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Bellwether Survey of Vitamin & Supplements Industry Conclusions

Written by TABS Analytics | June, 19 2014



SHELTON, CT – After four years of high single-digit annual sales growth, the $11.4 billion vitamin and supplements industry is throttling back, only growing by 4-percent last year, according to TABS Group. The firm has been tracking industry trends for the past seven years through its annual study, which has become the bellwether index for the category. While terming the growth lethargic, TABS pointed to several important trends in this year’s report, namely that men were outdistancing women as the main buyers of product, while most retail chains stopped increasing floor space for vitamins and supplements.

Online is tied with Walmart for first place in the category and continues to be the growth story. Importantly, this is the first year in which online sales growth has been driven by marginal category users, many of whom purchase via the Internet. Pure play online retailers (without brick and mortar connections) continue to garner two-thirds of online’s $1.7 billion in vitamin sales.

Walgreens showed significant gains in vitamins sales due to a retooling of its promotional strategy, which deemphasized its loyalty program in favor of strong and regular price promotions. In addition, the mass-market, traditional food/drug retailers still continue to command a majority of vitamin buyers, with relatively few purchasers moving to non-traditional vitamin specialty stores. There has been a significant increase in dual-channel purchasing, because of the migration to online sales.

Men are an important sales segment and have driven macro trends in vitamins for the last five years. Males aged 65 and older have a 72 percent penetration rate in the category.

While heavy usage (buying more than three types) seems to be tapering off among women, men are increasing in penetration and buying rates. This is probably because women have maxed out in terms of potential types of vitamin purchases.

The TABS Group Annual Vitamin Study was conducted among 1,000 representative respondents aged 18-75 from April to May. The respondents were geographically and demographically dispersed.

Though the vitamin category has grown marginally, there is a great deal of concern in the industry about the decelerating growth, because vitamins and nutritional supplements are the largest health and beauty category among consumer product goods. Further, TABS Group’s registering of $11.4 billion in sales this year is much lower than the generally predicted $24 - $27 billion.

“The vitamin industry has many problems that still need to be worked out,” said Dr. Kurt Jetta, TABS Group CEO. “It is likely that some retailers refused to increase vitamins space because of the reduction in trade promotion investment from major manufacturers. And with no meaningful innovation on the horizon it did not make sense to carve out more space.”

The TABS Group study cites a number of negative factors suppressing vitamin sales: a lack of space and expansion for vitamins at most major retailers, a reduction in quality and frequency of promotions, the absence of a major innovation such as gummy vitamins’ popularity a few years ago, and consumers moving to buy vitamins online where sales are much more sensitive to promotions.

“However, we remain positive about the vitamin category, long-term, because it is aligned with the trends of aging baby boomers who are becoming more reliant on self-care options for their health. Also, a larger investment in price promotions can have an immediate and meaningful effect on sales and profits,” said Jetta. “We will never underestimate the ability of manufacturers to develop true innovation in a product or merchandising that will jump start the category for longer-term growth.”

About TABS Group, Inc.
Operating since 1998, TABS Group, based in Shelton, CT, is a technology-enabled analytics firm. Its mission is to simplify and improve the way analytics are conducted in the consumer products industry. Primary services are TABS CatMan Advantage™, an outsourced category management solution, TABS WorldView™, a global business intelligence tool, and TABS Promo Advantage™, a software and consulting service that helps companies measure, plan and optimize trade spending. Please visit