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CRN Consumer Surveys Find Changes in Supplement Use in 2020

US consumers increasingly focused on immune health in 2020; shopping restrictions and reduced income likely contributed to overall decline in dietary supplement use

By Tyler Smith

Fewer Americans reported using dietary supplements in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the 2020 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.1 However, a second CRN consumer survey that focused on COVID-19 found that 43% of supplement users changed their supplement routine during the pandemic, and, among that subset, 91% increased their use of dietary supplements.2 Despite the overall decline in supplement use, most surveyed supplement users reported a high degree of confidence in these products.

“As evidenced in the survey, dietary supplements continue to play a critical role in the lives of most Americans, and even more so in light of the ongoing health crisis,” Brian Wommack, CRN’s senior vice president of communications, was quoted as saying in a CRN press release.3 “[About] three quarters of Americans report taking dietary supplements and the overwhelming majority of supplement users, 83%, believe these products play an important role in helping to support health and wellness during COVID-19.”

CRN has conducted its annual survey of US consumers’ dietary supplement use and attitudes toward supplements since 2000. The COVID-19 survey and annual consumer survey, published in August and September 2020, respectively, each polled roughly 2,000 adults in the United States aged 18 years or older. Both surveys were conducted online by the market research company Ipsos and funded by CRN.

Although CRN’s 2020 survey reported supplement usage among Americans is down four percentage points — from 77% of respondents in 2019 to 73% in 2020 — the overall percentage of supplement users remains high. The percentage of supplement users in 2020 is still greater than in 2015 (68%) and 2016 (71%). CRN also reported a percent decline in those who consumed herbal dietary supplements. In 2020, 44% of supplement users reported taking herbal supplements, which is down from 50% in 2019. The percent decline in herbal supplement use from 2019 to 2020 applied to all age groups and genders.

For a year in which public and personal health was often at the forefront of daily conversation, the overall decline in dietary supplement use may seem surprising, or even counterintuitive. However, according to CRN, the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on other aspects of life, including reduced access to stores, less disposable income, and “sustained changes in lifestyle behaviors,” likely played a role in the decline.2

“Other recently conducted surveys demonstrate that Americans … continue to experience furloughs or work suspensions and to struggle affording household goods,” noted Chris Jackson, senior vice president of public affairs at Ipsos.1 “All of these factors could be tied to limited retail access to supplements for consumers, sustained behavior changes causing consumers to feel less of a need for specialty supplements, and less disposable income to purchase products overall.”

Increased Focus on Immune Health

Supplement users once again listed “overall health and wellness benefits” as the primary reason for taking supplements in 2020. Immune health, however, displaced energy as the second-most-common reason for taking supplements in 2020. Ipsos also asked survey respondents about the ingredients they most commonly took for immune health. Vitamin C was the most frequently consumed immune health ingredient (61% of those surveyed), but four botanicals also appeared on the top 10 list: turmeric (19%; Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae), elderberry (13%; Sambucus nigra, Adoxaceae), garlic (11%; Allium sativum, Amaryllidaceae), and echinacea (9%; Echinacea spp., Asteraceae).

Source: Council for Responsible Nutrition

Six of the seven most commonly consumed herbal supplements in 2020 remained unchanged from 2019. Elderberry knocked cannabidiol (CBD; the primary psychoactive but nonintoxicating component of Cannabis sativa, Cannabaceae) off the list in 2020, but US supplement users continued to report green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), turmeric, garlic, aloe (Aloe vera, Asphodelaceae), cranberry (Vaccinium spp., Ericaceae), and ginseng (Panax spp., Araliaceae) as the most commonly consumed herbs.

CRN’s COVID-19 Survey

In its COVID-19 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, CRN asked respondents specifically about dietary supplement use changes related to the pandemic. The survey found that 43% altered their supplement routine in some way. Among those who changed their routine, the vast majority (91%) reported increasing their supplement use. Increased use, according to CRN, covers a variety of changes, including adding supplements to an existing routine (46%), taking the same supplements more regularly (25%), restarting supplements taken in the past (22%), and starting a new supplement routine (11%).

In addition, 43% of those who increased their supplement use reported increasing their use of herbal dietary supplements. In this group, the top 10 herbs with the largest percentage increase in consumption included: green tea (13%), elderberry (9%), garlic (9%), aloe (9%), CBD (8%), turmeric (8%), ginseng (6%), cranberry (6%), cocoa (5%; Theobroma cacao, Malvaceae), and echinacea (4%).

“In light of the pandemic, most supplement users believe it is important that they continue incorporating dietary supplements into their lifestyle (88%), with many supplement users actually increasing their intake of dietary supplements,” said Jackson.3 “The data not only show increases in supplement intake throughout the pandemic, but point to sustained usage in the future as nearly all supplement users who changed their regimen (98%) indicate that they are likely to continue with their current dietary supplement routine moving forward. This data point, paired with supplement users’ sustained engagement in healthy lifestyle habits, suggests lasting changes as consumers continue to confront this public health crisis.”

CRN’s 2020 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements and COVID-19 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements are available for purchase on CRN’s website.

References

  1. 2020 CRN survey reveals focus on vitamins and minerals — Available-for-purchase consumer survey reaffirms consumer confidence and trust in the industry [press release]. Washington, DC: Council for Responsible Nutrition; September 29, 2020. Available at: www.crnusa.org/newsroom/2020-crn-survey-reveals-focus-vitamins-and-minerals-available-purchase-consumer-survey. Accessed December 14, 2020.
  2. CRN’s COVID-19 Survey on Dietary Supplements: Consumer insights on usage and attitudes about dietary supplements in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Council for Responsible Nutrition website. Available at: www.crnusa.org/resources/crns-covid-19-survey-dietary-supplements-consumer-insights-usage-and-attitudes-about. Accessed December 14, 2020.
  3. Dietary supplement usage up dramatically during pandemic, new Ipsos-CRN survey shows [press release]. Washington, DC: Council for Responsible Nutrition; August 2020, 2020. Available at: www.crnusa.org/newsroom/dietary-supplement-usage-dramatically-during-pandemic-new-ipsos-crn-survey-shows. Accessed December 14, 2020.
References