sleep hero

The search for sleep: Fatigued consumers are driving innovation in ingredients, formats and other features in the sleep products category

Consumers are seeking solutions to help them sleep soundly so they can function safely and effectively when they are awake.

Whether it’s due to worries about the pandemic, the economy or just day-to-day tribulations, people are losing sleep. The American Sleep Association, citing figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, reports that 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common. Also, 35% of adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep during a 24-hour period, and nearly 38% of people report that they unintentionally fall asleep during the day. 

Consumers are seeking solutions to help them sleep soundly so they can function safely and effectively when they are awake. Manufacturers are developing iterations of successful products, launching items with less familiar ingredients and formulating products that provide additional benefits. 

According to data from Nutrition Business Journal, sales of sleep supplements were estimated at $1.25 billion in 2021 with 13.7% growth. Growth spiked to record levels in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, at 36.6%. Also according to Nutrition Business Journal, melatonin is the largest ingredient for sleep at $590 million in sales. Combination herbal formulas have been trending as well, with 117.3% growth in 2020.

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olly muscle recovery sleep

Consumers are increasingly looking for sleep aids to help them battle corona-somnia, according to Olly brand marketing. People have increased stress levels and trouble sleeping, and are actively taking steps to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.

While the category is booming, manufacturers said they hope to use qualitative and quantitative research to figure out what consumers want in sleep products and other supplements. Olly strives to make vitamins and supplements that are delightful, according to brand marketing, so that people enjoy taking them and are more likely to add them to their routine. Among the important attributes are taste, texture and size. 

Products with dual health benefits also are driving consumer interest. Olly recently launched Muscle Recovery Sleep, which helps consumers get a good night’s sleep and helps to restore sore, overworked muscles.

[Read More: How a holistic approach to wellness is driving innovation]

“Sleep is not a one-size-fits-all issue.” — Bryan Donaldson, executive vice president of sales, Pharmavite
nature made sleep

Potential for Growth 
This desire for added benefits is contributing to the category’s expansion. “Sleep is not a one-size-fits-all issue,” said Bryan Donaldson, executive vice president of sales at Pharmavite. “That key insight has driven product innovation in the sleep category with SKUs designed to support specific sleep issues.” 

Among the company’s Nature Made brand offerings is Back to Sleep, which contains melatonin; L-theanine — which Donaldson said is clinically shown to help relax the mind; and GABA, shown to help support a calm and relaxed mental state. The product is designed to help people who struggle with racing thoughts that prevent them from falling asleep.  

Another trend is a format that has been popular in several VMS segments: gummies. Donaldson noted that over the last nine months, gummies have been the biggest growth driver in sleep and now represent 56% of that segment. 

Pharmavite has been working with its retail partners to create in-store and online programs to help consumers identify a product that meets their needs. Retailers also can bring attention to the category by merchandising sleep products in secondary locations outside the VMS section, or in endcaps near the pharmacy section. 

“We rarely spot a snoring banner or label in any retail sleep set.” — John Ende, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Rhinomed.

People are likely looking for multiple items when they shop for sleep products. According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, or CRN, in its 2021 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 17% of adult supplement users in the United States reported taking products to support their sleep health, up three percentage points compared with 2020. Also, 14% of adult supplement users in the U.S. reported taking products to support their brain health, and 49% of these brain health users reported taking products to improve sleep.

Melatonin blends are growing in popularity. “There is strong consumer interest in combining sleep plus another benefit ingredient,” said Chris Hughes, director of sales planning, operations and category management at Chatsworth, Calif.-based Natrol. The brand’s Sleep + Calm includes L-theanine and Sleep + Immune includes elderberry and zinc, and are two top-selling new products. Hughes also said that Kids Melatonin is outperforming the overall category and the higher strength SKUs are also thriving.

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so good so you

Gut health is also important to consumers. Functional food company So Good So You, which makes immune-boosting probiotic juice shots, offers a Sleep shot with cold-pressed honeydew and pineapple juice, herbal California poppy, lavender and butterfly pea flowers, and one billion probiotic CFUs to support digestive and immune health. 

“These ingredients help to relax the body and calm anxious thoughts,” said co-founder and executive chair Rita Katona. “California poppy extract — the hero ingredient in our popular Sleep shot — works without causing drowsiness, a side effect consumers might experience from other available sleep aids.”

Retailers have an opportunity to expand their sleep sets. “Because everyone is affected in a unique way by different ingredients, it’s essential to offer a diverse portfolio of product types and ingredients from which consumers can choose,” Katona said.

“Because everyone is affected in a unique way by different ingredients, it’s essential to offer a diverse portfolio of product types and ingredients from which consumers can choose.” — Rita Katona, co-founder and executive chair, So Good So You.

CRN said that popular ingredients in supplements for sleep health include melatonin, used by 62% of sleep health users, CBD (22%), magnesium (21%), lavender (17%) and chamomile (16%). 

For some, the problem is not sleeping but snoring. “Snoring is a major cause of poor sleep, often impacting two people at one time,” said John Ende, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Rhinomed, which makes the Mute wearable nasal device. In 2021, the company conducted a Harris Poll and found that 66% of U.S. adults said someone in their household snores. Also, 69% of people whose partners snore wish there was a simple solution. 

Rhinomed has a dedicated professional education team focused on communication and customized support for sleep medicine practitioners. For consumer education, the company uses WebMD, the Rhinomed website, and digital and live media campaigns. The company is also working with retailers to build a snoring subcategory in their sleep sets because Rhinomed data indicates that snoring product sales are growing significantly faster at e-commerce than at retail. “We rarely spot a snoring banner or label in any retail sleep set,” Ende said. “We’re working with retailers to help them curate that snoring mix and effectively merchandise a snoring set.”

This is an interesting time for the sleep category as retailers help consumers gain access to new, innovative solutions. “The science and products are a bit ahead of where our consumers are at,” Pharmavite’s Donaldson said. “There is an opportunity for us in sharing that science and insight with them in a way that brings them along on the journey to find the product that will best meet their needs.”