By Carol Radice
Specialty products, including complex and single-ingredient formulas, are driving much of the interest in the dietary supplement category. Life’s day-to-day stresses can affect people in different ways. Sleep deprivation, increased illnesses and weight gain are just a few examples of the overstressed. A healthy, balanced diet can help combat these afflictions, but it seems as if many consumers are having a hard time following those guidelines. Enter vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS). Products in the VMS category are designed to help consumers combat a myriad of potential ailments and sales are on the rise. Industry observers say the VMS category is a highly segmented and complex space and a combination of factors affect movement at retail. “Consumer purchase intent, the variety of offerings and pricing structure, are some of the top factors influencing sales each year,” says Scott Patricki, divisional vice president, category management for Northridge, Calif.-based Pharmavite. “External elements such as the media and research studies can also influence category sales as well.” According to New York-based Nielsen, for the 52-week period ended Jan. 18, the total VMS category is up 4.2%. Specialty supplements, which currently represent 38% of VMS category sales, are driving 65% of growth. High performing products in the specialty supplements sub-category include probiotics, omega-3 combos and melatonin. Growth is also being contributed to by letter vitamins (up 7.0%), specifically the vitamin B and D segments. Observers say the number of people concerned about their digestive health is driving much of the overall growth in specialty supplements, particularly with probiotics. Other product segments that are realizing large-scale growth include women’s non-senior multivitmins, vitamin C, biotin, melatonin, men’s non-senior multivitmains, coQ-10 and vitamin D. “The primary driver of the significant growth that these product segments are realizing can be associated with the health solution/benefit that these product ingredients deliver,” says Patricki. Other health solution needs popular with consumers that are driving the large-scale sales increases are gender-specific health, immune health, beauty health—hair/skin/nails—sleep health, heart health and bone health needs, he says. Different delivery formats are also affecting sales in the VMS category. “Consumers are searching for alternative delivery forms, especially those that provide a more satisfying sensory experience as it relates to taste, color and texture,” says Patricki, adding that the gummy delivery forms represent an estimated 9.0% of VMS category dollar sales and is up about $119 million versus a year ago. Pharmavite’s Nature Made brand recently announced line extensions in its VitaMelts and Adult Gummies lines. Patricki says the VitaMelts offering provides vitamins and supplements that deliver on the taste and convenience consumers are asking for. “The VitaMelts line of vitamin supplements launched in fall 2012 with six product offerings,” he says. “We are further driving success through the addition of two new offerings, Nature Made VitaMelts Multi and Nature Made Hair, Skin & Nails.” The Nature Made Adult Gummies line extensions are designed to provide consumers more flavor options to supplement their individual health and wellness needs. They were released at the beginning of 2014 when many consumers are looking to get back on track and refocus their wellness routines. Nature Made Adult Gummies are available in all-natural fruit flavors. The newest additions are Nature Made Adult Gummies Energy B12, Nature Made Adult Gummies Multi + Omega-3 and Nature Made Adult Gummies Immune Complex with Zinc. Multivitamins is another segment performing well, enjoying steady growth this year. Observers say that is a trend expected to remain for the foreseeable future. “We see a huge opportunity to be a new player that drives overall category growth,” says Ulrich Irgens, executive vice president Americas and international business director for Swisse Wellness, based in Chicago domestically. The success of Swisse’s 50-plus multivitamin products in its home market, Australia, has encouraged officials to introduce the product into the U.S. market later this year. Irgens also says there is untapped opportunity for more liquid vitamin products, which are currently still a small segment in the U.S. “Liquids are a fantastic delivery method for vitamins and supplements because they are more quickly absorbed into the body, so the effects are felt faster,” he says. Similarly, Irgens says there is an opportunity for more effervescence-type products, another underdeveloped segment in the U.S. “One of our leading products is our Swisse Ultivite + Energy Effervescent. It’s a fantastic product, just drop it into a glass of water and you’ve got a great tasting, natural energy drink,” says Irgens. Irgens calls Swisse Wellness “a true wellness brand.” Their motto, CLED—Celebrate Life Everyday—reflects this vision beyond vitamins and supplements. The company also offers an all-natural skin care line and vitamin-enriched sports nutrition protein products as well as a range of superfood powders. “This way our customers can ‘Celebrate Life’ in so many ways whether they are looking after their skin, working out at the gym or when they’re taking their vitamins,” he says. Swisse officials see an opportunity to introduce a mass, premium brand that is also affordable. With this in mind, the company will be releasing skin and sports nutrition products later this year along with a second wave of vitamins and supplement products. “High quality brands shouldn’t just sit in health food stores or cost over $30,” says Irgens. “There’s a real opportunity to help grocers grow sales in the affordable premium space,” What is behind the growth of VMS? Irgens says consumers’ rise in interest and subsequent awareness of the content of food and how this affects health have played key roles. “People are more educated today about their health and how diet plays such an important part in that,” he says. “At the same time they’re also seeing the benefits from taking vitamins and supplements. Vitamins and supplements are an affordable way to help fill the nutritional gaps that people have in their everyday lives.” As dietary supplements become more commonplace, it seems as if consumers are becoming more discerning in their purchase behavior. As a result, consumers are focusing more on pure and natural products as well as those they may have seen or heard about in the media, say observers. One category that has gotten a lot of media attention is weight loss supplements. “After a slow start to the weight loss season the category did pick up and we are seeing signs of growth,” says Tara McCrory, brand manager for Wellnx Life Sciences, based in Mississauga, Ont., Canada. “Both dollar and unit sales are up double-digit versus year ago. The assortments being offered are certainly playing a factor. Retailers that are first to market with these types of products certainly reap the benefits.” Wellnx Life Sciences has recently re-branded and re-launched its mother brand Slimquick. Aligning with the powerful global trend toward pure and natural products, Wellnx launched Slimquick Pure in the autumn of 2013 with new packaging and new TV and print creative. “New Slimquick Pure contains a ground-breaking natural formula that’s designed to help women lose three times the weight in 13 weeks,” says McCrory. “Its exclusive natural extract is so potent it makes New Slimquick Pure the most effective weight loss supplement for women.” She says Slimquick Pure is made with natural ingredients like antioxidants and BioPure green tea. Plus, she says it is the only weight loss supplement that is designed specifically for a woman’s body. Wellnx has also launched several successful single ingredient products under its Phytogenix Labs brand. These include Ultimate Raspberry Keton, Ultimate Green Coffee Bean Extract with Svetol and Ultimate Garcinia Cambogia.