Americans buying supplements even as they tighten their belts

WASHINGTON — More than two-thirds of Americans (71%) reported the economy has not affected their household’s purchasing habits of dietary supplements, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

The CRN study is in line with a special report in AdAge magazine titled “The New Necessities: What Products and Services Can Consumers Not Live Without?,” citing a study by advertising agency Leo Burnett which studies the impact of consumer "wants" versus "needs" in a down economy. In a diagram of wants versus needs, vitamins were listed as something that consumers couldn’t bear to cut back on, which was on par with car insurance, routine car maintenance, mobile phone service and household repairs.

“What’s interesting about our survey findings and those of Leo Burnett is that, even in the midst of trying economic times, dietary supplements are not something consumers are willing to sacrifice," CRN SVP communications Judy Blatman said. "While they certainly are looking for ways to save money, they clearly know the value of using dietary supplements to promote overall health and wellness,” she said. “Given the ongoing debate about health care in America, it’s encouraging to see consumers taking proactive steps, such as incorporating dietary supplements into their health regimen.”

The remaining respondents (29%), however, reported that the economy has impacted their household’s purchasing habits of supplements. The study asked specifically how it affected their purchasing habits, and only 7% of Americans report they have stopped purchasing supplements altogether because of the economy.

Still, overall use of dietary supplements is on the rise with 69% of all Americans reporting that they use supplements, up from 66% in 2010. For the 3-in-10 of consumers whose supplement purchasing habits have been affected by the economy, many are engaging in a variety of money saving tactics, including buying fewer supplements as a means to save money; buying supplements only when they are on sale; and purchasing less expensive supplement brands.

The CRN survey also found that the supplement purchasing habits of those ages 55 years and older were least affected by the trying economy, with 78% of that group indicating as such, followed by consumers ages 18 years to 34 years (70%) and those ages 35 years to 54 years (65%). Gender didn’t appear to be a factor.

The 2011 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements was conducted Aug. 25 to 29, 2011 by Ipsos Public Affairs and funded by CRN. The survey was conducted online and included a national sample of 2,015 adults ages 18 years and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel. The survey has been conducted annually since 2000.

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