Sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States are still increasing, despite the recent negative attention the industry has received.
These products experienced a 6.8 –percent increase in 2014, reaching an estimated total of more than US$6.4 billion, according to a report published in the HerbalGram, a journal from the American Botanical Council (ABC).
Sales in the mainstream market increased an estimated 2.1 percent over 2013 sales, while sales in natural and health food stores rose by 5.2 percent.
The five top-selling herbal supplements of 2014 in the natural channel, according to market research firm SPINS, were turmeric (Curcuma longa) and extracts standardized to curcumin; wheatgrass and barley grass (Triticum aestivum and Hordeum vulgare, respectively); flaxseed and/or flax oil; aloe vera; and spirulina/blue-green algae (Arthrospira spp.). Turmeric showed a significant 30.9-percent increase in sales in 2014, continuing its rise in popularity from 2013, where it took the number-one ranking in the natural channel for the first time. In 2011 and 2012, turmeric was the third top-selling herbal supplement in natural and health food stores.
2014 marks the eleventh consecutive year of increased herbal supplements sales, according to data from previous HerbalGram herb market reports.
“This growth is being driven by consumers’ increasing interest in their health," said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, in a video interview with me earlier this year when we discussed 2013 numbers. Blumenthal noted that consumers are taking more responsibility in their health so they are taking supplements. In 2013, sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States increased by 7.9 percent.
These numbers are from 2014 and 2013, which was before the New York Attorney General started his investigation into herbal supplements and devil’s claw; however it appears the sales of herbal supplements was not severely affected by the New York Attorney General investigation, according to an article by INSIDER’s Steve Myers in our September/October print issue. He notes that consumers are savvy and trust their herbal supplement brands, and a quick industry response may have limited the damage.
While New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman hadn’t yet questioned the merits of herbal supplements when the HerbalGram numbers were recorded, the industry was not immune to bad press back then. In December 2013, several news outlets (The New York Times, The Annals of Internal Medicine, USA Today and The New York Times again) published negative news on supplements. Despite these negative reports, supplementsspecifically herbsstill experienced a growth in sales.
Thisalong with SPINS data that shows 2015 herbal sales aren’t slowingbodes well for an industry that’s under scrutiny from Schneiderman, other lawmakers and the media. As long as herbal companies continue to produce quality products and offer transparency to consumers, herbal supplement users will continue to trust and use their favorite brands.