U.S. supplement use remains strong, CRN survey says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplement

More that two thirds of American adults use nutritional or dietary supplements, a recently-released, annual survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition reports.  This proportion has remained more less constant since 2009, the survey said.The 68% figure in the 2012 survey compares to 69% in 2011, 66% in 2010 and 65% in 2009.

"From a publicity-generating standpoint, it would be interesting to see huge swings; but from a healthy industry perspective, it's encouraging that two-thirds of adult consumers in this country continue to identify themselves as supplement customers, year after year,"​ said Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications for CRN.

The 2012 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, which gathered its information online, broke down the number of supplement users who self-identified as “regular” users—76%—as opposed to “occasional” or “seasonal” users,  18% and 6% respectively. Those numbers have shown a slight increase over the years.  In the 2009 survey, 74% of supplement users classified themselves as “regular.”

Multivitamins lead the pack, or do they?

The survey also asked users what types of supplements they were taking.  Multivitamins, the old standby, continue to lead the pack, with 52% of all adults reporting having used these products in the last twelve months.  Usage in the 35-54 age demographic was especially strong,  with 54% reporting usage. That was a signifcant increase from 2011, when 49% of respondents in that age bracket said they took a multivitamin.

Those results contradict to some degree the results of a recent market survey​ conducted by research firm Packaged Facts that indicated multivitamin sales had declined in the last year.  The way these products are classified might help reconcile these apparently opposite indications.  The term “multivitamin” can be applied to many products, and differentiation within the category could lead to products being classified differently.  A multivitamin with an efficacious dose of lycopene, and marketed as supporting prostate health, could categorized as a men’s health product, for example.

Following multivitamins, the other products in the top five were omega-3s/fish oil, at 21%, vitamin D at 20%, vitamin C at 19% and calcium at 17%.

"While the multivitamin remains incredibly popular with a majority of Americans, consumer usage is not limited to the multi, or even just to vitamins,"​ Blatman said. "Thirty-three percent report taking specialty supplements, 16 percent take sports nutrition supplements, and 18 percent take herbals/botanicals."

Older respondents report greater usage

Supplement usage increases with age, the survey showed. In the 18-34 age bracket, 57% said they are regular supplement users.  In the 53-54 age group,  71% said they are regular users, and that number rises to 76% for the 55-plus bracket.

The confidence of consumers in supplements also remained relatively constant, with 85% of respondents indicating that they are confident in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements.  That compares to 84% saying the same thing in 2009.

The survey was conducted in late August by Ipsos Public Affairs.  The online survey  tallied responses from 2,006 U.S. residents ages 18 and over.  The survey was weighted using U.S. Census data to ensure that the sample reflects the U.S. adult population.  According to CRN, a survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.

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