Baby boomers want the supplements pharma giants are making

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The older generation is leading the consumption of nutritional
supplements in the US and the aging baby boomers are the population
to invest in, according to a new report, that also shows the
supplement industry is now firmly in the hands of pharma giants.

Fifty-six percent of US adults take supplements and those aged 65-74 years old are 30 percent more likely than the average American to use vitamins, says research released this week by Packaged Facts, a publishing division of

"The top indicator for use of vitamins is age,"​ said the report, adding that this above-average use of supplements by the elderly sharpens among customers who use vitamins once or more a day.

This means that adults aged 75 or over are 53 percent more likely to use vitamins once a day, followed by those aged 65-74 and 55-64. This latter group showed the highest propensity (72 percent higher) to take supplements more than once in 24 hours.

It is also this group - and those who are slightly younger - who are seen as the great hope of the supplements industry, "with their relative affluence and strong interest in preventative health measures"​.

Packaged Facts therefore expects age-related specific products, such as those directed at joint, bone, eye and brain health, to continue to proliferate in the coming years.

Condition-specific products are already attracting a larger following than they have in the past. They have increased their share of nutritional supplement sales by 1.2 percent in the last four years, according to the report, and increased their actual sales during the same period by 56 percent. Within this group, eye-products have led the pack with an increase of 187 percent in terms of five year growth rates.

This is all the more impressive considering that overall mass-market sales of dietary supplement have declined by nearly 7 percent.

Packaged Facts estimates that the majority of these sales have been made in supermarkets, which can now claim a 34 percent share of the market, followed by mass merchandisers and health/natural food stores with a 25 percent and 20 percent share respectively. This shows a shift away from health/natural food outlets, which used to be a prime seller of supplements, leaving the all-encompassing giant Wal-Mart to make the biggest gains. It has upped its share of the market by around 5 percent.

Moreover, private labels are gathering steam and now account for approximately one-third of mass-market sales. And, as more supplements begin to be sold in the big name stores, such as Wal-Mart, four giants are dominating production, with NBTY holding out as the only supplement specialist. The other three, namely Wyeth, Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Bayer, are all pharma kings.

The report believes this trend is set to continue as stricter US legislation makes it more difficult for smaller companies to develop. The way forward for these firms, it seems, is to concentrate their efforts on being a leader in a niche market by developing tightly targeted products.

Packaged Facts, however, forecasts some slightly tricky years ahead for all supplement manufacturers as they try to win back consumer confidence in their products after a spate of negative media reports. The market posted a lackluster compound annual growth rate of 1.8 percent n the past five years.

The report though believes that sales will pick up if companies opt for concerted marketing campaigns based around 'safe' patented ingredients, and estimate that retail sales of nutritional supplements will peak at an increase of 6 percent in 2007 to reach a "still respectable"​ increase of 5 percent in 2009.

Related topics: Markets

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