Food Supplements – A lifestyle choice

Dic 20, 2021

In Europe as well in US and Canada (and to some extent also in Japan) food supplements have become part of everyday lifestyle choices.

The increasing awareness of the critical role of vitamins and minerals for physical and psychological wellbeing is a key factor of this evolution. Performance and balance are increasingly important in our hectic modern life and food supplements are part of our search for additional resources to cope with our demanding routine.

Italy: a success case

In Italy, the average per capita expense on food supplements is higher than in other European countries. The market has been growing at a faster pace than the cosmetics one and other consumer health niches and is still in a very good shape despite the shock caused by the pandemic.

In 2009-2020, the local business more than doubled and now stands at 3,6 billion euros. The figure includes only products sold in traditional ‘physical’ channels, namely pharmacies, para-pharmacies and corners.

During the last year e-commerce boomed either in the specialized sites (i.e. e-commerce managed by brick and mortar players or pharmacies chains) +76%, according to IQVIA data on September 2020, and in the generalist marketplaces.

Volumes reached 258 million packs: approximately four packs per inhabitant and a per capita expenditure of more than 40 euro/year versus other industrialized countries with lower values.

Growth drivers

The main drivers for this upsurge are related to demographics, cultural reasons and structural and marketing evolutions. 

In our country, people aged 50 and more were 25,9 million in 2015 and will be 29,6 in 2050 (1).

Despite the crisis, baby boomers still have fair incomes and the national healthcare system covers most of the traditional therapies and treatments therefore most people consumers can still sustain the out of pocket investments on lifestyle products and natural medicines.

Many people search for information on dietary plans and food supplements on traditional and new media and are used to consulting the net both before and after their visits to doctors or pharmacists to acquire information prior to their consultation or to validate their prescriptions and advices.

The role of professionals

Pharmacists have understood the potential of these products and have an important role as stakeholders. They influence the market either in cross selling with drugs (to mitigate the possible side effects and reinforce the therapy in the long term) or in recommending supplements to those patients seeking dietary advice.

Furthermore, doctors recognize that for some disease treatments, nutrients are a key part of the therapeutic approach and therefore recommend specific food supplements.


Our uniqness

In Italy, some very specialized and medicalized niches are among the most dynamic segments: supplements for eye disease like maculopathy, products for urology problems, and joints pain release. Doctors are active players in several disease and prevention areas ‘prescribing’ nutraceuticals either as ‘stand-alone’ approaches or in combination with drugs.

Our country is almost unique in its mix of diverse dynamics and influencers shaping the market. ‘Social listening’ is crucial to build brand success. Nevertheless, considering the market share in the pharmacy channel, professional stakeholders remain essential players in order to build the brand reputation effectively.

This article is an update of the contribution ‘Food Supplements, market trends and dynamics’ to Teknoscienze AgroFood Vol 28 (4) by the same author.