Supplements' role as vital as ever

Supplements may be experiencing a lower profile than they once did as functional foods move centre stage, but the importance of vitamins and minerals and herbal and specialty supplements (VMHS) to US consumers has not diminished, according to Washington-state based analyst The Hartman Group.

It noted that core health consumers had not rejected the idea of health in a pill just because they may have shunned the mainstream medical fraternity. "Research has shown consumers' movement from periphery to core along the wellness continuum increases their likelihood of using dietary supplements," Hartman noted. "The most successful dietary supplement products are those that focus on offering up modes of control, including prevention, for which modern medicine offers either poor solutions, last-minute solutions, or no solutions at all."

Factors inhibiting consumers purchasing supplements include lack of knowledge, price and efficacy concerns. "Consumers continue to purchase and use nutritional supplements, but with less intensity and exploratory nature than what we saw in 2000," the report said. "Today, mid-level and core consumers appear to have identified key supplements that they use with some regularity (ranging from three times per week to daily) and have decreased their exploratory shopping for new supplements. We also find new interest in key supplements such as green tea, probiotics and omegas."

Hartman found 43 per cent of consumers regard taking supplements as a "path to wellness," nearly double the number in 2000 (23 per cent). Increasingly consumers view dietary supplements use as symbolic of a challenge to the perceived hold pharmaceutical companies have over them.

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