Sales of herbal dietary supplements demonstrated steady growth in multiple market channels during 2006 and 2007. Such growth occurred even within the mainstream market channel (i.e., food, drug, and mass market retailers, referred to as FDM) in 2007, which marks the first time that sales have increased within this particular channel in several years. Unpublished sales statistics gathered from various primary and secondary sources by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) show that total estimated herb sales in the US market rose 4.1% in 2006 compared to 2005. Preliminary research on 2007 sales indicate a 4.4% increase over 2006 (see Table 1*).
Herbal dietary supplements are sold in the United States through a variety of market channels, including health and natural food stores; FDM outlets; warehouse stores; convenience stores; mail order, radio and television direct sales, and Internet sales; companies that sell directly to the consumer (often called network marketing or multi-level marketing [MLM] companies); health professionals in their offices (e.g., acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths, some conventional physicians), and other channels. Whereas Information Resources Inc. (IRI) and other market data companies such as ACNielsen are able to generate relatively accurate data of herbal dietary supplement sales for the FDM channel through cash register and computer scanning records, the majority of sales channels lack such econometric tracking services and are thus estimated with a lesser degree of accuracy. However, by pooling various sources of available data and modeling the remaining multi-channel firms, NBJ has arrived at a total estimated figure for all US herbal dietary supplement sales in 2006 of $4,590,000,000 and a figure of $4,791,000,000 for 2007.
According to data supplied by IRI of Chicago, sales of single herbal dietary supplements in the FDM channel declined by an almost imperceptible amount of 0.2rom 2005 to 2006, but such sales then rose by 7.6% in 2007 for a total figure of $267,757,500 (see Tables 2 and 3).1 The IRI data, considered by many industry experts as probably the most reliable econometric sales data available on herbal supplements for this market channel, does not include sales reports from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and other large warehouse buying clubs, or from convenience stores. The inclusion of such additional data would likely increase the reported figures considerably, particularly since Wal-Mart is considered the largest single retail seller of dietary supplements in the United States.
The 25 top-selling single herbal dietary supplements within the FDM channel, as determined by IRI, are listed in Table 2. Despite the overall increase in herbal dietary supplement sales in the FDM channel, Table 2 shows that only 5 of the 25 top-selling single-herb supplements increased in sales from 2006 to 2007, with all others showing slight to moderate declines. Such data suggests that the majority of growth can be attributed to increased sales in combination herbal supplement products, less popular single-herb supplements, and the emerging popularity of superfruit products such as acai, goji, mangosteen, and noni.
Soy (Glycine max, Fabaceae) dietary supplements achieved the greatest sales of all single-herb supplement products in the FDM channel in both 2006 and 2007. In 2005, IRI reported that soy ranked as the 6th top-selling herbal dietary supplement in the FDM channel, with sales of $14,497,100.2 Soy sales rose dramatically over the next year, with sales almost doubling between 2005 and 2006. Although soy sales dropped by over 16% in 2007 from 2006, such sales were still sufficient for soy to maintain its number 1 rank among all herbal dietary supplement products in this category.
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon, Ericaceae) dietary supplement sales have experienced significant steady growth over the past few years. Sales of cranberry, which was ranked as the number 5 top-selling single herb dietary supplement in the FDM channel in 2005, increased by 21.5rom 2005 to 2006. Cranberry supplement sales have since increased by nearly 23.6rom 2006 to 2007, and cranberry has become the second highest selling single-herb dietary supplement in the FDM channel. As positive data continue to be released on the health benefits of cranberry, this supplement’s steady growth in sales may be poised to continue. In January of 2008, the Cochrane Collaboration released a systematic review of 10 randomized controlled trials, which concluded that cranberry products may prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women.3 (For more on this review, read the article on page 28.)
Superfruit products, meanwhile, have experienced some of the greatest recent sales growth within the herbal supplement sector. Sales of acai (Euterpe oleracea, Arecaceae) products, for instance, increased by 86% in 2007 compared to 2006. The total 2007 sales figure for acai is estimated at $30,000,000, two-thirds of which is attributed to sales within the natural and health food channel, according to data from NBJ. Goji (Lyceum spp., Solanaceae) and mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana, Clusiaceae) juice products also experienced significant sales growth, primarily through the direct sales channel. Goji juice sales rose 50% in 2007 for a total estimated sales figure of $98,000,000, and mangosteen juice sales increased by 30or a total estimated sales figure of $191,000,000. Sales of noni (Morinda citrifolia, Rubiaceae) juice, another popular superfruit liquid botanical product, rose 8% in 2007, earning an estimated sales total of $278,000,000.
Both single and combination herbal dietary supplements have experienced growth in sales in recent years, according to data from NBJ (see Table 4*). According to the most recent figures, sales of single-herb supplements (monopreparations) grew by 4.6% in 2007, while sales of combination-herb supplements grew by 3.9%. Mono-preparations have consistently remained the more popular products, pulling in almost twice as much in sales as combinations.
NBJ data further indicate that all market channels seem to have experienced growth in herbal dietary supplements in 2007 (see Table 5). NBJ’s 2007 data has estimated a total of $752,000,000 in herbal dietary supplement sales in the US mass market channel (which does include sales from Wal-Mart, club warehouses, and convenience stores), representing a 5.5% increase in sales from 2006. The larger natural and health food (e.g., GNC, Whole Foods Markets, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, et al.) and direct sales (including MLM companies such as Herbalife, Nature’s Sunshine, Nutrilite, Shaklee, et al.) channels also demonstrated growth in 2007, at 2.9 nd 5.0%, respectively.
- FDM Market Sales Data for Herbal Supplements, 52 weeks ending Dec 30, 2007 and 52 weeks ending Dec 31, 2006. Chicago, IL: Information Resources Inc.
- Blumenthal M, Ferrier GKL, Cavaliere C. Total sales of herbal supplements in United States show steady growth. HerbalGram. 2006:71;64-66.
- Jepson RG, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008:Issue 1.