Two ends of market—highly committed and casual consumers—overrepresented in supplement sales, research indicates

By Hank Schultz contact

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Two ends of market—highly committed and casual consumers—overrepresented in supplement sales, research indicates

Related tags: Nutrition, Medicine

Two ends of the supplement marketplace—one highly committed and the other far less so—have an outsized role in driving the continued growth of dietary supplements.  And for these and the other segments of consumers, health care practitioners are still the most trusted source of information about the products, according to recent research.

A session at the recently concluded annual conference of the Council for Responsible Nutrition focused on the latest market metrics.  Maryellen Molyneuax, president of the Natural Marketing Institute, presented her company’s latest research on the segmentation of the supplement marketplace.  Her big takeaway is that the most committed segment of the market, which NMI dubs “Well Beings,” and a far less committed segment, labeled as “Fence Sitters” were over-represented when it came to sales numbers in a number of channels.

Different motivations for different segments

NMI segmentation approach divides the market up into five different psychographic profiles. In addition to the above two categories, each with their own special characteristics. Well Beings, which represent 19% of the market, are the major influencers and also exhibit the highest organic usage.  Fence Sitters, which represent 20% of the market, are a distracted segment, one in which consumers are most likely to have children and who are prone to going on ephemeral health kicks.

In addition to those two categories, the company delineates three others: “Food Actives,” represent 18% of the market and are into mainstream health and are the most price sensitive of all the segments.  “Magic Bullets,” 23% of the market, are an older demographic that holds convenience and value dear. Finally, the “Eat Drink and be Merrys” segment, representing 20% of the market, is the least health active and purchased the fewest supplements.  This is a younger demographic that is not very interested in prevention, Molyneaux said.

Health consciousness growing

NMI has been working with this  segmentation model for a number of years and has found that the market is shifting toward more health consciousness.  Comparing the most recent results with the company’s 2011 research shows that consumers are slowly shifting up the scale;  the highest end of the market has swelled from 17% to 19% in the intervening years, and Food Actives, the second most committed group, grew from 15% to 18%.  In contrast, the youngest, least committed segment dropped from 25% of the market to 20%.

Different motivations drive the different segments, Molyneaux said. “Well Beings are driven by quality and they know a lot about ingredients.  They are very brand loyal and they are willing to pay for quality,”​ she said.  “Fence sitters, on the other hand, usually have no clear long term health goals.  They are the most likely to take single-ingredient type products, whether its vitamins, flax seeds or acai.” ​ These two segments were over-represented when looking at various segments, including sports nutrition products.

Getting the message across

In other research presented during the session, health care practitioners (which includes physicians, naturopaths and physicians’ assistants) were seen as the key influencers of consumer behavior when it comes to where consumers look for credible information about dietary supplements and the margin isn’t even close.  In a study conducted by research firm Encurity Research, 42% of respondents listed health care practitioners as the most trusted source of vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) information.  This was more than three times the measure for the next most trusted source, outpacing family and friends, pharmacists and websites.

More than 80% of physicians recommend VMS to their patients, according to the research.  The study found that that information flow goes in both ways, too, with 63% of physicians saying that patients are influential to their VMS recommendations.

Getting credible VMS information into practitioners’ hands is key to continuing the market’s upward momentum, the research said. The overall VMS market in the US is forecast to rise from $10.9 billion in 2013 to $13.9 billion in 2018.

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