Total dietary supplement sales (including vitamins, minerals, herbals, etc) for the 52 weeks ending November 1, 2015 were over $13 billion, compared to $12.5 billion for the 52 weeks ending November 2, 2014. Both of these were up on 2013 values (see figure 1 below).
Total herbal supplement sales were $1.1 billion for the 52 weeks ending Nov 1, 2015, with herbal formulas accounting for $797 million of that and single herb supplements worth $283 million. Corresponding values for the 52 weeks ending November 2, 2014 were $928 million for total herbal supplements, $645 million for herbal formulas and $282.5 million for single herb supplements (see figure 2 below).
Data from SPINSscan Natural (proprietary) and SPINSscan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI) captures natural supermarkets (excluding Whole Foods), specialty supermarkets, and conventional multi outlets, including Walmart. The SPINS channels also exclude Vitamin Shoppe & GNC, as well as internet sales and MLMs. Despite these exclusions, they still cover a significant portion of the industry and can be a good bellwether for national dietary supplement sales.
The sales data shows no overall ill signs of an impact from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s actions against herbal supplements. AG Schneiderman publicly launched his investigation on February 2 with cease and desist letters to four major retailers after DNA barcoding tests found 79% of the products tested did not contain the labeled substance or contained other non-listed ingredients.
Those initial tests focused on Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Valerian, garlic, Echinacea, saw palmetto, and St John’s wort from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Data from SPINS shows that, while sales of these specific herbal supplements were down in 2014 compared to 2013, they have grown in 2015 (or the 52 weeks ending November 1, 2015).
Four of the herbs experienced double-digit year-on-year growth for the 52 weeks ending November 1, 2015 compared to the 52 weeks ending November 2, 2014 (Ginkgo biloba, St John’s wort, Valerian and Saw Palmetto), while ginseng had year-on-year growth of about 8%. Only sales of Echinacea stayed relatively stable, although this herb did not experience a drop in sales across the various channels in 2014 (See figure 3).
Commenting on the new data, Dr Daniel Fabricant, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association, said: “The data shows that there really wasn’t a major impact, if any at all, of the NY AG’s actions. Herbal supplement users are usually long-term users and they have a ‘why’ for their use, so it gives me hope that consumers understood that the AG’s actions were just politicking.
“It makes sense that there wasn’t much of an impact. People have big crunches on their time and with healthcare costs they are looking to see what they can do on a daily basis and supplements are a part of that.”