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 Capitalizing on the growing interest in veganism among UK consumers should be top of mind for dietary supplement players in 2019, suggests data gathered by market researcher Mintel.

A survey of 2,000 UK consumers found that for 11% of vitamin, mineral and supplement (VMS) users, a vegan/vegetarian claim was an “important factor when choosing one vitamin or supplement over another,” Mintel notes.

Manufacturers of calcium and iron supplements in particular should take heed, Mintel advises, with the high-single-digit growth in usage of both product types in 2018 attributable to the increasing uptake of vegan and vegetarian diets.

Veganism Boosts Supplement Usage

“Calcium and iron usage among VMS users has shown an impressive rise in the last year,” Mintel reports, “with calcium usage increasing 9 percentage points to 29% in 2018, and iron up 6 percentage points to 28%.”

Broken down by age group, the largest increase for calcium was seen among 25-34-year-olds – up 14 percentage points to 39% – while for iron, it was 35-44 year olds who upped their intake the most, by 14 percentage points to 36%.


“People are looking to supplements to fill the iron gap” - Mintel's Anita Winther


“The trend towards meat reduction diets – including both strict vegan diets and the more lenient flexitarian approach – is likely boosting usage of iron,” comments Mintel research analyst Anita Winther. “With as many as half of meat eaters believing their red meat intake should be limited, it is likely that people are looking to supplements to fill the iron gap left if they are reducing the amount of red meat they eat.”

As for calcium, Winther suggests that a notable rise in usage in 2018 is “linked to the growing focus on plant-based foods, both in terms of vegan diets and dairy avoidance.”

Buoyed by the rise of veganism, calcium and iron were the second- and third-most popular individual supplements in the UK in 2018, taken by 29% and 28% of VMS users in the 12 months.


“A long-term favorite of Brits” cold liver oil/fish oil remained the nation’s number-one supplement, according to Mintel, taken by 37% of consumers. Rounding out the top-five, magnesium and zinc were in joint fourth place, with both supplements taken by 16% of VMS users.

VMS Sales Exceed £0.4bn

Increasing uptake of calcium and iron supplements helped total VMS value sales in the UK to hit £442m ($569m) in 2018, Mintel reports, up by 6% compared to 2013. The next five years is expected to see a “steady rise in value sales,” claims Mintel, with the country’s VMS market growing a “healthy 8%” to reach £447m in 2023.

“Interest in health is expected to be a major driver for VMS sales, while the ageing population should continue to drive growth in the over-50s segment,” Winther explains. “The ongoing focus on health, both among consumers and in the public debate, is seeing people take a more proactive approach towards their wellbeing.”

UK consumers on the whole have embraced VMS, with only 26% of the population never having taken such a product. In 2018, six in 10 consumers took VMS, with half of this number daily users. Women were “considerably more likely than men” to use VMS, Mintel points out, at 38% compared to 29%.

Confidence in the efficacy of VMS appears high, with Mintel reporting that seven in 10 consumers believe supplements are a better source of vitamins and minerals than fortified foods and drinks.


Vitamin D overtakes C

While calcium and iron drove the supplements portion of the market in 2018, increased vitamin D uptake helped to push up the vitamins segment, according to Mintel.

Usage of vitamin D advanced by 7 percentage points to 33% of VMS consumers in 2018, helping it to overtake vitamin C as the UK’s number-one single vitamin supplement, Mintel reports. The 35-54 age group were the main drivers of this single-digit increase, with usage rising from 22% in 2017 to 35% in 2018.

“Vitamin D has proved to be a star performer in the sector, with its health benefits during the winter months continuing to be a popular topic,” Winther points out. “This will have undoubtedly helped boost usage, raising its profile among Brits.”

After vitamin D, vitamin C was the UK's second most popular vitamin supplement in 2018, Mintel says, taken by 27% of VMS users. Rounding out the top five were: vitamin B complex (15%), vitamin A (12%) and vitamin E (10%).


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