New supplement delivery techniques offer customers valuable options.

Everyday, there seems to be a thrilling and promising innovation in the dietary supplements market. However, retailers should be careful when choosing new products not to fall into a trap of getting the newest and wildest thing out there just for novelty’s sake. “There’s innovation and there’s innovation that matters,” noted Jeff Hilton, a partner of Integrated Marketing Group at Expo East 2008. Make sure you’re stocking your shelves with innovations that are useful and important to people, he advised. Look at your audience, your various types of consumers, who will be most attracted to certain products and delivery forms.

Know Your Audience
Kids. “It’s time to take your fish oil!” Undoubtedly, this announcement would have even the most easy-going kids rise up in mutiny. “Parents are increasingly concerned about getting nutrients into their kids in some way,” said Hilton. Luckily, there are numerous options available to quell even the most rebellious in nature. For example, omega-3s are now available in tasty kid’s oil formulations that can be added to smoothies or eaten off the spoon. Flavors can include lemon, strawberry, orange, apple and lime, offering plenty of options for kids with selective tastes. Also, gummies are a fun and even portable way to make kids excited about taking their daily nutrients. Retailers should also be aware that packaging directed toward younger consumers can make the difference in a sale or no sale, especially when kids tag along with their parents to the store.

Adults. Taking a tableted or encapsulated dietary supplement is an excellent delivery form for nutrients. But, some consumers feel it can become quite mundane over time, especially when numerous are taken as part of a daily routine. This tediousness can be addressed by replacing one or more of the doses with a liquid or chewable supplement. For example, flavored essential oils like fish and flax can be taken straight, added to yogurt or blended into a smoothie. Creamy essential fatty acids supplements designed for adults also are new to the market.

And, gummies aren’t just for kids anymore. Gummy vitamins are available for grown-ups who also want to enjoy their daily vitamins and minerals in a fun and tasty way. These are also great for those concerned with convenience and time management. To-go packaging is on the rise; calorie- and dose-designated packets are now available for supplements, beverages and snacks.

A popular way to add some zest to a supplement regimen can be found in effervescent variations. Nutrition Business Journal estimates 15% of all supplements sold in the United States between 2005 and 2008 were in powder or effervescent form (2), confirming that some consumers are in search of remedies for their daily pill-popping routines.

Seniors. Taking pills can become more difficult as we age because of swallowing difficulty and compromised digestion. Joint problems are common among elderly customers, and many will have trouble taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin, as an example. Therefore, retailers should not only show them what’s available in pills and capsules, but also liquids and topical creams.

Powdered supplements are also a great option, as they are mostly tasteless and easy to administer in food or beverages. However, dosing can be less accurate with powders, so retailers should stock products with pre-measured doses or be ready to provide information about safe dosing procedures.

Women. Women typically need extra calcium, so having other options besides pills or tablets is sure to increase sales. Delicious chews can provide a delightful way for women to maintain their calcium intake. Many chews also multitask now, including vitamins D and K, for maximum absorption, or include a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

Athletes. Athletes have begun using highly concentrated energy gels as alternatives to eating during competition or just as an extra boost. Retailers should be prepared to offer information about the proper use of these gels and how to get the maximum results from them. The main cause of complaints (nausea, ineffectiveness) for these gels is due to the athlete not drinking enough water with the gel. For example, a typical gel pack requires approximately 500 ml of fluid to absorb correctly and prevent dehydration (3).

Shakes, bars, beverages continue to be popular choices for athletes.

Consumers may have concerns about the bioavailability of new delivery forms. Bioavailability can be described as how successfully a supplement is absorbed into the body, how long it takes to work and how long it will stay effective.
Although less portable than other forms, liquids tend to have excellent bioavailability because they can, for the most part, enter the bloodstream without the time-consuming process of digestion. For more information about liquid nutrient bioavailability, see the June 2007 WholeFoods, p.50. WF

1. J. Hilton, “New Dosage and Delivery Forms: Lipstick on a Pig or Meaningful Innovations?” presented at Expo East 2008, October 16, 2008, Boston, MA.
2. “Powdered, Effervescent Delivery Modes Grab Growing Market Share,” Nutrition Business Journal, July 28, 2008.
3. “Athletes Using Energy Gels Should Add Water,” September 12, 2006,
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2008