It’s official: British weather is bad for our health. The meagre sunshine during the winter is not enough to meet most people’s vitamin D requirements. Almost everyone should be taking a supplement between October and March, according to new advice from Public Health England.
The news is a boon to a market that is already growing rapidly. Sales of all vitamin and mineral supplements are up 8% year on year - the combined result of a nation with more disposable income and an increasing interest in health and wellbeing.
Vitamin D is no exception, and last week’s announcement is the culmination of several years of steadily accumulating research suggesting we need to boost our intake. As a result, the vitamin is already growing well ahead of the market: sales are up over 130% on last year.
PHE’s advice represents the shift of vitamin D from a specialist product to a mainstream one, and it’s likely to buoy sales even further. So who is best placed to benefit?
While grocery retailers may have secured a 45% market share of adult multivitamins, they only sell 14.5% of vitamin D supplements. Almost half of vitamin D is still sold through chemists and health food stores, and it’s specialists like Holland & Barrett that have been quickest off the mark following last week’s announcement. Within hours a prominent banner on the retailer’s website was promoting free vitamin D with every purchase, and a display of vitamin D products had made its way to the front of its flagship Oxford Street store.
There is no question that vitamin D now represents a major source of untapped revenue for the supermarkets. The grocers need to move quickly, using promotions and prominent displays. Come the colder months, it could mean selling the product alongside cold remedies. We’re likely to see competitive pricing and a bigger range for the consumer to choose from.
For now, though, the supermarkets will need to persuade shoppers that they should purchase single vitamin supplements in the same place they buy their broccoli and toothpaste.
Tim Nancholas is a strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel