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A billion dollar industry

In 2020, the global dietary supplements market size was valued at USD $140.3 billion and is projected to expand at an annual growth rate of 8.6% from 2021 to 2028. 

Customers want convenience

As a population, we have an increasing awareness of personal health. Combine this knowledge with juggling hectic work and family schedules and we’ve realized we are struggling to meet our body’s nutrient requirements in order to function optimally. This makes us increasingly dependent on convenient dietary supplements to bridge gaps in our diet.

We’re easy targets

You’ve probably seen it in your feed. Up pops a new product, clad in a visually appealing label with an influencer touting its benefits. Imagine a powder you can add to your morning coffee for softer skin and longer hair, or a pill containing a combination of herbs that claims it will give you “the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had”. If you have easy access to a product with the promise to overcome whatever health challenge you’re battling, combined with rave customer reviews and testimonials, what’s stopping you from trying it?

This is exactly what propelled the multi-billion dollar supplement industry to top the charts of consumer-driven goods. Throw in a pandemic causing a drastic increase in emphasis on health and wellness, it’s no surprise we’re all eager to find a solution to keep our immune systems firing on all cylinders. 

But what happened to just eating healthy and exercising? What exactly are “supplements” and how did they become so popular in the first place? Let’s start at the beginning: the conception of dietary supplements.

How we got here

The initial idea behind “supplementation” was to provide extra vitamins and minerals, herbs and enzymes, to cover any inadequacies in the body. Imagine you have a broken bone and are trying to help it heal. Your doctor may prescribe a Calcium or Vitamin D supplement, because you need more than you can get just from drinking a glass of milk or tanning outside for a few hours.

As medicine and technology continued to advance, along came the discovery of more specific nutrients and newer applications for health optimization. In short, new products and ideas started to hit the market and consumers were eager to see for themselves the benefits of dietary supplementation.

We love a quick fix 

If we can get all of our daily nutrients in one scoop and go about our day, why wouldn’t we? Businesses all over jumped on the opportunity to capitalize on the hunger of consumers, developing innovative products to solve emerging issues and concerns. Quickly, the supplement market transitioned from standard vitamins and minerals, to include protein powders, electrolyte-infused sports drinks, and even mushrooms. There is a supplement for just about any health issue. 

We now have the technology, knowledge and ability to influence human health with nutrients some of us never even knew existed. But here is where things get tricky.

Shady products 

Literally anyone can sell a product with claims towards its energy boosting properties or antioxidant abilities. ANYONE. What’s worse is consumers are so eager to buy the “next big thing” in health trends, often they’ll add it to their cart without thinking twice or doing the research to make sure the product is safe and actually includes what it claims to.

Sure, the FDA has some regulatory standards set in place. But if you think they’re filtering through EVERY product that exists and meticulously analyzing its ingredients for safety and efficacy, then you need to take off those rose-colored glasses my friend.  

So why is this important?  

I mean, if you dropped hundreds of dollars on a well-marketed health supplement to find out after the fact it doesn't even contain half of the ingredients listed on it’s label, you’d probably be pretty upset. And that’s exactly what many consumers are experiencing, thanks to false claims and lack of awareness on how to effectively vet out a brand or it’s products. 

The benefits of doing your homework

The good news is companies are catching on and consumers are getting smarter. As more industry information comes to light, we’re demanding product transparency; looking for clean labels, natural ingredients, sustainable sources, etc. Investing in your health can get pretty pricey. So keep doing the research. Continue  asking the questions. Being your own health advocate can help you make sound choices to ensure you have the nutrients you need for a strong immune system and an optimally functioning body.