WholeFoods Magazine 2018 ForecastDiane Ray, VP, strategic innovation, NMI (Natural Marketing Institute), Harleysville, PA, shares her thoughts on where the opportunity lies in the coming year.

Boomers control the bulk of the wealth in the country yet everybody’s focused on millennials. Millennials will be the future and if you get them early and keep them brand loyal you’ve got them in your brand franchise for life. But short term, you’ve got 74 million boomers who have $3 trillion in spending power. They are spending and they are living longer and should not be overlooked!

Boomers are not only invested in health and wellness but are also growing in their sustainability behaviors. The largest group coming into many sustainable actions such as buying Fair Trade Certified products are what NMI calls the Conventionals. These are boomers who were busy raising families. Maybe they didn’t have time to pay attention. Now they’ve got a little bit of time on their hands and realize making their families, neighborhoods and the planet sustainable is important.


In the product arena, especially in supplements, I see the next big wave being products with clinical data to support efficacy. Before it’s often been inference marketing, if a = b and b = c, then a = c. People have bought into inference marketing and don’t believe you’re intentionally lying to them but in some cases, if it doesn’t prove out, the industry takes a credibility hit.

I think the independent retailer has a strong role as the adviser, the third-party intermediary, the knowledge holder. When people go to buy at a big box store, they’re not expecting anyone to be knowledgeable. On the internet, reviews are all suspect. There’s so much conflicting information. You don’t really know. Not every independent retailer is knowledgeable, but it’s a great place to invest in education for your staff in order to help bring new supplement users on board smoothly and instill industry credibility. These knowledge experts, whether it’s independent retailers or medical professionals, are becoming more and more important.

Nutritional science

Ten years ago, no doctors were even getting nutritional science as a part of their core training. Now it’s in medical schools, but it’s still a minute part of overall training. It’s still oriented toward the body as a machine. Let’s grease the joints. Let’s keep these certain functions moving, but what’s happening in your gut biome? If you look at every major university, they’re all looking at the gut biome, the nutrients being absorbed, building up the lining of your intestinal walls, etc. Nutritional science advances will be fueling industry growth, both supplements and food/bev, for the foreseeable future.

There needs to be a credible pipeline of how the bench chemistry research translates into real products for real people. Consumers are crying for some diagnostic cascade to help them know what to take and help them assess results. They don’t know what they should be taking and they don’t know if what they are taking is really doing anything for them. It very quickly becomes overwhelming. So they decide “I’ll just take a comprehensive multi because that’s the simple solution” or “I’ll just attack one specific issue” without always addressing health holistically.

The physician channel, or specialist channel, is helping grow the industry as there is an increasing number of health care professionals working to better understand nutritional science. You’re not seeing this in a physician practice that is all about getting more people through in a given day or a super-uber specialist who turns first to Rx solutions, but there’s this group in the middle, physicians, dieticians, nutritionists, etc., who are more often recommending nutrition-based health and wellness solutions.

All-in-all, the outlook is strong for continued growth of the supplement industry!

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Where do you see the opportunity in 2018? Answer in the comments below or emaileditor@wfcinc.com.