TABS Analytics Blog

Vitamin & Supplement Category Buyers Shift To Lighter USAge | TABS Analytics

TABS Group‘s Eighth Annual Vitamin and Sports Nutrition Study uncovered some interesting shifts in consumer buying patterns. From the products bought to the channels chosen, nearly every metric has shown some change from a year ago. Here are a few of the highlights from the Vitamin (VMS) portion of the study that was presented in a webinar in May 2015. You can download the corresponding report at the bottom of this post. 

Mass Market Gains Share

Online purchasing is still the most common channel, with sales of $1.9 Billion, but online’s share of the market fell slightly for the first time in the survey’s history. Consumers choose Amazon for 36 percent of their online shopping occasions. Food, drug, mass marketer, club and dollar stores grew as more light users turned to them to fill their needs. The biggest gainers in this category were Wal-Mart, Costco and Rite-Aid. Specialty outlets dropped slightly, from 10 percent in 2014 to 8 percent.

Formerly Heavy Users Move to Light Usage

One of the most interesting observations is the shift of formerly heavy vitamin users to lighter usage. Buyers who purchase 1 or 2 types of products regularly increased from 22 percent to 26 percent, while heavier users (3 to 5 types) fell from 18 percent to 16 percent, and the heaviest users (6 or more) went from 10 percent to 8 percent. As a result, the overall category penetration fell from 75 percent a year ago to 74 percent in 2015. In fact, the slight drop in category penetration is coming entirely from formerly heavy users reducing their consumption.

The Gender Factor

Women have continually declined in heavy vitamin and supplement usage. From a high of 44 percent in 2012, women who categorize themselves as heavy users fell to 35 percent this year.

The real shift, however, was caused by men. Overall consumption of vitamins and nutritional supplements fell from 74 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2015. In addition, the number of males who considered themselves heavy users dropped from 38 percent to 30 percent. The combination of fewer users and lower consumption by formerly heavy users has caused a significant shift in usage and channel preferences. 

Penetration by Channel

As consumers shifted their consumption patterns, they also seemed to shift their preferred channels. Even heavy consumers, those who use 6 or more products, shifted their buying from specialty outlets to purchasing at mass-market outlets. Light users showed a strong preference for mass market, with the channel moving from 39 percent to 47 percent penetration. This is by far the highest penetration among light users in the history of the study.

As more heavy users become light users, this preference for mass market outlets may cause continued decline in the market share enjoyed by specialty stores.

Probiotics a Big Winner

Sales of probiotics increased from 10 percent a year ago to 11 percent this year. Other than children’s multivitamins, probiotics were the only category to show a gain. This can probably be attributed to the focus on the importance of probiotics to overall health. Several bestselling books and myriad articles in the popular press, coupled with a proliferation of new category entrants have caused share to rise rapidly from just 6 percent in 2011

Product Losers

Sales in almost every other category dropped. The biggest losers included adult multivitamins, which fell from 56 percent to 51 percent and fish oil, which fell from 29 percent to 26 percent. Until this recent drop, adult multivitamins had shown a steep growth curve, rising from 47 percent in 2011 to last year’s peak.

Calcium, another product that had been showing strong growth, fell from it’s 2011 high of 28 percent to 17 percent in 2015. Joint relief, Co-Q10 and other herbs were also among the biggest category losers.

Interestingly, these dips in sales are not yet showing in the mass market channel, which means the bulk of the declines came from specialty outlets. Specialty outlets are simultaneously seeing a change in their primary buyers from heavy to light and those light users are developing a preference for other channels, which could signal a looming problem.


vitamin & sports nutrition report