Delivery format key to reaching Gen Y supplement users

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplement

"Gen Y is the highest generation at almost 30% to say they prefer to get supplements in other forms than pills and capsules" - Steve French, NMI
"Gen Y is the highest generation at almost 30% to say they prefer to get supplements in other forms than pills and capsules" - Steve French, NMI
Kids don’t listen to the music their parents did.  When they got their driver’s licenses, they didn’t drive the family Buick, unless there was no choice.  And now that they are a little older, they don’t take supplements the way older generations do, either.

Reaching this Gen-Y demographic is one of the goals of marketers of all stripes of consumer products, including dietary supplements. How to do it?  Steve French, managing partner of the Pennsylvania-based Natural Marketing Institute​ (NMI), said it’s a question of both product and format.  NMI has surveyed almost half a million consumers over the years, so it has a good handle on what’s trending and why, French said. NMI’s data indicates that to reinforce usage patterns among Gen Y (sometimes referred to as Millennials), manufacturers will have to consider new delivery formats.

“When you start talking about the product forms, Gen Y is the highest generation at almost 30% to say they prefer to get supplements in other forms than pills and capsules.

That’s driving the growth of products like chewables and nutritional bars, soft chews and gels themselves. And obviously the single serve shot format for those that recognize that 5 hour Energy product is really a nutritional supplement,”​ French told NutraIngredients-USA.

Drink shots are really popular​,” said Danielle Black a food ingredients merchandiser at The Scoular Company​, based in Minnesota. “Gummis are popular, too, but the problem with gummis is you can only fit in so much of the active ingredient; so much of it needs to be gelatin and sugar.”

Herbals and homeopathic products

There were surprises in French’s data on the product side, too.  Energy supplements are big among Gen-Y, of course, but they are not mentioned most often by the under-35 consumers interviewed by French’s firm.

“By product, I’m talking about supplements products that are not vitamins, not minerals but are herbal supplements and homeopathic products.  We see a significantly higher use among this age group. 

“Usage rate of herbals was about 20% for Gen Y compared to about 9% of matures. Homeopathic products is more than double the use,”​ he said.

New formats launch

One company recently seems to have heard the message. Nature Made, the number one selling broad line dietary supplement brand in the food, drug, club and mass channels, yesterday launched three new product lines featuring new delivery formats: VitaMelts, Full Strength MINIs and Adult Gummies.

Two of these formats, the fast-dissolving VitaMelts and the gummis, appear to fit into the delivery format differentiation scenario outlined above.  Both feature fruit flavors that might serve to remind consumers of favorite candies of their not-so-distant youth.

Companies are finding success in this business of growing new consumers, French said. Gen Y consumers are upping the number of different supplement they take in a day, NMI’s data show, though they still lag behind their elders.

“Since 2009, a Gen Y user has increased the different type of supplements they use in a typical day from 1.8 to 2.8,”​ French said. “Even a Gen X has increased from 2.5 to 3.3. Matures take 3.9, but they remained stable from 2009 to 2011.”

A format switch could be a way to get these consumers to try even more products, French said.

“Let’s say you’re doing a new joint health product,”​ he said. “The average age of new joint health supplement users is likely to be 50 plus, but you want to target a Gen Y weekend warrior. I would think that rather than going out with a pill, going out with a new format, a stick or a shot, would be more advantageous.”

Differing views on safety

In addition to preferring new delivery formats, Gen Y consumers have different views on the supplements themselves, French said.

“Younger consumers are much more likely to feel that herbals are safe.  As age increases the concept of safety goes down.

“33% of Gen Y saying herbals are very safe; only 17% of matures say herbals are safe. 20% of Gen Y say herbals are very effective, compared to only 10% of matures,”​ French said.

Perhaps years of information about supplement safety and efficacy are starting to have an effect with the nation’s health care providers. French said Gen Y consumers are the most likely of all the consumers NMI has surveyed to have received advice about supplements from a health care provider.

“Gen Y is the mostly likely to have asked their pharmacist for advice on supplements, about 1 in 4 (have done so),”​ he said.

“A doctor is most likely to have recommended multivitamins to Gen Y than to any other generation. So there are more forces at work.”


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