HEALTH

VMS gains traction in acute needs spaces, natural

BY Michael Johnsen

Consumers want results from the dietary supplement category.

That’s great news for retailers who benefit from the category’s steady sales, good margins and strong price points. But it also puts pressure on merchants to have a solid assortment of products, featuring a combination of today’s trendy items, the old favorites and some items for specific ailments and remedies.

In the end, the VMS category remains a key component of any retailer’s healthcare section, and retailers are well aware that they need to constantly fine-tune the section to maximize sales and profits. The opportunity, many have said, will only increase in the near future.

“Due to high healthcare costs and an increased emphasis on preventive care, consumers are spending increasing amounts on vitamins and dietary supplements in addition to their regular foods to maintain their health,” said Patricia Jones, general manager of sales at Mason Vitamins. “With an increased interest in healthy lifestyles, consumers continue to expand their consumption of vitamins and dietary supplements, particularly those targeted at systemic benefits like digestive health, immune system fortification, vitality and longevity.”

The best news is that it is not just older consumers who are buying into the supplement category. “Younger generations, including millennials, are taking a proactive interest in their health and are increasingly driving sales in the health-and-wellness industry,” Jones said. While millennials trail boomers in overall supplement use, an estimated 73% of adults ages 25-to-34 years old regularly take vitamin and mineral supplements. “Consumer research indicates that consumers of all ages are increasingly seeking out natural supplements to maximize their health and stay youthful.”

Those shoppers are hungry for supplement knowledge, suppliers said. “Consumers are more engaged in their health than ever before and want to create tailored regimens to address individual needs,” said Olly’s supplement brand manager Jessica Heitz. “Specifically, supplements that address acute need states like sleep, energy and stress are driving trial with new consumers. With respect to sleep supplements, millennials believe that sleep is a foundational pillar of health routines and are thus driving category growth. We expect the sleep category and other acute need states to continue to grow.”

That sleep opportunity, in particular, is representative of the trend toward natural. Many consumers who are tired of those same old OTC products and their associated side effects are finding relief in the VMS space. “Natural products are ideal because the consumer is currently looking for these products. Many of the old sleep brands are sleepy, and haven’t adjusted to the consumer trends,” said Jim Lacey, CEO of Healthy Ventures. “Increasing the space of natural sleep aids [and] decreasing some space for underperforming SKU’s of synthetic products will provide an excellent variety of products for the retailer’s shelf space.”

When those customers get to the supplement aisle, ingredient transparency across brands is becoming more and more important, putting pressure on suppliers to ensure they are educating both shoppers and retailers about their items. “There are a lot of proprietary blends out there and people really don’t know what they are truly getting out of a product, and if it is even an efficacious dose,” said Ben Benedict, national sales manager at Nutrex. “The supplement consumer is far more educated than what they used to be. More people are health conscious and are not only starting supplement regiments, but also making lifestyle changes. They are more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies and [subsequently] reading more labels.”

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