Sorry, Your Consumers’ First Go-To Solution When They’re Sick Is NOT Supplements

“If you’re not feeling well, what’s your usual first go-to solution?”

It should be a sobering statistic to supplement brands that, when the going gets tough, 86 percent of supplements users’ first reaction is to go elsewhere

This is a simple question that natural health and wellness brands need to know. In our proprietary Supplement Consumer PureSegmentation™ Research, we asked 2,129 census-balanced adult supplement users across the United States the same question for a +/- 2 percent margin of error.

Before we let you know the answer, keep in mind that 72 percent of the over-18 US population uses supplements (approximately 163 million people), and 28 percent of Americans do not. That 28 percent of nonusers clearly do not turn to herbal and dietary supplements when they are sick. The percentages in the chart below reflect supplement users only.

To be honest, we are as disappointed as you that only 14 percent of supplement users turn to herbal and dietary supplements as their first go-to solution when they are not feeling well. This 14 percent represents the core supplement users who have an abiding trust in herbal and dietary supplements. However, it should be a sobering statistic to supplement brands that, when the going gets tough, 86 percent of supplements users’ first reaction is to go elsewhere, with 48 percent heading for the over-the-counter (OTC) shelves. Remember also that 28 percent of the population will not even consider taking supplements.

What does this mean? Are supplements generally perceived as useless for acute conditions? How can brands nurture consumers to trust them enough when they start feeling ill? Do consumers first go to the OTC solution and then, for insurance, take supplements as well?

Trust in Alternatives

In other research we have fielded, we asked both integrative healthcare practitioners and consumers why they switched from conventional medicine to more holistic practices, and one of the most common reasons shared between both groups is that conventional medicine is good for acute issues but ineffective for chronic and preventive issues.

This proved true in another question we asked our census-balanced supplement user respondents: “Which of the following reasons best describes why you usually use herbal and/or dietary supplements?” Only 24 percent take supplements for acute support.

The supplement industry has succeeded in convincing consumers that taking supplements will promote their overall health and wellness. However, when it comes to feeling bad, like sensing the onset of a cold, dealing with hay fever, or feeling achy, dietary supplements take a back seat to conventional allopathic solutions backed by large pharmaceutical companies.

It would be a mistake to think this means supplement users do not expect to feel anything from those supplements. They want their relationship with supplements to be positive, such as feeling energized, happy, or calm. Supplements make people feel better, whether it involves their digestion, their inflammation, or their sleep.

But how can brands convince consumers to think of supplements first when they start to feel ill? If they could move that needle to 20 percent from 14 percent, then what would the impact be? If we use our census-balanced figures of approximately 163 million supplement users, then that 6 percent increase adds 10 million supplement users to the existing 22 million who go to supplements first.

Acutely Aware of DSHEA

An argument many supplement brands use for their failure to increase this sentiment is the DSHEA constraints. You cannot say “cures colds and flu” on the label. Over the years, coded language such as “supports immune system” (along with the FDA disclaimer) has been the default solution. But how do you explain success in the areas of improved health, prevention, specific conditions, and enhanced performance? These all must comply with DSHEA as well.

It comes down to motivation and trust. What will motivate consumers to turn first to supplements, and what brand will they trust most for this important decision? In our Supplement Consumer PureSegmentation™ Research, we identified the consumer segments that have the greatest likelihood to choose supplements first for acute support and what they look for when evaluating trust. This research illuminates how brands can address trust issues with key consumer segments so those segments will consider supplements, not OTC medicines, as their go-to solution.