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Within slowing growth script, supplement shoppers returning to brick and mortar

Article-Within slowing growth script, supplement shoppers returning to brick and mortar

Vitamin store shelves.jpg
Supplement shoppers are returning to brick and mortar stores. But overall sales are flat in the wake of the pandemic sales boom.

What little sales growth supplements have seen recently has been driven by shoppers returning to stores, according to SPINS data released at the Natural Products Expo West trade show.

As the market normalizes in a post-pandemic environment, some supplement consumers who were forced into online purchases because of external factors are now returning to their preferred sales channels, according to Scott Dicker, market insights director for SPINS, the Chicago-based consumer data research firm.

Dicker spoke on Wednesday, March 8, during an education session at Expo West, “The State of Supplements.”

Consumers returning to brick-and-mortar retail

“We are seeing that almost all of the growth now is in people returning to stores,” Dicker told his audience.

Dicker showed a slide that charted the change in the past six months. In a similar talk at Expo East in September 2022, Dicker reported 67% of sales were coming from brick-and-mortar (B&M) outlets, with online sales making up the remainder. As far as growth was concerned, B&M sales contributed 85% while online sales chipped in the remaining 15%.

This time around, B&M comprised 68% of sales and online represented 32%. Brick and mortar sales contributed 92% to overall growth, while online sales accounted for the remaining 8%.

As far as overall growth is concerned, Dicker said the pandemic sales boom is definitely behind us.

“Most of the categories were pretty flat in terms of volume,” he said. “Pretty much all of the increase we’ve seen in dollar sales was really due to price increases.”

Digestive health products buck overall trends

Among the broad supplement categories that SPINS tracks, probiotics and digestive aids was the only one that broke into the black, posting 3.5% year-over-year growth. Homeopathic products, not strictly supplement products, also recorded very modest growth.

Other categories, such as vitamins and minerals (down 4.6% year over year), and condition-specific supplements (down 2.1%) recorded declines.

Within the condition-specific category itself, there were some bright spots. While sleep supplements and energy supplements took big hits (down 5.4% and 3.5%, respectively), immune health supplements recorded a modest gain of 1.4%.

The big surprise was joint health supplements, which recorded almost 10% year-over-year growth. This could be seen as a bit of pandemic hangover clearing, Dicker said, with some consumers perhaps returning to the category after devoting dollars to other personal care items during the past couple of years of upheaval.

“Joint health supplements haven’t had their turn to be a driver over the past couple of years,” Dicker said.

Drilling down on ingredients

Dicker also provided a breakdown of ingredients that have fared well over the past year.  Psyllium led the way with about $280 million in sales and almost 10% growth, followed by horehound in second place, with about $200 million in sales and almost 30% growth. These two ingredients are perennial best sellers as they feature in popular OTC (over-the-counter) products.

Among ingredients commonly thought of as “supplement” ingredients, turmeric was the best seller with about $160 million in sales and 1.7% year-over-year growth.

Ashwagandha, with about $130 million in sales, still trails turmeric but is growing much faster. The adaptogenic ingredinet posted an 11.5% increase, according to the SPINS data. Another fast grower was a category referred to as “eye health formulas,” at more than 9% growth.  While the components of those formulas weren’t specified, the term usually refers primarily to the macular carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin.

E-commerce is still here to stay

In wrapping up, Dicker said while there will be some bumps in the growth curves for brick and mortar and online sales that are heading in opposite directions, observers shouldn’t draw long-term conclusions from these recent developments.

“This is not to suggest that people will stop buying on Amazon by any means,” he said.

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