There were five major trends that we saw hitting nutraceuticals last year. For the most part, those trends played out as expected. What was not expected was for the year to end in the COVID-19 pandemic. Every industry has been affected to some degree by the pandemic, including nutraceuticals. Given what happened in the industry last year, we’d like to take a look at how the pandemic has changed these trends and what the future likely holds for the nutraceutical industry.
Trend #1: Cannabis Is Still a Big Deal
And that’s an understatement. Most countries and states that have legalized cannabis deemed it to be an essential business, allowing stores and dispensaries to remain open. While the cannabis industry warrants its own trend brief, it does still affect nutraceuticals. Supplements, foods and beverages continue to include cannabis, particularly cannabidiol (CBD). As of March 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still held the viewpoint that CBD could not be included in the above-mentioned products.1 However, the FDA is still focusing on companies that market CBD with false claims, such as claiming CBD can treat Alzheimer’s disease or cancer (or COVID-19).
COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on the nutraceutical industry’s efforts to change this stance. All questions of legalization have been largely put on hold as the FDA and legislators focus on addressing the pandemic. The effect of COVID-19 on CBD has been mixed. Brick-and-mortar sales sunk in a few areas, but there was an increase in online sales. Some of the largest CBD manufacturers have suffered losses or at least haven’t seen the growth they anticipated. Since the pandemic is ongoing, the fate of CBD is still uncertain.
Trend #2: Nutricosmetics
People continue to be concerned about wrinkles, even in the midst of a pandemic. To that end, nutricosmetics are moving along, with the niche expected to hit almost $8 billion by 2024. And speaking of wrinkles, collagen alone brought in $1.4 billion in 2018.2 Clearly “beauty from within” is as topical as ever, in more ways than one. Popping a pill to avoid wrinkles, age spots and gray hair is still a popular idea, but lotions and creams haven’t been left out. However, collagen is where the real boom is expected.
Collagen supplements aren’t new, but the ingredient is increasingly making its way into foods and beverages. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected imports and exports, but the global collagen market is still expected to hit $6 billion by 2026.3 This is arguably the most popular form of nutricosmetic and fully expected to continue its upward momentum throughout 2020.
Trend #3: Pet Supplements
The pet supplements of 2019 haven’t changed very much in 2020. Pet supplements are still popular as owners treat their furry friends as if they’re part of the family. Pets are such an integral part of most people’s lives that owners concern themselves with the quality of food they feed their pets and with the pet’s quality of life — even in the midst of a pandemic. Fortunately for nutraceutical companies, these attitudes and buying habits have stayed pretty consistent amidst the upheaval of COVID-19.
Trend #4: Sustainable Packaging
Plastic continues to be a problem. Even though the world’s focus is on more immediate issues, the plague of plastic is lurking in the background. Consumers are still worried about what plastic is doing to the planet and nutraceutical companies have been quick to step up to the plate and denounce it. One of the simplest ways companies are embracing this trend is simply using less packaging. Considering there are few types of packaging that are 100% eco-friendly, just using less is a big help. Additionally, plant-based replacements for plastic resins and extrusions are becoming more popular and affordable.4
We’ve gotten to the point where the problem with plastic isn’t a lack of alternatives. The challenge now is finding the packaging that fulfills the same role and incorporates into a supply chain with minimal disruption. If this can’t be done without plastic, one expert points out that plastic and sustainable aren’t mutually exclusive. “Plastic can still play a role in sustainable packaging, if it’s recyclable and the brand does a thorough evaluation of sourcing, efficiency, recovery, health and safety of all possible alternatives.” 5
Trend #5: Shifting Sports Nutrition
This is one area that’s been dramatically affected by COVID-19, in both good and bad ways. Sports nutrition is directly tied to working out. When social distancing changed how people worked out, it also changed how they consumed supplements. Convenience has been a big selling point as people’s lives have become closer to home. The ease of grabbing an individually wrapped bar or a bottled protein shake was important when people were rushing to the gym. This is a much less important selling point now.6 Many people now work out where they live. Even those that head out to a trail return home afterwards. That means buying protein powder in bulk to make shakes in the kitchen is more feasible and this has been reflected in the market.
Another important shift is the attitude toward working out. Instead of bulking up or staying lean, the new trend in working out is staying healthy. While exercise doesn’t fight off COVID-19, consumers are more worried than normal about their overall health. Sports nutrition supplement formulation is changing to match this new attitude. Instead of focusing on ingredients meant to help with muscle development, the focus is on immunity.7
At the end of 2019, no one could have predicted how COVID-19 would shape industries and everyday life. For the nutraceutical industry, the effects of COVID-19 have been mixed. As in most industries, brick-and-mortal sales have dropped, but online sales have increased. Certain supplement categories are carrying on basically uninterrupted while others have undergone major shifts to meet new needs. Since the pandemic might permanently change some aspects of our lives, the effects on the industry might be permanent as well.
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