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COVID-19 spurred significant growth for some of Italy's most popular dietary supplement categories in the first quarter of 2020 as consumers flooded pharmacies in search of products to boost their immune systems.

Market research by the Italian Association of Health Products Manufacturers and Distributors, FederSalus, reveals that the most in demand dietary supplement line at the height of Italy's coronavirus outbreak was vitamin C products, with category sales in value terms up 237.8% in Q1.

Demand for vitamin C supplements in Italian pharmacies in the opening three months of 2020 far outstripped any other category, according to FederSalus' research, which was conducted in collaboration with IQVIA. The next best-performing category was respiratory health, with value sales up 75.2%, closely followed by immunity boosters, which posted turnover up by 64.5%.




Sleep and relaxation supplements also proved popular among stressed Italian consumers - with sales of these lines up by more than a quarter - along with throat and vitamin B group supplements, both of which recorded rises of more than 10%.

FederSalus notes that while total supplement category sales in pharmacy recorded steady growth in Q1 - advancing by 3.7% to €1.04bn ($1.17bn) - online sales had skyrocketed during the lockdown period.

Turnover from supplement sales through e-commerce jumped by 64% to €82m in the first quarter, with FederSalus noting, that like the bricks-and-mortar channel, the biggest gains were for vitamins and minerals and immunity boosting products.

Italy is not alone in seeing marked increased demand for supplements during the coronavirus outbreak, with France and the UK among the European countries reporting a similar trend. (Also see "COVID-19 Drives A Third Of French Consumers Towards Food Supplements" - HBW Insight, 29 Jun, 2020.) (Also see "Supplementation During COVID-19? An Industry Perspective" - HBW Insight, 1 Apr, 2020.)


Solid Growth In 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the sales of a dietary supplements market that was already in robust health, FederSalus' research shows.

Italy's supplements market has recorded annual growth for the past three years, most recently posting value sales up by 3.6% to €3.57bn in 2019. This figure covers all sales channels, the largest of which is pharmacy, accounting for 84% of market turnover last year.



Breaking down the 2019 performance further, four categories accounted for more than half of the total sales: vitamins & minerals, intestinal & digestive well-being, probiotics and circulatory system. A total of eight supplement categories broke the €100m barrier in 2019.

FederSalus pointed out that the market was in good shape as over the past three years only one of the top-11 best-selling supplement categories had failed to grow on average. The top-performing category over this period was sleep and relaxation, with category sales growing at an average rate of 12%. Weight loss was the only category to suffer a contraction, with average sales declining by 7%.





Looking to the future, FederSalus said the prospects for the market were good, with its research showing that 58.4% of Italians were regular supplement users, while 15.9% described themselves as occasional users.

The association said healthcare professionals - such as doctor's and pharmacists - were key to encouraging supplement use among Italians, as 47% of consumers turned to them for advice on the subject.

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