vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements: future opportunities in retail

Vitamin D is one of the most commonly deficient nutrients, especially in countries that enjoy less sunshine. For this reason, geneticist Steve Jones, one of Britain’s leading scientists, had recently encouraged people to take vitamin D supplements, despite previously having been a supplement sceptic. In a speech at a festival in Wales, Jones highlighted that taking vitamin D could be effective across a range of health areas including immune support, bone health, obesity, mood and blood pressure. He also pointed out that multiple sclerosis was most common in northern Canada and almost unheard of in tropical countries, likely due to insufficient availability of sunshine for vitamin D production.

Vitamin D supplementation was promoted in the UK in 2016, when Public Health England (PHE) issued an advice that adults and children over the age of one should have 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily, meaning that some people had to consider taking a supplement, particularly during autumn and winter. Using a multi-answer steer, we attempted to measure vitamin D’s current use in comparison with other popular supplements, such as multivitamins, fish oil and vitamin C:

With 23% of consumers reporting regularly taking vitamin D, the supplement is second only to multivitamins. Almost a third of consumers regularly take multivitamins, likely for the purpose of filling any nutritional gaps their diet might have. However, despite multivitamins often providing the recommended daily allowances for some nutrients, this is rarely the case when it comes to vitamin D. It is also thought that food alone rarely provides enough of the substance. 

We were interested to obtain additional insights on vitamin D supplement usage patterns. Using a demographic steer, we asked 3742 respondents whether they take the vitamin and how frequently:

The results highlight opportunities for both attracting new consumers and converting occasional users into regular users. Seasonal positioning is not likely to boost sales, despite autumn and winter being highlighted by PHE as the seasons when supplementation is more likely to be required. In terms of gender, slightly more men (25%) than women (22%) are occasional users, however women are the more likely future converts with 29% considering taking it, compared to only 19% of men. 

It was interesting to see what areas of health and wellbeing consumers are willing to improve on by taking supplements in general and whether these areas are related with the suggested benefits from vitamin D supplementation:

Considering the results shown above, vitamin D stands a good chance of attracting a substantial proportion of consumers, interested in benefits related to immune health, body motion and brain/mental health. Using a preference steer, we asked consumers who either use vitamin D now or would consider using it in future, which out of four health benefits they find most important. 515 consumers were shown three options at a time until all combinations had been shown, and the results below show the exclusive preferences made (i.e. where the consumer chose the same option every time it was offered)::

Most vitamin D products on the market currently feature claims related to immune system, bone, and muscle health support. The steer suggests that supporting the immune system is the most important to consumers out of these three. Being a claim based on more recent research, brain health support is not yet commonly used as an on-pack claim. Our results above prove the influence of innovative claims and ingredients that relate to mental wellbeing and brain health. 

Using a ‘split by description’ steer we attempted to establish whether including a claim related to brain health can indeed boost sales. We asked two separate sets of potential and current vitamin D users whether they would buy an identical supplement, shown to each subset with a different description:

The result is in favour of the brain health claim, which attracted almost 5 percentage points more “yes” responses. Most opportunities come from two subgroups: future vitamin D consumers (8 percentages more) and year-round current users (6 percentage points more). The positioning could convince regular users to switch brands and attract new consumers who currently do not take vitamin D.

Vitamin D supplements provide opportunities for growth across a range of aspects. Brain health support is an increasingly sought-after attribute, in need of further scientific research to back up related claims. Positioning and pricing are dependent on the retail format, be it supermarkets, chemists or health stores. Less traditional delivery formats, such as chews and sprays, can help a brand stand out and broaden the market to include children and teenagers.

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