In 2020 Supplements Became a $55 Billion Market. But One Massive Gap Shows the way to Un-Tapped Opportunity

Last year's record supplement sales show that people are taking ownership of their health and wellness on an unprecedented scale. Yet, the numbers reveal a yawning gap in the market which may well be its next frontier.     

This month the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) released its industry-leading report for 2020. Titled "Supplements time to shine" it showed that last year (2020) nutritional supplement sales rose 14.5% (a $7 billion increase from the projected 12.1%). This staggering growth has now made supplements an estimated $55.7 billion market. 

Yet, NBJ's findings also highlight another number: though supplement sales have exploded over the past year, sales from personalized nutrition models, i.e., a supplement regimen based on a customer's specific health needs, represent less than 1% of the total market share. In a retail landscape moving towards more personalized offings (think Fitbit, Function of Beauty), the supplement sector's lack of personalization is remarkable. After all, what could be more personal than health? Though many companies ranging from fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and more traditional brick-and-mortar retailers recognize the potential growth advantages of offing a private-label, branded supplement line, the barrier to entry is just too high. "The reason is as simple as it is pedestrian: basic logistics," according to OK Capsule co-founder and CEO Dr. Andrew Brandeis. Between the emerging science of personalization and actually getting personalized supplement packets to customers lies a nexus of necessary infrastructure from manufacturing, inventory, packaging, payment tracking, and customer fulfillment that needs to be in place. This architecture needs to run efficiently, be cost-effective, yet agile enough to align with customers changing needs. For most companies in the health and wellness space, these demands preclude them from offering true personalization. Dr. Brandeis's solution: "OK Capsule can enable any business, at whatever scale, to offer their customers personalized nutritional supplements by handling the entire back-end; this allows the businesses we work with to focus on what they do best."

Brands are beginning to see the advantages of adopting this model. Vitagene, which offers supplement regimens based on genetic tests, partnered with OK Capsule in early 2020. Al Hariri, Vitagene co-founder, puts it simply, "We essentially generate the (supplement) recommendations, push it to them (OK Capsule), and then they package it up and ship it to our customers ." Additionally, because the model is a back-end fulfillment solution, it can support virtually any kind of personalization, whether questionnaire-based, genetic-based, or biomarker-based and practitioner-prescribed packets.                 

The demand for effective, high-quality supplements is growing. The trend towards personalization is clear. Whether or not the nutrition industry, and businesses that value diversified revenue streams, can merge these two opportunities is yet to be determined.     

  • Note: The NBJ year-end industry report is available to purchase. It features OK Capsule in "Putting pills in the packet - OK Capsule aims to support personalized nutrition startups with packaging."