Vitamin sales soar as brands cash in on immunity-boosting messaging, products
Tiny, ugly germs be warned. As the coronavirus continues its onslaught, consumers are looking for any products that will give their immune systems an extra boost. And brands and retailers are ready.
In recent weeks, retailers such as Kroger, CVS and Walgreens have expanded their assortments of vitamins and supplements. At the same time, brands including Flintstones and Culturelle, the digestive supplement, are marketing themselves as crucial to maintaining proper health and warding off illness.
“There’s a surge in demand occurring and it’s really across the board—very few brands are down, almost all of them are up double digits, some triple digits,” says Kurt Jetta, executive chairman and founder of TABS Analytics, which provides consumer packed goods research, noting categories including vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements and multivitamins.
For the 23-week period ending Aug. 8, U.S. sales of vitamins reached $1.6 billion, a 36 percent rise over the year-earlier period; sales of supplements, at $3.1 billion, were up 20 percent, according to Nielsen data.
Wellness on the mind
It’s no surprise wellness is on everyone’s minds. COVID-19 has already killed nearly 180,000 and infected more than 5.7 million in the U.S. As many school districts head back to class and other activities resume across the country, drugstores and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pushing flu vaccination programs earlier than ever this year in an effort to avoid a double-whammy of pandemics. On Thursday, Walgreens debuted a commercial touting the drugstore chain as a key component in the fight against influenza.
For Culturelle, which recently tapped Terri & Sandy as its new agency of record, protection from illness has always played a key role in marketing messages—but now, that’s even more relevant in the current “immune-conscious world,” according to the company. The probiotics brand recently unveiled a new campaign that takes a humorous twist on parenting during the pandemic, particularly for germ-attracted kids.
“Immune health messaging has always been a focus for Culturelle,” says Nicole Bourdeau, marketing director at Culturelle. “However, with the pandemic, consumers are more concerned with immunity than ever.” The brand typically releases an annual marketing campaign around springtime but delayed its push until this month due to the pandemic, Bourdeau says.
Interest in immune-boosting products is also spanning across generations. At Kroger, for example, younger shoppers are visiting the vitamin aisle for the first time, according to trend data compiled by 84.51°, Kroger’s data science and analytics firm. Such customers are purchasing alternative forms of vitamins such as gummies, powders and syrups, a spokeswoman from Kroger says, noting that the pandemic “has accelerated already growing vitamin and supplement segments” such as elderberry and zinc. Kroger has tried to meet such demand by incorporating immunity-centric items into its promotional displays. particularly for back-to-school shopping, according to the spokeswoman.
The heightened desire for supplements has paved the way for more product innovation. Flintstones Vitamins, which is owned by Bayer, has continued running its ongoing digital campaign and well-known earworm jingle “10 Million Strong and Growing” during the pandemic, though it has refocused some targeted marketing in order to attract new consumers, according to Teresa Gonzalez Ruiz, VP of marketing, nutritionals and digestive health. She notes that Bayer recently launched Natural Fruit Bites, a new multivitamin made with farm-grown apples, for its Flintstones and One A Day brands.
Similarly, CVS in June launched an exclusive collection of Live Better by CVS Health products focused on wellness and immunity to meet the uptick in demand, a spokesman says.
Walgreens is also looking to innovate the vitamin shelf with new products that it is marketing with special promotions, a spokesman says.
“Our vitamins and supplements category is performing strongly, driven by innovation, customer-led shopper design and greater consumer awareness,” says Robert Tompkins, VP of Walgreens Group and general merchandise manager of health and wellness.
The drugstore chain in August collaborated with Nurish by Nature Made on personalized vitamins and supplements.
And experts expect the consumer interest to continue.
“The demand truly is really strong for these products,” says TABS' Jetta. “All of the indicators suggest they’re going to stay strong for quite a while—it doesn’t seem like a flash.”