“The decline in Heavy Usage is one of the big stories,” said Dr Kurt Jetta, CEO and Founder of the TABS Analytics. “Heavy buyers accounted for a peak of 39-40% of buyers in 2011-12. They are now at only 30%.”
Much of this is rooted in a drop in women consumers, he said, with the number of heavy female users down to 32%, compared with 45% in 2012.
“It is noteworthy that they are leaving and the departure seems isolated to the mass market,” he said. “That lines up with data from Nielsen.”
The annual study found that category penetration increased year-on-year from 75% to 76%. Category penetration is a proxy for purchasing the product and/or category at least once. But the growth was entirely in light buyers (those who purchased 1-2 products occasionally or regularly). Heavy users are defined as those who purchase more than three products in a year.
Dr Jetta will present the study’s full findings this week (May 25) during the 9th Annual Vitamin & Mineral Supplements Study Webinar. The online event is free to attend. For more information and to register, please click HERE.
Echoing what has been reported in other studies, probiotics was one of the few categories to experience significant growth across key regions. In the US, where the TABS Analytics study focuses, 13% of consumers are buying probiotic products in 2016, compared to about 10% in 2014 and 6% in 2013.
Other categories that increased in penetration included: Joint relief, which was traced the success of the UC-II ingredient, said Dr Jetta; Co-Q10, traced to the successful advertising of the Qunol brand; and Women’s Herb, which is likely from Estroven line extensions, he said.
On the other hand, declines were seen in adult multivitamins, with negative media having reduced penetration 14% since 2014, he said, and vitamin E, which “continues a long slide towards oblivion”, said Dr Jetta.
The US vitamin and mineral market is valued at $12.8 billion by TABS Analytics, representing a growth of 3% from last year. This is significantly smaller than estimates from other data houses, notably the Nutrition Business Journal, which puts the segment at $39 billion. While NBJ has a wider definition (including sports nutrition and weight management products, which are omitted from the TABS Analytics study), the like-for-like numbers only agree in the Food + Drug + Mass + Club + Dollar and e-commerce channels, which were valued at $9.6 billion by TABS in 2015 and $9.0 billion by NBJ in 2014.
The major difference comes in the specialty and natural channel, which included retailers such as GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Natural Grocers/ Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods and Sprouts, which have vitamin and mineral sales valued at $2.2 billion by TABS, compared with over $13 billion for NBJ. (For more information and a debate between TABS Group & NBJ on last year's numbers, please click the 'Related News' links at the end of this article). Sales from multi-level marketers are then on-top of these numbers.
“The numbers are important,” said Dr Jetta. “Over-estimating the size of the market can lead to over-capacity. A smaller number also means there is a less of a bull’s eye on the industry.”
What’s the outlook going forward? “I always said that the supplement category is money in the bank, but I’m not so sure anymore,” said Dr Jetta. “The demographics are lined up, with the aging population, but I wonder if consolidation to the big manufacturers has started to squeeze innovation out of the category. We’re certainly not seeing innovation like when the industry was more fragmented.”