Any entrepreneur wondering what industry is profitable today should strongly consider opening a health food store. Supplements are big business: diverse, controversial, and lucrative. Between the countless brands and purposes for taking them, one could spend a lifetime at seminars, researching products, and talking to reps.
Rise of Supplements
This industry once catered to people who feared regular food would not supply their necessary vitamins and minerals. The healthy-living culture was starting to gain ground but was seen as an alternative way to live; a little bit kooky. Advocates promoted vegetarianism, claimed that the soil of farms in developed countries lacked nutritional value, and said beef cattle were pumped full of drugs.
We didn’t all believe them, but such claims have become mainstream. Consumers know now that these claims and more are true; that they are riddled with toxins; that their mental health problems are likely a side effect of some dietary quirk; or that they can at least mitigate the symptoms of mental and physical illness with supplements. It’s possible to build muscle mass and improve concentration in the gym by swallowing something.
Dieting used to involve cutting back on calories and fat. Today, we reap the benefits of modern processes which convert vitamins, minerals, and proteins into powders which can be swallowed as pills or mixed into smoothies so that dieters (or even body builders and people who need to gain weight) can drink their meals.
The industry discovered multiple methods of delivery, found new superfoods, and explored exotic locales in search of products which might or might not fight flab, reduce appetite, stop the aging process, and so on.
Types of Supplements
The most popular category of supplements today has to be dietary aids. They come in numerous forms. There are the food replacements I mentioned above such as powdered drinks which one blends into a shake with ice, milk, and maybe fruit. These often promote detoxification as well as weight loss; or perhaps that is where the weight loss comes from. Diet pills promise to increase energy, curb your appetite, and burn fat while you don’t do anything. Green tea extract, raspberry keytones, green coffee bean extract, and Garcinia Cambogia are some examples. Body builders buy whey protein shake mixtures, electrolyte drinks, and swallow pills containing amino acids including BCAAs. Vegan options are available.
Detoxification products are also hugely popular, both in spring (the traditional time of detox) and throughout the year. People claim they prefer the spring detox because this is a chance to cleanse away the excesses of Christmas or Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and winter comfort eating. Detox is popular for health reasons, as a form of self-punishment among ascetic individuals, and also as a means of losing weight. Most weight lost, however, is water weight, although many people say the long-term benefit is that they stop craving sugar and are able to continue their weight loss naturally.
Multi-vitamins remain top-sellers in the health food industry. Consumers take what they think of as a general, all-purpose pill which will cover their basic nutritional needs. A multi-vitamin contains the most important nutrients like magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins, vitamin C, and more. Assorted varieties feature iron, calcium, or Coq10. While a regular vitamin will serve all members of the household, varieties are available for men, women, children, people in their 40s, 50s, prenatal vitamins, and products for seniors.
Some of the items from within the list of ingredients above and others not shown here are sold as the main attraction, the two big ones being calcium and Vitamin C. Many calcium supplements also contain magnesium and/or Vitamin D because they are said to work best as a team. Iron is a big-seller. So are Omega supplements which support brain health and are frequently favored by parents with autistic children or teens with ADHD.
Probiotics improve digestive health. Collagen and glucosamine are taken by people with joint pain. Melatonin is a natural sleep aid. People who don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables, and whole grains turn to fiber in order to improve heart health, support digestion, and to lose weight.
Antioxidants and immune-fighters like goji, pomegranate, ginko biloba, and ginger sell strongly because they are exotic and skillfully hyped supplements. These products help the immune system defend itself against flu, colds, and free radicals. Anti-aging is a huge business too and numerous products support consumers’ efforts to defy the signs of passing years, especially to their skin.
Many of the products listed above can be taken as pills and some come in liquid form. Occasionally, a product tastes like a treat: a gummy candy, chewy caramel, or chalky pastille. Supplement powders are popular for drinks such as vitamin C and fiber.
Why Don’t Some Supplements Work?
Often, the hype around a product is proven to be false. What happened? Many supplements are vital to consumer health, but shoppers are too trusting. They imagine if a product is on a shelf, it must be an effective version of that supplement. Versions containing 100% of the active ingredient or a balance of named ingredients working together should do their job. Fillers are often added, however, which reduce the benefits. Take a look at best-before dates when you shop; clerks miss these when stocking shelves. Some stores buy huge quantities of goods that are nearly out-of-date, sell them cheaply, but they don’t work. Complaints don’t stop them because you can’t prove a negative.
Each nutrient is effective at a particular intensity; consumers should understand this value. Often the amount in a pill is too low or needs to be taken with another vitamin to do its job. Sometimes numbers are listed as a percentage of your recommended daily intake; sometimes it’s milligrams. Changing milligrams to micrograms makes a small number look big.
Some supplements contain allergens like wheat, egg, or dairy, so they cause more problems than they solve. Also, lots of people assume that taking a vitamin is good enough without making lifestyle changes. These aren’t miracle pills. Most individuals need to reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates, get more exercise, and eat less saturated fat. They could enjoy many benefits associated with supplements by eating real, healthy food.