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Fulfilling the Supplement Experience

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The dietary supplement industry is experiencing significant growth and is expected to reach beyond $65 billion by 2024 [Nutrition Business Journal, (NBJ)], according to Claire Morton Reynolds, Senior Industry Analyst at NBJ. Between 2020 and 2021, the industry added over $8 billion in sales over what was projected before COVID-19, driven by new consumers entering the market because of increased health awareness, and increased use from regular users.

NBJ’s conservative estimate is that by 2024 there is a long-term potential for the dietary supplement industry to be permanently boosted by $1.8 billion if the growing customer base can be sustained.

The challenge is how to keep consumers interested in maintaining their health through dietary supplementation, while simultaneously attracting new users.

One word captures the essence of future success: Experience​.

Providing the type of experience that keeps consumers eager-to-try-and-buy can be accomplished, by in large, through alternatives to tablet and capsule delivery formats.

The shift has already begun and it appears seismic. “While 2020 was the record year for pretty much everything else, 2019 was actually the headline-making year when it came to delivery format,” stated Reynolds. “By NBJ’s tracking, 2019 was the first year that sales of non-pill format supplements eclipsed sales of pill format supplements, and we only expect to see that gap widen.”

In 2013, non-pill sales amounted to 37% of the supplement pie, 63% of sales were traditional capsules, tablets and softgels. From 2013-2021, non-pill formats grew at a substantial pace. When actual sales data is available for 2021, we expect sales will shift dramatically to where non-pill sales begin to dominate, with 56% of the share. When broken down into delivery forms, capsules and tablets racked up 23%, constituting the largest share.

“This shift is really a visual representation of a sea change in consumer demand for alternative delivery formats, and how that has played out with what is available in the market,” Reynolds commented.

The top five delivery format growth categories in 2021 were shots, pill packs, gummies, veggie caps and effervescents. And there are new entrants gaining attention, such as chocolate squares and fast-melt stick packs.

New NBJ consumer research bears out the fact that consumers are seeking a more experiential encounter with their supplements. In January 2022, NBJ surveyed approximately 1,000 U.S. consumers and found that the rising popularity of gummies remain dominant as a preferred selection over capsules and tablets.

Respondents asserted that gummies are their preferred format but tend to take tablets. In fact, according to the survey, there is a huge gap between what consumers say they take (tablets) versus what they prefer (gummies).

“From a consumer-demand perspective, gummies are clearly the most preferred format but based on efficacy, innovation and subsequent availability, we still see capsules and tablets winning out in the format actually being purchased and taken,” emphasized Reynolds.

The next question yielded four pillars of experience for pill alternatives. “When we asked consumers why a particular format was their favorite, we saw a consistent theme of experience,” related Reynolds.

The four pillars of experience are:

  • Good taste
  • Easy to take/use
  • Easy to swallow
  • Convenience

The expectation of and/or desire for ‘a good experience’ is at the center of the consumers’ purchasing decisions and is on par with their desires and expectations for ‘quality of research’ and sustainability.

Catalent Leads the Consumer Migration to Experiential Formats

“A brand’s dose form choices can bring the consumer experience alive,” said Patrick Vesay, Associate Director, Global Marketing for Catalent’s Consumer Health business. “Consumers are migrating from traditional forms, such as capsules and tablets, to more experiential forms.”

Pre-COVID-19, growth of tablets and capsules stood at 2% year-on-year but slowed to only 0.6% post-COVID-19. It is expected that the more premium and experiential softgel format will have fared much better, with post-COVID-19 growth forecast to be almost 3%. 

It is anticipated that experiential forms that grew at about 17% pre-COVID-19 will see over 6% growth post-COVID-19. “This is clearly where the most growth in market is going to come from,” observed Vesay.

When it comes to the consumer experience itself, Catalent’s technology portfolio has enabled improved consumer experiences for more than 85 years.

Chewable technologies can provide a range of innovative, memorable textures, flavors and materials to satisfy a diverse range of consumer palates. And there are many opportunities to continue innovating in the chewables sector.

Of the chewable choices, four unique and distinct types stand out:

  • Gelatin-based gummies​, which allow for customizable flavor profiles and taste-masking
  • Plant-based gummies​, which, being made from pectin, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans
  • Soft chews​ (reminiscent of softer confectionary products like caramels or fruit chews), which are suitable for temperature-sensitive ingredients and high ingredient dose-loading
  • EasyBurst®​ chewable softgels​, which have a chewable shell surrounding a flavorful liquid center.

Lozenge technologies provide a premium appeal by giving consumers a lasting experience for the consumer. A natural-flavored lozenge offers a slow, sustained experience; consuming a lozenge for dietary supplementation is also relatively new territory for supplements (many consumers think of menthol OTC lozenges without considering their potential as supplements).

Fast-dissolve technologies are crafted as an alternative to swallowing pills. Catalent’s fast-dissolve delivery technologies range includes Zydis®​ technology, the world’s fastest dissolving tablet, which can dissolve in as little as under three seconds.

Softgels have become one of the most recognizable and preferred delivery formats across the consumer health segment, offering a premium, easier-to-swallow, experience. Part of that experience is visual – softgels may be made in a wide range of colors and opacities, providing a touch of beauty, which enhances the premium appeal.

When seeking a new, truly unique product that provides the four pillars of experience, Catalent’s comprehensive product library is a great starting point for your product journey. By beginning with Catalent’s library you can reduce your development timeline by up to 12 months, while also dramatically reducing development costs. “Once we’ve done the heavy lifting, there’s only a little work required to launch; this process can be an average of 3 months to launch, or perhaps even faster,” Vesay explained.

Catalent is a forward-thinking company and a leading development partner for innovative supplements that consumers will find highly appealing.

Reynolds emphasized the benefits of focusing on innovation through the careful choice of delivery formats should be a top consideration, and a key component of the product development process. “The preference for alternative delivery formats is clearly not a fad. It is the future of sales in the market.”

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