To read Part 1 of our predictions, please click HERE.
It has been years since the dietary supplement industry has seen anything remotely like the kind of ferment brought on by the enthusiasm for CBD. The new year has seen two large markets—California and Canada—open up for this ingredient. The move announced recently by US attorney general Jeff Sessions to potentially reinvigorate federal level marijuana enforcement in those states where it has been legalized seems to have had no chilling effect whatsoever. It was like putting a penny on the tracks in front of an onrushing locomotive. If recent experience is any guide by this time next year there will be 20 new products and companies to talk about in this space. Look for more mainstream players like Neptune get involved on the extraction and formulation side.
Along those lines look too for more combination products such as CBD paired with krill oil or fish oil. And also look for trade associations—led by but not limited to the Hemp Industries Association—to join together to put pressure on Congress and/or FDA to give this cannabis derivative a more solid regulatory underpinning. At the moment CBD players are hanging their hats on hemp’s positioning as a legitimate source of food ingredients, but this seems tenuous to say the least in the face of regulatory pushback from FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The industry is embracing transparency from multiple angles, including company-specific initiatives from long-term industry players like Gaia Herb’s Meet Your Herbs and MegaFood’s Big T Transparency to recent entrants putting transparency at the center of their marketing like Ritual and Amazon Elements. And with the wider industry initiatives like the Supplement OWL, Good Agricultural Practices, SSCI, GRMA, and the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program, transparency will only become more prominent.
9. The quantified self: Personalization and customization
The future is personal, but the revolution is already taking place around us. Personalized nutrition is breaking down the silos and bringing together experts in genetics and genomic profiling, microbiology, nutrition and diet, mobile technology, big data, healthcare and more. There are an increasing number of companies in this space, with some already strong in the marketplace, like InsideTracker which measures nutrient status in the blood to make science-based recommendations about nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle (and they just expanded into DNA), while DayTwo is taking a microbiome approach to dietary recommendations for blood sugar management. Big Food is watching the category carefully and the Campbell Soup Company was one of the first movers with its investment in Habit. After launching in the Bay area the company recently announced it was rolling out nationwide.
There is also the customization side of this, with new companies springing up offering to create customized supplements based on results of tests like 23andMe or from questionnaires of personal preferences or goals. One of the most innovative to watch is MIT-spin out Multiply Labs, which is bringing 3D printing to dietary supplements.
10. The Amazon effect
Amazon sent shockwaves through the food industry with its acquisition of Whole Foods last year. As one industry insider recently told me, “If someone says they weren’t surprised by Amazon buying Whole Foods then they’re lying. Nobody saw that coming.” A company that was once e-commerce only now has a considerable brick-and-mortar presence, while traditional brick-and-mortar giants like Walmart are increasingly beefing up their e-commerce presence.
In the supplement space, online sales continue to rise, while specialty stores like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe have not had the easiest of times over the past few years. Both appointed new CEOs during the past 6 months after disappointing results. Another specialty store, Vitamin World, declared bankruptcy and was just acquired by Fiehe International, a Chinese dairy and infant formula specialist. But it’s not all doom and gloom on the high street and in strip malls, as local independent retailers like Mustard Seed Market and Natural Grocers continue to grow.
Seismic shifts in the retail space are underway, and there will undoubtedly be more surprises on the horizon in 2018.
11. The food-supplement interface: A continued blurring of the lines
Some purveyors of pills believe that the majority of supplement consumers will continue to want to consume their favorite products and ingredients in this format. But this is looking increasingly like a case of whistling past the graveyard. Foods offering functional benefits, and functional foods built around specific ingredients, are the waves of the future, particularly for younger consumers. Probiotic beverages, high protein products of all sorts, adaptogens in nutrition bars, antioxidant claims on breakfast cereals—examples can be found anywhere you look.
But pills will always have their place. For one thing, the specific benefits are easier to understand and it’s easier to link the evidence showing a benefit with a particular product and dosage. But for suppliers of bioactive ingredients, the more robust growth will come from the food side of the coin.
With the announcement that Senator Orrin Hatch will not stand for re-election, the industry loses the last of its great Congressional champions. The Dietary Supplement Caucus continues to boast a strong membership, but without Hatch there are sure to be some in the industry casting nervous glances towards the Hill. Throw into the mix potential seismic shifts in the political landscape at this year’s mid-terms (who knows which way any of this could go?), and we could be looking at a very different picture by the end of the year. One thing that many observers have noted, though, is that in this tumultuous era, as broad a base of support as possible is what’s called for. The era of placing all your bets on a small cadre of heavy hitters appears to be over.
To read Part 1: The microbiome, adaptogens, nootropics & more, please click HERE.
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