According to Wikipedia, “one-size-fits-all” is a common, cliché phrase that has been used for more than five decades in both a positive and negative connotation and while some industries may benefit from the one-size-fits-all model, the nutraceutical industry has shown to be anything but such. Consumer trends were already moving away from the one for all model prior to the pandemic, but COVID-19 has caused a notable shift in the nutraceutical space and customization is helping to drive the seismic growth and shift.
Road to Customization
The 2011 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey reported multivitamins as the most popular supplement, but by 2016, the one-size-fits-all multi was slipping into the No. 2 spot.1 Today, a quick online search for dietary supplements not only yields various custom combination formulations, but manufacturers are also expanding the personalization by offering free health assessments and questionnaires, blood testing, DNA testing and access to nutritionists, making it easy for consumers to determine their individual health needs. Consumers are more proactive, wiser and are being motivated by a personalized set of brand-loyalty drivers that manufacturers must address to be successful in this crowded market.
COVID-19 and the Evolution of the Health-conscious Consumer
While poor nutrition has been the leading cause of chronic disease and obesity for many years (with an estimated 60 percent of Americans suffering from one or more chronic diseases),2 the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new light to health and nutrition—but even more so it’s causing consumers to think more proactively about their health. The top purchase drivers for the 61 percent increased usage of vitamin and mineral supplements3 since the start of the pandemic are disease prevention, digestive health and immunity but fair mention should also be made for what, Nutrition Business Journal calls “COVID-adjacent” categories such as sleep, mood and relaxation.
Seventy-five percent of U.S. consumers are shifting buying habits; they are trying new brands, new products and exploring alternatives and 73 percent intend to continue to incorporate the new brands into their routine.4 This cosmic shift has opened the doors for new manufacturers, distributors and investors, with billions being invested into innovation and gaining competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Customization Benefits for Consumers
Customization of dietary supplements is not a new or novel concept; manufacturers have been customizing and branding for years. Later came changes and
modifications to increase patient adherence like improved formulations and dosage types to increase effectiveness. Combination liquid-filled hard-shell capsules have provided great consumer benefits, allowing manufacturers to develop more complex formulations including hard-shell capsules filled with liquids or a fixed combination of liquids and other materials such as beads, capsules, pellets or micro tablets. These combination filled products also allow more flexibility in the formulation development, the ability to combine two non-compatible formulations, or achieve dual release types in one delivery method.
Today, many consumers know what they want and need in a supplement, such as stress and mood management, but for the more unapparent nutritional needs manufacturers are providing data driven, convenient and tailor made products.
Data Driven Supplements: Several companies are offering blood tests and health assessments which provide an in-depth nutrient report while others are basing their formulations on published scientific research and peer reviewed data. For example, studies suggest that multivitamins may contain main components that you’d normally obtain from food—like riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), and niacin (B3)—but not enough of the nutrients that your diet may be lacking, like calcium, magnesium and zinc; addressing these factors in a formulation improves overall efficacy of a product.
Convenient Supplements: Online sales have skyrocketed in the last few years, with COVID-19 pushing that growth to 35 percent in 2020 alone.4 A large segment of the market that once was not comfortable with online sales has embraced the ease and convenient access to purchase online. Retailers are adapting their efforts to improve the online customer experience, improve the personalized service, and ramping up targeted marketing. Some even package their products in trendy custom individual packs on a subscription basis—making it even easier to stay on track and maintain refills.
Tailor Made Supplements: The effort, involvement and commitment to supplement customization is as individual as the premise itself. The consumer can decide how individualized their dietary supplement regimen needs to be, based on health, budget or just preference. Consumers can choose a customized formulation based on studies and statistics or create a complete picture by taking an assessment, blood or DNA test. No matter which approach a customer takes the goal is the same, to feel better and to improve their health and immunity.
Benefits of Customization for the Manufacturer
When it comes to customization in the supplement space, we often mention the consumer benefits but rarely are the manufacturer benefits noted, and for many operations the benefits of customization far outweigh the challenges. Years prior to “trends,” manufacturers customized their products with coatings, band sealing, colors, printing and labeling for branding purposes. Today, manufacturers have to look on the inside to ensure proper efficacy (which in turn drives customer retention). Custom formulations that match target customers perform better and sell more. Customization also enables manufacturers to develop smaller batches, maintain less inventory, lower expiration risk and allow for flexible minimum order quantity.
Is Customization the Greatest Advancement in the Nutritional Supplement Industry?
When asked, consider this: according to Nutrition Business Journal, the personalized supplement market is expected to grow from an estimated $281 million in 2019 to a forecasted $4.3 billion in 2023, representing 6.4 percent of U.S. supplement sales by the end of that period.5 Given the multitude of ways a product can be customized and the many technologies continually evolving, it’s hard to say where the market is headed and what trends will become norms. NIE
1 CRN, 2006. www.crnusa.org/resources/2016-crn-consumer-survey-dietary-supplements /2010 report https://www.crnusa.org/resources/2020-crn-consumer-survey-dietary-supplements.
5 Nutrition Business Journal report. “Personalized Nutrition Special Report 2020.” https://store.newhope.com/personalized-nutrition-special-report-2021.
Evelyn Reinson is an international marketing manager at ACG, responsible for global marketing strategies of the company’s product range of capsules, films & foils, engineering, and inspection worldwide. For more information, visit www.ACG-world.com.