Pandemic Could Create ‘Record Year’ for Immunity Supplements

May 19, 2020

Sales of immunity-boosting supplements could be set for a record year as consumers try to protect themselves against the COVID-19 virus.

Image by Monk Fruit Corp.

That’s the prediction of the influential US business title Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), which says it expects growth of the category to spike above 25% in 2020, up from 8.5% growth to $3.3 billion overall.

Other markets – the UK and other parts of Europe – are also reporting very strong sales of immune supplements, and some supplements-focused retailers are report that they are doing “better the ever”. Immunity products have also consistently occupied several top places in Amazon’s Health & Household and Vitamins & Dietary Supplements product rankings in recent weeks, on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Reflecting on latest developments in the US market, NBJ senior industry analyst Claire Morton Reynolds told “Just this week, more than half of all consumers have increased their use of supplements. Even more so, they are planning on increasing their use three months from now. And of the consumers who never take supplements, 20% plan on increasing their use three months from now. That’s interesting.”

Halo effect

Analyst William Hood tells the industry news site that while immunity boosting supplements are the most obvious beneficiary of current health shopper behaviour, the supplements category more widely is benefiting from a “halo effect”.  

Brands and retailers are also “experiencing outsized sales in consumer response to the pandemic” reports NBJ. Among those brands, leading US specialist supplements brand NOW Foods says it has seen a tripling of overall supplement sales, while some immune products —vitamin C, zinc, elderberry and lysine — have been selling at a remarkable 10 to 50 times normal volumes.

This overall picture is confirmed by US nutraceuticals focused trade title Nutrition Outlook, which recently reported on “skyrocketing” sales of dietary supplements amid the coronavirus pandemic. It quotes Joan Driggs, vice president of thought leadership and content for analysts IRI, which tracks retail sales across multiple channels: “What we are seeing now is unprecedented growth with COVID-19. If you’re looking at the vitamin/minerals supplements market right now, it’s very positive.” 

Soaring sales

Driggs tells Nutrition Outlook that in the in the 52 weeks to 8 March supplements sales recorded a respectable 6% growth. But in the one-week ending 8 March (the point at which public concern over Covid-19 took off widely in the US) sales soared 35%. 

Several commentators have noted that supplement sales often rise in times of national crisis, as consumers look to support their health in time of uncertainty. Something similar happened during the 2018-12 recession. This time, however, the effects could be much more amplified since the crisis is a health crisis. 

In the UK many retailers and brand owners continue to report high sales of supplements, especially immune products. “It’s been immune-boosters pretty much all the way over the last few weeks,” one prominent brand owner told NPG. 

Recently, leading European health food chain Holland & Barrett had to introduce a temporary cap on the number of immune products sold to each customer, as well as reportedly opening a new call centre to cope with soaring demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the author: Jim Manson

Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age.

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