ABC Market Report: Dietary supplement sales fell for the first time in 20 years

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

"Although total sales of herbal supplements increased sharply in 2020 and 2021, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, sales in 2022 decreased for the first time since 2003." © Giselleflissak / Getty Images
"Although total sales of herbal supplements increased sharply in 2020 and 2021, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, sales in 2022 decreased for the first time since 2003." © Giselleflissak / Getty Images

Related tags Abc Herbalism Dietary supplements

Supplement sales jumped in 2020 and 2021 as consumers became hyper-aware of immunity and overall well-being amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, sales in 2022 decreased for the first time since 2003 as the market readjusted.

The American Botanical Council (ABC) recently released its Spring 2024 annual Herb Market Report​, which looked at U.S. sales of herbal supplements in 2022. The report noted a 1.9% drop in sales. Although this was the first sales decrease in nearly 20 years, the report said that U.S. consumers continue to prioritize supplements for digestive health, energy levels and ‘foundational’ wellness. Market research firm SPINS and natural products industry publication NBJ provided the U.S. retail sales figures for the report.

Herbal dietary supplements in the United States totaled an estimated $12.1 billion in 2022, a slight decrease from 2021. Consumers spent $229 million, or 1.9%, less on these products in 2022 than in the previous year. The last decline was in 2002 and 2003, when annual sales decreased by 2.8% and 2.3%, respectively, but sales have increased steadily since then. Even with this decrease, 2022 is the third consecutive year that herbal supplements exceeded $10 billion.

Notable increases

Move over elderberry

Elderberry was the top-selling herbal supplement ingredient in U.S. retail outlets in 2020 and 2021, however psyllium took the top spot in 2022, with consumers spending $269,602,688 on psyllium supplements (a 9.8% increase in sales from the previous year). Psyllium seeds and seed husks contain high amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them the primary plant materials used in commercial products. As a prebiotic, psyllium also promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract. Used in traditional Chinese, Ayurveda and Persian medicine for blood pressure regulation, constipation, diarrhea and dermatological issues. In 2022, about 69% of all psyllium-containing supplements were labeled to support cardiovascular health.

Spirulina

Spirulina supplements experienced the highest sales growth in 2022 among the top-selling ingredients in the mainstream channel, with sales doubling from the previous year. Sales of spirulina totaled $9,442,813 in 2022, making it the 35th top-selling supplement in this channel. This is the first time spirulina has appeared on the top 40 mainstream list in at least 10 years. Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria, belonging to the taxonomic phylum Cyanobacteria. It is not classified as algae, despite being commonly referred to as "blue-green algae." It is known for its spiral shape and is found in alkaline, mineral-rich lakes.

Although people in Mexico, Central America, and parts of Africa have used spirulina for centuries, it only gained popularity as a dietary supplement ingredient in the United States in the late 1970s. The spirulina species most commonly used in dietary supplements are A. platensis​ and A. maxima​, which are rich in protein and contain various nutrients. It also contains compounds with potential health benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and has been studied for its potential effects on conditions like Alzheimer's disease, ADHD, COVID-19 and male infertility, among others. Systematic reviews have reported positive effects of spirulina on cardiovascular health and glycemic control in people with diabetes. However, its effects on sports performance have shown mixed results. Overall, spirulina continues to be a popular and versatile dietary supplement ingredient with a wide range of potential health benefits. Despite spirulina’s potential benefits for a variety of conditions, about 58% of spirulina supplements sold in mainstream retail outlets in 2022 were marketed for a non-specific health focus.

Notable decreases

ACV

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) sales increased by almost 100% in 2020 and more than doubled in 2021. According to the report, the increase could be attributed to the pandemic's influence on healthier lifestyle choices, increased visibility on social media platforms like TikTok and celebrity endorsements. However, in 2022, ACV sales decreased by 45% in the natural channel, but total sales remained 22.9% higher. New ACV products include an energy supplement from Bragg Live Food Products. ACV sales declined in energy support, immune health, cleanse and detox categories, but remained a top health trend on TikTok.

Chlorophyll/chlorella

Sales of chlorophyll/chlorella in the natural channel declined by 20% in 2022, despite an overall increase in algae supplement sales. However, sales numbers were still higher than in 2019, suggesting a potential return to pre-pandemic levels. Influencers on TikTok and Instagram played a role in promoting "chlorophyll water" for detoxification and energy support. Human trials on chlorella showed no significant effects on glycemic control or lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes, but some positive results were observed in post-exercise fatigue and cholesterol levels. According to the report, further research is needed to confirm the health benefits of chlorophyll and chlorella supplementation.

Single and combination herbs

In 2022, sales of single-herb supplements and combination herbal products both decreased—by 2.3% and 1.3%, respectively. Single-herb supplements accounted for 51.4% of sales, while combination herb sales accounted for 48.6%. The sales gap between single-herb and combination products has narrowed since 2010 as marketers offer more combination products. Combination formulas contain multiple herbs to support general health functions, while single-herb products tend to have more specific uses.

Key takeaways

Total U.S. sales of herbal supplements during the first three years of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced both the highest sales growth and the only sales decline in nearly 20 years. The decrease in sales in 2022 reflects a return to typical consumer spending on herbal supplements as the pandemic subsided. Although sales decreased, numbers still reached over $2.5 billion higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Categories of herbal supplements that initially saw a surge in sales, such as elderberry and viral TikTok products like apple cider vinegar and chlorophyll/chlorella supplements, experienced declines in 2022. However, traditional Ayurvedic ingredients, mushrooms and ingredients marketed for energy and sports performance continued to see sales increase. The report noted that social media is expected to continue to drive specific herbal supplement growth.

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