Last week we wrote about the warning issued by Consumer Reports against 12 potentially dangerous dietary supplements. That report proved what many skeptical consumers felt all along — that even with federal regulation, there are just too many bad stories floating around out there about questionable ingredients, adverse effects and overzealous promises.
Now there’s a new report that fleshes out that skepticism a bit. It’s from Ipsos, a market research firm, and it compares consumer interest in foods and beverages that specifically promote digestive health, weight loss, energy levels, and so on, versus vitamins and supplements targeting the same conditions.
It’s an interesting concept, especially when you consider the strides companies have taken in making foods and beverages functional. Living long and staying healthy is on a lot of people’s minds. From such concerns spring profitable enterprises, and so we see on shelves now everything from probiotic yogurt to baby formula infused with DHA, which studies suggest may improve mental acuity.
Not surprisingly, many people prefer eating and drinking to popping pills. According to the Ipsos survey, 38% of consumers say they’re interested in food and beverages that address digestive health, versus 32% who preferred vitamins and supplements. “Increased Energy” and “Weight Loss” told the same story, as did managing “Healthy Blood Sugar Levels”.
Food and beverage didn’t triumph in every category, though it did come seriously close on some very serious conditions. “Cancer Prevention”, for one, saw 33% of people prefer food and beverage as a better option than supplements, which had 38% interest. “Bone and Joint Health” saw 30% interest on the food and beverage side. Even “Increased Brain Power/Memory” had a similar breakdown.
Is there anything that works more directly than a pill or a powder? That question used to be rhetorical, but with the increasingly negative publicity that the crowded vitamin and supplement industry is now receiving, it’s anything but. The growing popularity of functional food is a story in and of itself. But it’s also a story about the failure of the supplement industry to retain consumer trust. Companies have a lot of work to do — not to mention some shoring-up on the regulatory side of things — if they hope to regain it.