Healthy aging, balanced energy and inflammation are the three core health concerns that consumers try to address with dietary supplements, according to a new report.
The Hartman Group's Tinderbox on Trends 2008 draws its conclusions through ethnographic research, which includes consumer interviews and observation in the home and in retail outlets.
According to the research group, when a health concern presents itself, most consumers will first examine their diet. When food does not remedy the situation, they look to supplements, preferably from whole foods, to correct and balance their condition.
Supplements most popular with "leading-edge" or "core" consumers were those that addressed aging, energy and inflammation, said Hartman.
Although most supplement users are diligent when it comes to taking multi-vitamins, Hartman said that they tend to vary in their choice of supplements addressing these three issues, either as they learn of new products, or as they shift focus from the one issue to another.
The group said consumers are "constantly searching for the latest supplement that may ease their condition or outperform a current supplement which is filling nutritional holes missing from their diet".
Hartman divides supplement usage into three main categories: frequent, occasional and sporadic.
Frequent usage refers to those supplements that are taken on a daily basis in order to complement nutritional needs that are lacking from the diet. Ideally, consumers prefer 'daily' supplements to be sourced from whole foods sources.
These supplements are considered mainstays are taken daily and year-round as a preventative, said the group.
Occasionally used supplements are those that are used to boost or alleviate a chronic condition or as a substitute for a prescription drug.
"Typically these supplements are taken from a few days to a week or until the bottle is finished. This demonstrates the core consumer's proactive approach to their health," said Hartman.
Supplements that are sporadically used are those taken to alleviate an immediate health condition, or those that are tried for the first time.
They are typically not taken in the long-term because consumers are unsure about their long-term use or possible side-effects.
Healthy mind and body
According to the report, consumers place a lot of emphasis on the balance between a healthy mind and body.
Linked into this is the increasing search for natural methods to reduce low energy, sleep disturbances and anxiety.
"Getting enough sleep, having sustained energy throughout the day and managing emotional ups and downs requires being present and truly paying attention to what their body and soul needs from day to day. When one element is out of balance, such as sleep or feeling blue, the whole person eventually needs tuning," said the report.
"The core consumer looks to whole foods and the latest vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements in their quest for balancing mood, energy and sleep."