with a fruit juice and call them a therapeutic liquid nutraceutical product."

Geoff Collins, brand manager for UK-based Vitabiotics, said, "Our Wellman High Performance drink is popular with men who want nutritional support for optimum performance and sustained energy release without high caffeine or sugar. Sales have shown steady growth through major retail outlets in the UK and rapid growth in some export markets.

"While tablet and capsule still account for the vast majority of nutraceutical sales, we do in some cases provide a liquid option for those customers who prefer it," Collins said. "These are geared toward the young or elderly who may have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules. There are also other liquids in development."

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