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With flu season approaching, will elderberry continue to reign?

Superfoods tend to come and go, but for a few years now elderberry has been the go-to choice for wellness season.

Elderberry continues to be a red-hot immune-boosting supplement this year. According to SPINS, the superfood is showing double- or triple-digit growth in every retail channel.

The data company’s numbers show that in the 52 weeks ending on September 8, sales of products with elderberry as the primary ingredient were up 85% year-over-year—and we’re barely into cold and flu season. In December 2018, elderberry ranked fourth in top-selling herbal supplements, and with sales up 138% over 2017 saw the fastest growth by far of the top 25 supplements.

This year’s flu season, according to early indicators, is going to be a bad one, so the strong growth is all but guaranteed to hold. A Technavio report last year projected more than 7% compound annual growth rate for 2018-2022.

“Elderberry still takes primary residence in herbal supplements, especially in subcategories with cold and flu focuses, but its popularity continues to grow in other segments as well,” said SPINS’ Jessica Hochman.

That’s evident in the numbers: the September data shows that herbal formulas and herbal singles were both up more than 80%, and miscellaneous supplements were up 238%. Food supplements, meanwhile, were up more than 62,000%—albeit having started at $47 in sales a year ago, compared with baselines of dollar sales in the seven- or eight-figures in the other categories.

The growth in segments beyond herbal supplements includes children’s vitamins and other products, noted Hochman. “We've noticed that drink mixes—powder [or] crystals—and even lollipops are starting to emerge as delivery methods, too.”

And while elderberry syrups remain the predominant product type, with continued strong growth, gummies shot up to the second-place spot this year by dollar volume. Tablets and private label also saw a boost this year; capsules and softgels showed the slowest growth, while tinctures were the only form to drop in sales compared with last year.

With the growth comes increased competition: Earlier this month, Ocean Spray’s Lighthouse incubator announced its first-ever new brand in Atoka, which will feature herbal-blend beverages, including one with elderberry that targets wellness.

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