Supplement sales are surging. With more consumers becoming wellness-conscious, health issues on the rise and a lack of regulation, the supplement industry is welcoming new customers, and brands, by the minute. The global supplement market is expected to eclipse $278 billion by 2024; vitamins alone raked in $50 billion in revenue in 2015.
What’s on the horizon for this fast-growing market? Here are five trends that supplement users, brands and industry enthusiasts should have on their radars.
Supplement use is cutting across demographics
More than 170 million Americans now take supplements. That’s more than 75% of U.S. adults (70% of those age 18-35 and 35-54, and 74% of those 55+). Meanwhile, studies have shown that seniors are more health-conscious than ever, flocking to vitamins in record numbers. An industry that was once relegated to gym-goers, bodybuilders and alternative health fanatics is now becoming more mainstream by the minute.
Why is this happening? One word: wellness.
As the health and wellness industry continues to grow, the market is quickly becoming packed with new brands—a trend that market research leader McKinsey only expects to continue. In the coming months, watch for a flood of manufacturers and consumer brands eager to capitalize on a lack of regulations and an increased consumer interest in wellness, longevity, brain health and natural alternatives. (And make sure to properly vet these brands via unbiased supplement reviews.)
Adaptogens and nootropics as alternatives to pharmaceuticals
Eight in 10 Americans are stressed out. A whopping 40 million of us experience anxiety disorders; that’s nearly 20% of U.S. adults. Our stressed-out lifestyles have more of us than ever turning to solutions that promise to combat our woes.
Prescription drugs are packed with dangerous side effects, including deadly interactions and crippling addictions. They’re also pricy, expected to increase in cost by a very concerning 75% between 2016 and 2025. Ouch. Given these trends, it’s no surprise that Americans—70% of whom are taking at least one prescription medication; 20% take one for anti-anxiety—are seeking out less costly, and less harmful, alternatives.
Two brain-related supplement segments have exploded in prescription drugs’ wake: nootropics and their subcategory, adaptogens. Nootropics, sometimes referred to as “smart drugs,” are natural supplements that aim to enhance brain health and performance. (Think: being able to pull all-nighters without reaching for Adderall, or getting a quick boost of mental energy right when you need it.) A favorite of Silicon Valley startup-aholics, nootropics represent a market boom that’s expected to grow by nearly 18% over the next six years. Some research has been done on nootropics; we predict we’ll see more studies on the effects of these supplements as more Americans embrace them as part of their health regimen.
Another growing segment, adaptogens are nootropic herbs typically used to balance your physiological functions—mainly, anxiety and stress. From rhodiola, which minimizes stress-induced fatigue, to Holy Basil and beyond, adaptogens have been shown to reduce stress, without the problematic side effects of Xanax, Valium and the host of other prescription drugs used to combat anxiety.
Personalized vitamins and supplements
We’re seeing a dramatic increase in self-directed consumers who proactively seek out supplements to boost their fitness, health and wellness. As consumers feel more empowered to explore the world of supplements, another trend has risen to a very visible front and center: personalized supplements.
From Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Wellness, which touts blends that combat common wellness issues, to Care/of, a startup that recommends customized vitamin packs based on your responses to a health and wellness questionnaire, personalized vitamins are absolutely everywhere. Other brands leading the charge include Ritual, which promises a single pill that gives women every essential vitamin and nutrient they need; and the literally named Vitamin Packs, which offers, well, you guessed it.
Many of these startups target Millennials and others who want the convenience of having customized supplements delivered straight to their door, often on a subscription model. And although some brands have medical advisors and other noteworthy health experts on staff, it’s too soon to tell whether the boom in personalized vitamins is enhancing our health—or simply emptying our wallets. (For what it’s worth, getting genetic testing and seeing a nutritionist are more effective ways of determining exactly what supplements your body needs.)
Protein powder proliferation
The $12.4 billion protein market is one of the mainstays of the fitness supplement category, with 15% of the supplement takers in the CRN’s most recent study reportedly taking protein regularly. With the rise of vegetarianism, gluten-free lifestyles and a host of other dietary restrictions, it’s no surprise that shelves are lined with more types of protein supplements than ever.
Between now and 2025, the protein supplement market is expected to grow by more than 6%; plant proteins will represent the market’s highest growth rate, an impressive 8%. Expect to see plant-based protein powders continue to boom (think: hemp protein and pea protein), alongside alternatives like egg white protein and long-time staples such as whey and creatine. Check out our top-ranked protein powders to separate the great from the masses.
eCommerce sales phasing out brick-and-mortar vitamin stores
You might have heard that GNC is closing down 8,000 more stores, that the Vitamin Shoppe is dumping millions into a robust digital-first strategy and that Chinese investors have narrowly saved Vitamin World from going the way of the dinosaur. Why is all this happening? Because supplement shoppers just aren’t gravitating to in-store experiences like they used to.
According to the Omni Index, a measurementofr consumer satisfaction across physical and digital, 44% of health and beauty shoppers use mobile apps to make purchases. That number is significantly higher than other retail verticals, just the latest indication that brands who dominate the supplement industry are increasingly digital first.
Where will the booming supplement market go from here? Although only time will tell how the industry will evolve, it’s undeniable that the supplement market has come a long way since the days of bodybuilder-centric formulas and GNC stores on every corner.