Ten years ago wellness and preventative health were niche but today in the US over 83% of households use vitamins, minerals or supplements (VMS). Many other developed markets are close behind. Down under most Aussies pop VMS in some shape or form.

Globally VMS is worth over $140b; and it grew strongly last year as consumers sought to boost their immunity. GSK’s Centrum, one of the leading brands soared 16%.

However, VMS is a confusing market. For a start there is no clear definition of what it includes, or excludes. There are pills, powders, drinks, food products with nutraceutical claims, not to mention cosmetics with functional ingredients.

Online is now one of the category’s biggest channels. Since VMS are generally not classed as drugs it’s not difficult for new comers to conceive a concept, find a third party OEM, fire up a fancy website and start selling.

There are some consumers, perhaps not the majority but certainly a significant cohort, who actively avoid brands sold by big-Pharma.

No surprise the top 10 brands globally account for less than 20% of the market.

In America, VMS are classed as food products by the FDA regulator, meaning brands don’t have to prove they’re safe before being sold, unlike drugs.

Compounding matters further, some VMS brands, especially those sailing close to the wind, use ‘borrowed’ science to validate claims, communicated through word-of-mouth and social media.

A recent report in the WSJ suggested that the FDA is taking a closer look at VMS, especially as surveys have shown a significant number of products contain undeclared ingredients.

It’s an industry that has become too big for the regulators to ignore. 

This is also a watch out for Nestle, Unilever and other big companies who are aggressively pushing into this space, largely through M&A. They’re usually amongst the first to come under the microscope.