2018 HerbalGram Herb Market Report

CBD supplement sales rocket to take top spot in the US natural channel

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Aleksandr_Kravtsov
© Getty Images / Aleksandr_Kravtsov

Related tags: botanicals, Herbal supplements, Cbd, mushrooms, Echinacea, elderberry, adaptogenic herbs, Turmeric

With 332% growth year-on-year and $52 million in sales, cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the top spot as the best-selling herbal supplement in the natural channel, according to the 2018 HerbalGram Herb Market Report by the American Botanical Council.

Despite regulatory uncertainty around CBD in food and dietary supplements, sales of CBD-containing supplements are booming for natural retailers.

“According to SPINS, roughly 60% of the CBD products sold in the US natural channel in 2018 were in the form of alcohol-free tinctures, followed by capsules and softgels,”​ states the Herb Market Report in HerbalGram​ 123​. “The vast majority of the CBD products were marketed for “non-specific health focuses,” with mood support and sleep as the next most-popular uses.”

However, the products do not appear in the top 40 top-sellers in the mass channel (Mainstream Multi-Outlet Channel), perhaps indicative of the more risk-averse approach to the category by mainstream retailers.

CBD’s surge to the top of the pile in the natural channel displaced turmeric, which had held the number one position since 2013. Turmeric supplements still ranked number two in the natural channel, but growth plateaued year-on-year (0.4%), with sales of $51.2 million. Sales in the mass channel grew 30.5% year-on-year with sales of $93.3 million, suggesting greater mainstream awareness and acceptance of that herb.

Mainstream channel

The big performers in the mainstream channel were linked to immune health and weight management, says the report, with the highest year-on-year growth for goji berry (Lycium​ spp.), which reported 637% growth YOY to post sales of $10.4 million (#26 in the top 40 bestselling herbs).

Other big growth herbs tied to immune health and weight management were elderberry (Sambucus nigra​), which reported 138% growth YOY to post sales of $51 million, and barberry (Berberis​ spp.), which entered the top 40 for the first time with 47% growth YOY and sales of $5.1 million.

Also rising up the mainstream sales charts was ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), which posted sales of 7.4 million and 166% YOY growth.

The two top-selling herbal supplements in the mainstream channel were Horehound (Marrubium vulgare​), with $147 million in sales, and Echinacea (Echinacea​ spp.) with $110 million in sales.

Natural channel

Elderberry © Getty Images Hiccupy-Hiccups
Supplements containing elderberry (Sambucus nigra) as the primary functional ingredient increased in both mainstream and natural channels. Image © Getty Images / Hiccupy-Hiccups

Elderberry supplements also posted big growth rates in the natural channel, says the report, with 94% growth and $25 million in sales to take the number three spot on the top-selling list.

The only other herbal supplement with greater than 40% YOY growth in the natural channel was classified as “mushrooms (other)”, with 40.9% growth and $7.8 million in sales. This includes lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus​, Hericiaceae), and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor​, Polyporaceae). Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum​, Ganodermataceae), which is tracked independently by SPINS, posted 29% growth and $3.1 million in sales.

Commenting on the data, Tyler Smith, managing editor of HerbalGram and lead author of the report, said: “CBD and mushroom products dominated the 2018 herbal supplement scene, and sales growth remained strong for Ayurvedic herbs and adaptogens.

“There were also a few surprises in the data — sales of goji berry, for example, which had declined sharply in recent years, experienced a significant rebound in 2018. We hope the consumer trends and sales data discussed in the report will be of use and interest to a range of stakeholders, from natural products companies to health-conscious consumers, and others.”

Total sales

Total retail sales of herbal supplements increased in the mainstream and natural channels to $1.6 billion and $2.8 billion, respectively, in 2018, representing growth of 7.6% and 6.9%, respectively. Sales in the direct to consumer channel also grew to $4.5 billion, up 11.8% on 2017.

“Increasingly, US consumers are gravitating toward plant-based products that they perceive as safe, natural, and effective options to help maintain health and wellness. Perhaps not surprisingly, herbal supplements experienced stronger percent sales growth than the dietary supplements category as a whole in 2018,”​ states the report.

“Given that 2018 experienced the strongest overall sales growth in two decades, and the natural products industry’s ongoing focus on increased transparency and self-regulation efforts, consumer trust in herb- and fungi-based products appears to remain strong.”

Mark Blumenthal, ABC founder and executive director, and editor-in-chief of HerbalGram, commented: “This report strongly supports the continually rising consumer preference for natural, plant-based dietary supplements that can have a positive impact on their health.

“For over 20 years we have been publishing information on the steady growth of the market for herbal dietary supplements in the United States; the market sales results demonstrate the confidence that consumers appear to have in herbal dietary supplements.”

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