Millions of pounds are spent annually on advertising supplements, but does this alone create the consumers of the future – or is there something else also driving the industry?
When it cornes to supplements usage, the population can be broadly divided rito those who take them and those who don’t, and apparently the split is about 50:50. Over the years, market researchers have profited hand somely from supplements mariufacturers trying to get insights Into consumer attitudes concerning the plIs they are taking.
The expensive ‘focus group’work is followed by a report that pigeonholes consumers into their different sub-groups, which are generally given mildly humorous names such as Anxious Agers’. ‘Urban Go-getters’and ‘Alternative Experts’.
These are helpful to a degree —particularly for newcomers to the industry – but anyone who deals directly with constwners either in-store or on phone helplines will know that these consumer pigeonholes’ barely scratch the surface of understanding why a particular individual takes supplements.
I’m often surprised that one of the most obvious motivations for taking supplements is barely mentioned by the researchers, namely that the con sumer feels better and healthier when they take something.
Crossing the boundaries
The views of existing supplements users are fascinating but I find the recent converts to supplements the most interesting group. These are the adults who have stepped across the boundary from being non-users to being users, and something has triggered this ‘conversion’. Personally I think it would be amazing if this conversion had resulted from supplements advertising. Maybe in the past advertising did convert some non-users but these days I doubt it plays much of a role given the restrictions on health claims. And EFSA claims such as ‘contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism’ or ‘contributes to normal neurotransrnission’ are not going to have people dashing to their local health food store.
So what does transform a non-user into a user? Press editorial is pretty powerful, albeit lwgely unpredictable,and of course the Internet has empowered people to search for solutions to their health problems. Recommenda tions from friends and relatives also play a large role in converting non-users, but for me The largest and most underrated source of conversions is from the millions of consultations that are carried out every year in CAM clin ic. It is here that the non-user with a chronic condition has their eyes opened to the powerful healing powers of a good diet, supported with supplements.
The same conversion happens in health food stores where expert one-to-one advice can sometimes change a customer’s attitude to nutrition, and in some cases transform their health. At the same time it is store staff who can demystify the choice of supplements, as confusion on what to buy is probably the biggest barrier to non-users buying their first supplements.
So here’s to all those CAM practitioners and health food store staff who are quietly driving the growth of our industry. It is down to them and not to b**** Amazon that our industry continues to thrive!