Versatile VMS: Consumers turn to the vitamin aisle to help with more issues than ever

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Versatile VMS: Consumers turn to the vitamin aisle to help with more issues than ever

Sore joints? Trouble sleeping? How about just wanting to look a bit better and feel a bit better?

Those are all reasons that consumers increasingly are turning to the vitamins, minerals and supplement category as they look for answers to these concerns and many others.

And, as with many health categories, much of the growth in the VMS section is being driven by what consumers are learning when they go online to research their health issues. Many are using the information they are finding to make lifestyle changes and buy more products. “Exercise, non-processed foods, healthy diet and mindfulness are now part of the consumer lifestyle,” said Alexa Wood, brand manager at Miami-based ADM Protexin. “With the increased consumer awareness and so much information online, consumers are reaching out to the Internet to self-diagnose themselves and to research which product will be the best for them at the moment.”

According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, for the 52 weeks ended June 16, U.S. multi-outlet sales for vitamins totaled more than $7.56 billion, a 3.2% increase compared with the same period the previous year. Within the vitamins category, the biggest subcategory — minerals — totaled more than $3.8 billion, an increase of 3.2%. Liquid vitamins/minerals increased by 20.7% to more than $577.2 million.

The question remains whether retailers want to put enough resources to satisfy the growing and changing demands of the VMS department. Those resources include giving the category sufficient space in store and stocking segments that may not yet be mainstream, but cater to a loyal following of consumers.

One area that is capturing much attention is CBD and hemp. “The hemp industry is booming, and hemp oil is no different,” said Nicholas Senande, media marketing manager at Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Piping Rock Health Products, which offers hemp oil. “A must-have supplement for retailers, consumers are actively looking for this product to use during their daily wellness regimen.”

Others agreed that CBD is making its way into the category. “CBD seems to be gaining market interest in the past few months,” Marcia Moll, marketing director of dietary supplements and herbal medicines at U.S. Pharmacopia, or USP, said. “The current regulatory status of CBD prevents its use in dietary supplements or foods, but as consumer interest grows and states pass their own legalization laws, we may see more products containing CBD in the market in the next few years.”

Other ingredients, including chondroitin, still are top of mind for many consumers. “A major problem in America today is more than 70 million Americans suffer from arthritis and chronic joint symptoms,” said Junkichi Izumi, president of the USA division of Tokyo-based Zeria Pharmaceutical. The company, with U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif., makes Zeria Pure Chondroitin, with pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate that prevents joint degradation and maintains cartilage thickness. “It’s the only ingredient in the joint supplement category that adds cushion to your joints,” he said.

Izumi agreed that online information is helping to boost VMS sales. “Today’s consumer IQ is very high,” he said. “With the availability of the Internet, each consumer is an expert within minutes.”

While arthritis and joint pain long have been associated with aging, eye health is another important age-related health area. Age-related macular degeneration, which occurs when the central part of the retina, or macula, degenerates, is a leading cause of vision loss for people 50 years old and older. Bridgewater, N.J.-based Bausch + Lomb recently launched Ocuvite Eye Performance vitamins. The new vitamins are formulated to help strengthen the macula, which helps protect the eye from the stress of sunlight and blue light emitted from digital devices.

“What we’re seeing today in the eye vitamin market is similar to what other categories are seeing,” Chris Marschall, vice president and general manager of consumer health care at Bausch + Lomb, said. “Consumers need products that address their busy, digitally-focused lives. From increased blue light exposure from long hours spent in front of digital devices and increased UV exposure from sunlight, our eyes are under more stress than ever before due to a changing world that is occurring faster than the human eye has evolved.”

While loss of vision is a long-term issue, consumers also are looking for answers to more immediate needs. Michelle Yoon, brand manager at San Francisco-based Olly, said that while consumers continue to seek such medicine cabinet staples as multivitamins, much of the growth in the VMS category is coming from segments that offer such acute benefits as better sleep or healthier hair. In fact, sleep is a macro trend, and sleep supplements are among the fastest-growing segments in the VMS category.

“Consumers view sleep as an important part of their wellness routine, whether it’s tracking their cycles through mobile apps or taking supplements for better sleep,” Yoon said. Olly recently launched two products, Olly Extra Strength Sleep and Olly Beauty Sleep. “We consistently heard from a subset of consumers that they were looking for more sleep support options.”

Other sleep products come from Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Nature’s Bounty, which added two new products — Anxiety & Stress Relief and Sleep3 — to its portfolio this spring. The company said Sleep3 is the first tri-layer release technology introduced to mass market. “Consumer insights show that nearly 50% of people experience worse sleep now than they did 10 years ago, and more than 50% of them attribute loss of sleep to stress and anxiety,” Nicole Hayes, senior manager of corporate communications, said.

Hayes also said that the beauty segment continues to be an important piece of Nature’s Bounty’s business, with the company launching its Beauty Gels line at Ulta Beauty in March. “More and more, consumers are gravitating toward products that help them address key beauty needs from within, whether that be their smile or complexion.”

Heart health also still is a big category, and the focus is not always on cholesterol. Weider Global Nutrition recently launched Artery Health, which contains vitamin K2, Aronia berry and ginger — which are meant to properly transport and secure calcium and support arterial flexibility. The vegetarian capsules come in a blister pack enclosed in a box to look more clinical, according to the company. “We focus on niche formulas that provide solutions to problems that arise as people age,” said Colby Mclellan, vice president of marketing and product development. “Weider stays up to date on trends for new ingredients, easy modalities, serving size, and packaging.”

Another trend is the increased interest in products geared towards women. Products that promote beauty from within, relieve menopause symptoms, strengthen bones or are formulated for pregnancy and prenatal supplementation are selling well, said Patricia A. Jones, senior manager, new business development for Mason Vitamins, based in Miami Lakes, Fla. “Additionally, products that meet women’s top health challenges, specifically diet, fatigue and stress are seeing growth and will continue to see success.”

Innovative Formats
While capsules, liquids and powders remain the most common delivery forms of VMS products, several manufacturers are focused on innovation that sets their products apart. Mason Vitamins recently launched Ginger Burst Bead Release Technology Chewable Tablets. The new delivery format is naturally colored chewable tablets that have pink beads, which the company said are “spiked” with a combination of ginger and zingiberene.

Other nontraditional formats are appearing with the aim of appealing to consumers who are tired of taking pills. MyBite Vitamins makes chocolate bites as a delivery system for energy, immunity, sleep and other segments. “