Patients and consumers are seeking ‘super supplements’ to the point of a 200% sales uptick in some nutrition boosters to help ward off COVID and flu-like ailments
Patient supplement buying habits, especially of immunity-related products during COVID, have gone through the roof, especially “super supplements” that can shore-up immunity gaps in patient diets.
As a result, you are likely seeing certain patterns, not only in patient questions about how to stay healthy during the current epidemic, but also in terms of potential changes in their purchasing habits, particularly when it comes to nutritional supplements.
These changes in buying habits are part of a shifting trend within the nutritional supplement sector. Understanding how consumer purchasing habits have changed in this regard can be beneficial to you, particularly if you sell any type of nutritional supplement.
‘Super supplements’ trends prior to COVID
A number of reports tracking consumer purchasing data have shown that supplements specifically meant to ward off colds and the flu have seen steady, single-digit sales growth over the past several years, particularly during fall and winter. This is not unexpected, given the seasonal nature of colds and the flu. However, general immunity supplement sales have stayed relatively flat.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2019 Survey on Dietary Supplements reported that only 27% of supplement users took one for immune health, as compared to 26% in 2018 and 24% in 2017.2
Furthermore, marketing surveys showed that many Americans did not consider a weak immune system to be a major health concern. One marketing survey rated it as 19th out of 20 for patients, coming in after conditions such as skin problems and arthritis.
Purchasing trends during COVID
The marketing firm IRI, which has gathered consumer data starting at the beginning of this year, found that, as of late March, sales of immunity products jumped by almost 200%, while vitamins increased by 77%, and gastrointestinal products (including probiotics), grew by 30%.3
Furthermore, the IRI report also showed a sharp increase of 125% in the number of people who bought supplements designed to boost the immune system. The number of people who bought vitamins during that same time period increased by 27%.3
Although all supplement sales were up, the IRI report also broke down which types of ‘super supplements’ were the most popular.3
For the four-week period ending March 15, total sales were up by 36%. Individual-letter vitamin sales increased by 75%, herbal supplements by 58%, multivitamins by 29%, minerals by17 %, and specialty supplements (such as probiotics) by 13%.
The biggest jump, as expected, was seen in vitamins and supplements meant to fight off colds and the flu. For the same four-week period ending March 15, there was an increase of 150% in sales of vitamin C, 27% for vitamin D, and 185% for zinc. Elderberry sales were up by 368%, and Echinacea sales increased by 127%.3
Who is buying supplements?
In addition to knowing how many people are buying these ‘super supplements’ to ward off illness, as well as which types they are purchasing, we should also look at consumer demographics.
According to data gathered by the Natural Marketing Institute, younger consumers are more likely than older ones to already be taking immune-boosting supplements prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have also increased the amount they are taking.4 Women are also more likely than men to already be taking a supplement for the immune system (60% versus 40%). This should not be surprising, given that women are significantly more likely than men to suffer from autoimmune disorders such as lupus or fibromyalgia. Women were also the major decision-makers in terms of supplement purchasing for the entire family.4
Given all of this data insight, it is clear that you should be including nutritional counseling and supplement sales as part of your menu of services, especially high-quality supplements not available in stores. Even if you are only seeing patients via telemedicine linkup, you can still help them take care of their immune system during this critical time.
- Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Cases in the US. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed 7/23/2020.
- 2019 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. Council for Responsible Nutrition. Accessed 7/24/2020.
- COVID-19 Impact. Consumer Spending Tracker for Measured Channels: U.S., UK, France, Italy, Germany, NZ. IRI Report. Updated April 2, 2020. Accessed 7/24/2020.
- Natural Marketing Institute. Accessed 7/25/2020.