HEALTH

Supplementing the bottom line

BY Michael Johnsen

Supplements are providing the perfect complement to drug store retailers’ bottom lines. Including meal replacement bars, energy shots, protein shakes and diet aids, sales of dietary supplements and nutrition-packed products across the supplement aisle continued to grow at a healthy 4.7% clip with more than $13.4 billion in sales across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended April 16, according to the latest IRI data.

This consistent growth across the wellness aisles within retail pharmacy can be traced to two factors: the growing proclivity Americans have toward better nutrition and what is being called the “absence of negative,” where nutrition and supplement labels boast a greater degree of transparency and fewer ingredients that carry a negative connotation. In short, Americans want to be healthier, and they want healthier-for-you products in the self-care aisles to get them there.

“Self care is pervasive and it’s growing,” Amruta Gupta, VP consumer and shopper marketing at IRI, told Drug Store News. “Self care is the ‘new normal,’” and goes well beyond supplements to incorporate an entire healthier lifestyle. “The biggest implication there is the blurring of category lines.”

Indeed, consumers are looking for solution sets across several need states, noted Tim Toll, Pharmavite chief customer officer. Supplements positioned as immunity boosters alone represent 36% of the category growth dollars. “Pharmavite’s research has shown that the type of product (e.g., fish oil) and health benefit/need state (e.g., heart health) are the two primary attributes that consumers focus their search on,” Toll said.

In the following pages, better nutrition and the “absence of negative” is a recurring theme. For example, the Council for Responsible Nutrition in the past month launched a new online registration portal, the Supplement OWL, where manufacturers can post product labels in a move toward transparency.

DSN also explores what’s happening across the supplement space, including SPINS insight on which natural health categories in the specialty retail channel may become hot in mass outlets. Check out the extended online report for a look at the latest thinking in supplement retailing with a review of The Vitamin Shoppe’s latest store format, and an examination of two trending categories — protein and probiotics.

(Click here to view the full Special Report: Weight management, sports nutrition and vitamin)

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HEALTH

CRN’s Supplement OWL goes live

BY Michael Johnsen

One year after the project was formally announced, the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s Supplement OWL initiative became a reality this spring when the online product registry went live. A resource for regulators, retailers and the industry, the OWL is an industry-wide, self-regulatory initiative that will help create a rich and more complete picture of the marketplace, and can be accessed by anyone.

“Transparency is important,” Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, told Drug Store News, especially as the Food and Drug Administration realigns its field inspectors by industry as opposed to geographic centrality. “Particularly as the dietary supplement [or good manufacturing practices] get more and more intricate and we get down to the minutia, we need people who understand that level of detail. [The FDA] has repeatedly said they see value in [OWL] and will use it as a tool.”

With the launch, the Supplement OWL is widely accessible for examination. All companies can test-drive the product registry, and retailers can begin to use it to evaluate products on their shelves. As of May 18, 55 brands and 3,015 labels were visible in the OWL. Additional manufacturers are registering their products daily.

“The FDA has only so many resources to enforce the law, which is why an industrywide self-regulatory initiative, such as the Supplement OWL, is critical,” Christine Burdick-Bell, Pharmavite’s VP and general counsel, told DSN. “To better enforce the law, regulators have stated a need for more information about the products in our market, and the Supplement OWL demonstrates that mainstream industry is taking great strides to meet this need.”

More than being responsible industry participants in the eyes of regulators, the Supplement OWL also serves a consumer need, Burdick-Bell stated. “By participating in the Supplement OWL, we are demonstrating our commitment to transparency and protecting consumers, and to advancing the industry through self-regulation.”

The Supplement OWL offers two tiers of information. Participation in Tier 1 does not carry a charge, and includes an image of the product, a complete product label and other fields of information mostly obtained from the label itself. For a fee, Tier 2 allows companies to upload additional supporting information and documentation about their products, and to choose who will have access to that information — down to the retailer or regulator.

(Click here to view the full Special Report: Weight management, sports nutrition and vitamin)

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HEALTH

Traceability is the new VMS buzzword

BY Michael Johnsen

Sales of vitamins and supplements are generally 10 times greater across large retail chain outlets, including all major food, drug and mass retailers, as compared to specialty outlets. While sales through specialty channels are not nearly as great, the fact remains that the growth trends tracked through those channels, ranging from natural grocers to gourmet wellness stores, are great harbingers of what might soon be best-selling categories within mass outlets.

Drug Store News tapped into the data and expertise of SPINS — a provider of retail consumer insights, analytics reporting and consulting services for the natural, organic and specialty products industry — for its perspective of what’s happening in the specialty space today that could make a cross-over to mass outlets in the months to come. “A new thing we’re seeing is people want traceability,” Scott Dicker, SPINS nutrition researcher, told Drug Store News. “Amazon started this through Amazon Elements, which allows consumers to trace where ingredients are coming from and exactly how much [of that ingredient] is in different batches. A lot of companies are beginning to follow that trend.”

Another trend that’s percolating among specialty outlets that may make its transition to mass is the ketogenic diet, which is the latest low-carb dieting trend. “That may turn out to be a flash in the pan, but it’s going to be a big flash for conventional [outlets],” Dicker said, recalling the last time low-carb diet trends rocketed to the forefront of the American psyche before falling out of favor.

Hot categories that move from specialty to mass outlets may be caused by a trend that is sparked among a niche group that later catches fire among the masses, like a low-carb craze for example. But other elements of that transition can be credited to marketers getting savvy, Dicker said.

For example, before protein had become a hot commodity across mass outlets, it was a category that long enjoyed greater and greater growth from a small niche consumer base — professional or semiprofessional athletes and self-proclaimed gym rats. But now there is a significant consumer base that’s not included in the messaging that appeals to athletes and gym rats — the yoga mom.

“The sports nutrition consumer and the wellness product consumer [today] is blending together,” Dicker said. “It’s the ‘sportification’ of non-athletes,” he said. Previously, protein powders were positioned solely against young males as a way for them to bulk up before the big game. Now they’re targeting women with the same protein, repositioning the benefits so they’re more fitness-enthusiast friendly.

“A lot of wellness consumers are now buying a protein [ready to drink] or bar just as a healthy snack,” Dicker said. “They’re not necessarily using it for performance like core users are, they are expanding the category.”

And then there are categories that continue to generate escalating sales in both specialty outlets and mass retailers, with no end to that growth in sight. Take digestive aids and probiotics, for example, Dicker said. “Probiotics help with the absorption of nutrients,” he noted. It’s a trend that many sports nutrition enthusiasts are picking up on and could only be a matter of time before that benefit is touted at mass, as well.

(Click here to view the full Special Report: Weight management, sports nutrition and vitamin)

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