The spirit of Wonka is alive in supplements as gummy bears with an extra vit hit, sprays and chews hit shelves. So is this the future?

Gummy bear vitamins sound like something Willy Wonka would’ve dreamt up. In fact, Sugafina’s Green Juice Gummy Bears are the latest in a long line of weird and wonderful formats through which Brits can get a vit hit. Fortified sweets, chewing gums and sprays are transforming the sector.

“There’s been a move towards consumers choosing to supplement their daily nutritional intake with more convenient, interesting and flexible delivery formats,” says Beka Banks, marketing manager for Principle Healthcare Group UK. “These include gummies, liquids, chewables, melts, effervescents and bars.”

The sector could do with Wonka’s magic touch. Vitamins, minerals & supplements may be up 2% - an extra £8.9m [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 29 January 2017] - but growth is considerably slower than the 5.9% surge we reported a year ago. Multivitamins for kids and adults have been key growth drivers, racking up an extra £12.2m (see p46), thanks in part to innovative new formats.

The underlying trend driving all this is clear, says Lee Smith, MD of supplements brand Forza. “The market’s still growing because it is becoming fashionable to be healthy,” he says. “Instead of going to the pub on a Friday night, young people are going to the gym and sharing knowledge about supplements. People are buying vitamins to feel and look better and safeguard their health.”

Brits’ choice of supplement is changing, however. Cod liver oil and other fish oils had a dismal year. Kantar points to a 2013 study linking cod liver oil to prostate cancer, but others say it’s also down to a lack of innovation. “Too many brands are doing the same thing and customers find it confusing,” says Joao Da Silva, director, Nutrabolt Europe.

Vitamin D

Meanwhile, vitamin D sales are up by nearly a third, although they still only command 1.5% of the market. The vitamin’s popularity was boosted by a 2016 Public Health England report suggesting the nation doesn’t get enough, which opened the door to an additional 370,000 shoppers buying it as a single supplement this year.

Brands and retailers have been quick to capitalise on this with new products and formats. “We’ve seen sales of vitamin D increase 67% year on year since the report was released,” says Holland & Barrett head of vitamins, herbals, minerals & supplements Lisa Sinclair. “The offering in our 750 UK and Ireland stores is now more than just vitamin D capsules. We have a range of vegan vitamin D derived from mushrooms, plus sprayable versions for convenience.”

Even tech companies are looking to cash in. A new app called Dminder correlates vitamin D intake with sunshine, telling people the best time to get outside and soak up their daily quotient. In the future, this mash-up of vitamins and technology will become more prevalent, says Peter Brady of digital marketing company Orbital Media. “There is a bigger place for technology. Eventually it will provide more data for customers and enhance product performance.”

Healthcare and supplements category snapshot

Interesting new formats like sprays, chewable, sachets and shots are being applied across the market. “Customers are interested in the same thing but taken in different ways,” adds Banks. “Tesco introduced a pregnancy melt-in-the-mouth supplement, after research showed during early pregnancy women find it harder to swallow tablets.”

Consumers, it seems, may be wary of new products, seeking reassurance from the familiar or, in the case of the internet, other shoppers. “When it comes to health and wellbeing, customers want more information, more reviews and more advice. They would rather know what they’re taking will work for them, than be tempted by price,” notes Brady.

Shoppers certainly aren’t skimping when it comes to price, and have swallowed a 5.4% increase in price per pack of adult multivitamins [Kantar]. Nevertheless, Holland & Barrett continued with offers such as Buy 1 Try 1 for £1 this year. The retailer has seen a 1% rise in its VMS sales in the past year.


Online reviews and price promotions are now being used in conjunction, says Sinclair. “As an omnichannel business we are increasingly merging the two disciplines,” she says. “We’re using online reviews on our in-store point-of-sale, and installing digital screens at till points to show multimedia content. That said, a strong promotional offer is still crucial to gaining new customers and allowing people to cross shop different products.”

Holland & Barrett is looking to push growth further with NPD, with a focus on superfoods. “Recently the superfood trend has moved into supplements with spirulina and turmeric capsules both doing well,” Sinclair adds.




Keeping up to date with the latest trends in healthcare is a difficult, but necessary, task. “It is vital that any brand is nimble on their feet and can react quickly to different trends,” says Forza’s Smith, noting increased interest in plant-based foods such as pea protein. He predicts broccoli - full of vitamin K - could become a new superfood, used in smoothies or taken in capsules, as well.

“The superfood trend has moved into supplements with spirulina and turmeric doing well”

The occasions for which they are taken are also shifting. “We expect to see products aligned to benefit you when you are sleeping, such as proteins that are active and help muscles recover or help you relax, and camomile supplements to help you sleep,” Smith adds

It’s a tough sell, though. “It’s challenging as the major retailers are reducing inventory to simplify fixtures and big brands are throwing money at protecting space on shelf,” concludes Evans. “Buyers we speak to continue to get more and more me-toos and flavour extensions presented to them every year.”

In other words, the need for compelling innovation has never been greater. This sector needs a few more Willy Wonkas.

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