More than three quarters of American adults have confidence in the safety, quality, and effectiveness of dietary supplements, according to new survey results released at the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) 2004 Annual Conference on dietary supplements held at the Lansdowne Resort in Lansdowne, VA, in October 2004.
Despite on-going negative stories in the media about dietary supplements, consumer confidence has remained steady over a four-year period, according to the annual survey that began tracking this question in 2001. Results for 2004 showed 78% of consumers were either somewhat confident or very confident in dietary supplements, a slight increase from 77% in 2003, 75% in 2002, and 74% in 2001.
“While this statistic shows that consumer confidence overall is relatively high, we have not seen a significant increase in the strength of confidence,” says Judy Blatman, vice president of communications at CRN, noting that the tier for very confident (28%) versus somewhat confident (50%) has gone up by only two percentage points in four years. “As an industry, we need to continue to urge government and private funding for scientific research on the safety and effectiveness of supplements, as well as do a better job of communicating the kinds of things responsible companies do to ensure high-quality products.”
However, the negative media stories about supplements appear to have had an impact on consumer attitudes. With respect to herbal dietary supplements, 66% of respondents agreed with the statement, “I believe that herbal supplements are safe,” with 20% strongly agreeing and 46% somewhat agreeing. This suggests that about one third of Americans are concerned about the safety of herbal supplements. However, 67% of the survey respondents agreed with the statement, “Conflicting information about supplements makes me confused about the value of supplements.”
The question of who consumers trust for information was surveyed. Ninety percent of those surveyed indicated that they trust healthcare professionals (physicians, et al) for reliable information on supplements, with 79% citing pharmacists when specifically asked about that group. Friends and family ranked third at 63%. Government agencies were called a reliable source by 41%, while celebrity spokespeople were rated low at only 7%.
“These numbers are fairly consistent with what we’ve seen the past couple of years, although pharmacists had been named by as many as 90% and government agencies were as high as 51% two years ago. Given that supplements have an important role to play in overall health promotion, it’s no surprise that the rankings for healthcare professionals remain steady and that this group is relied upon so heavily for accurate information,” states Ms. Blatman.
The survey also showed an insignificant decrease in supplement usage at 62%, down from 65% in 2003, and lower than what other surveys have shown about supplement use. There was also a significant increase in regular users: 33% in 2004 versus 27% in 2003, a 22% increase, which includes an increase in those who are taking a variety of supplements, 17% in 2004, up from 13% in 2003.
Regarding government regulation of the dietary supplement industry, the survey found that 42% of U.S. adults do not understand that the government (i.e., via the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission) has authority to regulate supplements. With respect to following directions on labels, 93% of users agreed with the statement, “I read and follow the directions on supplement labels.” Further, 87% of users agreed with the statement, “Warnings on supplement labels are important to help me to decide which supplements to purchase.”
Where consumers purchase supplements was also surveyed, with 65% of responders saying that they purchase their supplements at a drugstore, supermarket, or mass merchandiser. Regarding purchases in the natural food channel, 27% indicated that they shopped at a chain health food store (e.g., GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, Great Earth), while 27% said they shopped in natural food stores for their supplements. (See Figure 1 for more details.)
Conducted in August 2004, the survey consisted of 1,000 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of U.S. adults aged 18 and older, and results were weighted to represent the U.S. adult population. The survey was funded by CRN.
The CRN Consumer Confidence survey provides CRN member companies the option of purchasing 500+ pages of mainly proprietary data on consumer attitudes and usage towards dietary supplements. In addition to the overview numbers presented at the CRN annual conference, the data are reported by demographics, types of supplements used, and channels of distribution. Some trended data are available as this is the fifth year that the survey has been conducted.
The survey was conducted for CRN by Ipsos-Public Affairs, which is part of Ipsos (www.ipsos.com), a leading global survey-based market research group offering a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services. Ipsos-Public Affairs conducts strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of U.S. and international organizations, and, through Ipsos U.S. Express, uses an omnibus survey to monitor product usage and attitudes.
CRN (www.crnusa.org), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association that represents ingredient suppliers and manufacturers in the dietary supplement industry. According to the organization, CRN members adhere to a strong code of ethics, comply with dosage limits, and manufacture dietary supplements to high quality standards under good manufacturing practices.
Council for Responsible Nutrition. Americans Confident in Dietary Supplements According to Survey [press release]. Washington, DC: Council for Responsible Nutrition; October 25, 2004.
Blatman J, Neiner R. CRN Dietary Supplement Consumer Confidence Survey 2004. Presentation at CRN Annual Conference, Lansdowne, VA; October 24-27, 2004.