The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a company in Telford, Pennsylvania that measures trends in the natural food and dietary supplement marketplace, has completed its annual survey of consumer uses and preferences for natural products.
The NMI survey reveals the following conclusions:
1. Satisfaction: Only 53 percent of herbal supplement users are satisfied with herbal supplements. Consumer satisfaction was tested within 37 specific vitamin/mineral/herbal product categories. In each case, satisfaction is rated on a five-point scale, from "extremely satisfied" to "not at all satisfied." Reasons for dissatisfaction were not measured.
2. Increased Use: The survey tested whether use of herbal supplements was increasing or staying steady. The survey produced statistics that attempt to measure the basis for the recent downturn in sales of herbs in the past year: 46 percent of herbal users have increased their use of herbs, while only 10 percent of the general population has increased usage. Also, 48 percent of herbal users have remained at the same level as the previous year, while only 24 percent of all shoppers have remained at same levels. Put another way, 94 percent of herbal users have stayed the same or increased usage, while only 34 percent of general population has done so. A total of 8 percent of all shoppers (including those in natural food stores plus the mass market), reported reductions in herb usage. This contrasts with 6.1 percent of natural food shoppers alone, who report decreased usage.
3. Length of Use: Approximately 50 percent of all herbal users have been using herbals for over three years.
4. Frequency of Use: 57 percent of herbal supplement users take herbals once per day, and 25 percent of those users use them more than once per day. (82 percent of users ingest herbs at least once per day.)
5. Duration of Benefits: According to the survey, 45 percent of users desire daily benefits, i.e., benefits that they can observe or measure on a daily basis; 35 percent use herbals for long-term benefits, and only 6 percent use them for short-term benefits (short-term was not defined in the survey).
6. Type of Benefits: 59 percent of users seek general health benefits of herbs, compared to 40 percent who seek to prevent or treat specific conditions.
7. Priorities: A significant 88-90 percent of herb users agree that research, efficacy, and safety are most important in a product choice, according to NMI. This was determined by their answering questions that indicated their level of agreement to a series of statements dealing with safety and efficacy.
The 2000 Natural Marketplace Trends Report was based on 2,002 randomly chosen U.S. households that responded to a 12-page mail-home questionnaire and was conducted in July-August 2000. These respondents are considered representative of the general U.S. population of 600,000 households, balanced to U.S. census data. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percent. Approximately 30 percent of the survey questions dealt directly with herbal supplements.
In order to develop a significant distinction between herbs and other types of dietary supplements, the questionnaire was very specific about the differences between herbs, vitamins, and minerals. It mentions specific herbs by name, e.g., ginkgo, ginseng, and St. John’s wort. According to Joseph J. Marra, Esq., Director of Marketing at NMI, "It is clear from the structure of the questionnaire that these are all different things. Nonetheless, this is a survey of consumers, and their knowledge and ability to differentiate is out of our control, as this is all self-reported. We make every effort to cross-tabulate the data in several ways such that we believe that we are seeing an accurate rendering of the various categories." However, there may be some ambiguity regarding some of the terms used in this field: 95 percent of all shoppers reported that they understand the term ‘dietary supplements,’ but only 20 percent report that they understand the term ‘nutraceuticals,’ said Marra.
For more information, contact The Natural Marketing Institute at (215) 721-1258, or on the web at <www.nmisolutions.com>
[Marra J. Personal communication to M Blumenthal, Oct. 19, 2000.
Natural Marketing Institute. 2000 Natural Marketplace Trends Report.]