Package label language most important way consumers learn about brands, survey shows

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images
New consumer research shows that brand loyalty is a key element in success in the dietary supplement industry. And much of what consumers associate with brands has to do with packaging.

Proprietary research done by Aker BioMarine has delved into how consumers think about dietary supplements. The extensive research is part of the trend of ingredient suppliers finding ways to help their consumers communicate with end users. 

Aker BioMarine is the world’s largest supplier of krill oil supplements. The brand at first gained a high profile via its association with the Schiff Nutrition MegaRed brand that did extensive mass market advertising in the US, a huge investment that has been given credit for helping to make krill oil a recognizable name among omega-3s choices.

Egil Nilsen, Aker’s vice president of market insights, gave NutraIngredients-USA a peek into the extensive survey, whose results run on to more than 100 slides.

“This is a continuation of surveys we’ve done in the past six or seven years,” ​Nilsen said. “We’ve done four surveys in the US, three in Australia and five or six in Europe.”

Nilsen said the most recent US survey had some surprising results. One insight might speak to the power (or lack thereof) of the mainstream press. Even after all of the reportage about dietary supplement research, especially the almost gleeful reporting of null studies with headlines like “supplements don’t work,” it is still what people hold in their hand at the point of sale that matters the most.

Packaging info most important

“One of the questions was what is the most important source of information that you use to decide for yourself on what kind of supplements to use. They found the biggest answer was product packaging. That was a little surprising to us,”​ Nilsen said.

The MegaRed campaign back in the day was lauded for its clarity and the powerful way it connected with consumers. “Small. Red. Powerful.” was one of the slogans. It clearly delineated its value message vs regular fish oil delivery forms, which at the time often were two large pills (or more) per serving. It made MegaRed the biggest selling single brand in the omega-3s industry at the time, though it’s fair to note that the sector was and still is made up of many, many SKUs, none of which have a commanding position.

But it also speaks to one of the challenges of the industry, that being that consumers are stuck in individual little silos, each set interacting with the brands they like. Overall messages have less traction, though they can be effective, as was shown in the “Always Omega 3” national ad campaign undertaken by the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s a few years ago.

“The high level observation of this most recent survey is that it is a much more fragmented market that what people were previously thinking of,” ​Nilsen said.

Acquiring brand loyalty

So, while statements about the ‘average supplement user’ certainly have some validity for brands to have success, they’ll have to delve into why consumers like (or don’t) their particular product. But once they can make that connection the good news is they may very well be able to keep it.

“We found that people look first at the Supplement Facts box. And claims are high up there, too,” ​he said. “We also saw from the survey that it matters how exactly you word the claim; some wordings work better than others.”

“We saw about 50% of the respondents are buying the same product over and over and very seldom look for a replacement products,” ​Nilsen said.

Aker’s research found that more than half of supplement users (54%) chose supplements for reasons of general health support. The other reasons were heart health (14%) and joint health (12%). Surprisingly, skin health was the next biggest health reason for supplement purchase (7%), followed by sport/recovery (4%), cognitive support (4%), with all other reasons falling into the ‘other’ category (5%).

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