The bulk of supplement-taking consumers no longer consist of bodybuilders or the over 55s. With an overall rise in concern for well-being among millennials, a 75 million strong generation, we’re seeing a corresponding surge in demand for health-boosting vitamins and minerals; and a number of startups are swooping in.
But if millennials are driving the production of what is now a $100+ billion global industry, how are new brands getting traction in such a highly saturated market?
For young British players like VITL, which recently expanded to the US via hip retailer Urban Outfitters, making a great product is just the first step. It’s ditching the old-fashioned brown bottles in favour of sleek (mailbox friendly) packaging, nailing e-commerce, and adopting a fresh approach to content marketing, that is capturing the attention of a new market segment.
“Brand is such an engulfing concept that it’s hard to downplay its importance. It’s really what we stand for,” VITL founder Jonathan Relph told Welltodo.
“Right from the extraordinary amount of effort that goes into procuring the highest quality ingredients, to making sure that we’ve made the most thoughtfully designed products. I think it all comes under the umbrella of ‘brand’ and consumers pick up on that extra effort.”
Like a string of new, trendy supplement brands that have entered the global market, VITL have created a product that slots seamlessly into consumers’ busy lives, as a kind of fashionable accessory. Their tearable daily strips are novel and the packaging Instagram-worthy – such that it caught the eye of a US Urban Outfitters representative, who got in touch to request samples.
Now, consumers have the option to shop for clothing, accessories and supplements all in one space, positioning VITL as an extension of identity. Supplements have become a cool lifestyle marker, and one which consumers are willing to spend $60.00 on, for a 28 day supply.
But to really connect with millennials in today’s educated and informed climate, does it take more than just on point packaging and a celebrity Nutritionist’s endorsement to win over a generation that has been raised to question everything a company says and does?
Whilst VITL’s clear commitment to using only the healthiest, highest quality and sustainably sourced ingredients would suggest so, it’s the rapid growth of vitamin startups like Olly, whose products are stocked exclusively in Target across the US, that paint a different picture.
Olly’s on-trend, bold packaging has propelled their innovative gummy bear vitamins to success, despite the fact that each dose contains up to a teaspoon of sugar. Adopting a colloquial tone, these brands present millennials with a casually irrefutable call to action. For example: ‘Olly’s Simply Vitamin D was designed to give our bodies a daily dose of sunshine. Say hello to that sunny disposition.’
But, “the supplement market can be a really confusing space,” admits VITL’s Jonathan Relph, even for the well informed. And with so many products available and new ‘superfood’ ingredients emerging by the minute, it can be a very difficult landscape to navigate; making a ‘we’ve done all the hard work for you’ approach by brands, very appealing.
Millennials certainly aren’t stupid, which is why Relph believes the transparency of their goods is what speaks to emerging-market respondents. Respondents who, according to market researchers Nielson, are the most willing to pay a premium for health products when they have clear, environmental and socioeconomic benefits.
And for some consumers the awareness doesn’t end there. Aside from transparency pertaining to the social impact of products, health-conscious millennials, who are increasingly taking wellbeing into their own hands are also drawing their own conclusions around which supplements they do and don’t need.
This means that the ‘one size fits all’ model of the traditional multivitamin is no longer enough, leading to a rise in demand for combination and personalised supplements.
Fellow British brand, Inner Me, is tapping into consumer demand for personalisation. Their products cater to specific age ranges, particular health concerns such as gut and skin health, and offer combinations of specific supplements that feel much more bespoke. And according to founder Nikki Cooper “they won’t look unpleasant on your kitchen counter.”
She adds, “combination supplements like our Daily4 strips help eliminate guesswork or confusion. They provide well thought out systems where each supplement has been chosen to work well with the others in the pack. Also with hectic lives, these combination strips tick the box for convenience. Gone are the days of random pots filling kitchen and bathroom cupboards and accumulating dust.”
Inner Me has a strong brand focus on consumers in their 20s, a segment which Cooper believes is searching for remedies and sparking brand loyalties that will see them well into their twilight years.
However, Cooper does recognise that in order to stay relevant and meet the needs of the mercurial and much more educated millennial, current brands must carry on evolving.
The predicted growth of sub-categories such as sports nutrition and immune boosters are expected to lead to even greater levels of personalisation. And the convergence of food and pharmaceutical – including food and drinks which contain vitamins and minerals – continues. For startups yet to penetrate the market, the race is already on to innovate.