The Future of the Supplement Industry

by Matt Weik

The supplement has been around for quite some time and it doesn’t appear that it’s going anywhere. It’s one of the fastest growing industries out there today. By 2024 it’s predicted that it will be a $37 billon industry. That being said, there needs to be some changes to the industry in order to maintain longevity. The below is my opinion on what I feel the future of the supplement industry looks like along with things I would like to see happen in order for it to continue booming.

The setbacks in the industry

A major setback to the supplement industry is that everyone and their brother seems to want a piece of the pie. There’s new entry into the space regularly which is a good thing in terms of growing the industry, but a bad thing (for consumers) in that manufacturers are cutting corners in order to inflate their margins.

If you have been following the industry for any amount of time, you’re well aware of lawsuits that have been filed over the years for people not meeting label claims. This can be anything from amino spiking, to not meeting protein requirements, all the way to tainting their products with steroids in an effort to have consumers get the results they desire and continue purchasing their products. Not only is this not acceptable, but it’s unethical as well. This is going to poison the industry unless a stop is put to it. Could this mean that the FDA needs to step in and oversea the supplement industry? Maybe?

I feel as if that would be a step in the right direction to be honest. Many people might disagree with me though. I understand people want the freedom to be able to launch any product they want in the industry, but when corners are cut to produce sales, it tarnishes the industry and that particular brand. I feel something needs to be done to filter out these cancers in the industry and put those types of brands out of business.

More brands on shelf means more choices for the consumer—this is good. But what brands can you actually trust these days? You have brands like Optimum who are one of the big dogs in the industry doing things by the books. They are known for having solid quality products year after year. Then you have smaller brands (I won’t name names) who are below the radar being shady producing enough sales to stay in business yet not getting mainstream attention that could throw up a red flag that something seems a little fishy. We need to filter out some of those brands.

The future is bright

The supplement industry isn’t going anywhere—that’s for sure. In fact, it’s BOOMING. Brands are creating some really unique products that are helping people reach their health and fitness goals. I see the “big” brands of today getting bigger by introducing new innovation to the market, along with some smaller brands blowing up by putting some serious money into marketing that is flashy and appeals to consumer’s interests. There will be many brands that will close their doors within the next few years, but the industry savvy will strive and grow. One key piece of the market I see blowing up in the very near future are fat burners. It seems everyone is stocking up on proteins, pre-workouts, and BCAAs, but fat burners have seemed to slow down a little and go on the back burner. While many of the ones on the market are garbage, new ingredients will be researched and put into products to create fat burners that actually work—assuming you do too. Many fat burners of today are simply a diuretic and pulls water out of the body to make it seem like it’s working, when in reality as soon as you stop you’re going to gain all of that (water) weight back.

Along with new innovation, you will see some crazy new flavors hitting the market. Over the last five years we have seen some very unique flavor profiles that have knocked the socks off consumers—that will continue. Flavor specialists are tirelessly working on new combinations to fill the need of variety in several key categories of the industry such as pre-workouts, protein powders, and BCAAs. These are considered the three big categories every brand is trying to steal share of in the marketplace.

While the margins on protein are slim, manufactures will start sourcing new raw materials to take the place of expensive ingredients such as whey protein. Pea protein is something that is already starting to take form in the industry and there’s talks of cricket protein being the next big thing. While I’m left dry-heaving at the thought, with how flavor specialists are able to mask the taste of bitter caffeine, one would think they could add cricket protein to a product without anyone even noticing what the protein source truly is without looking at the ingredient profile.

Marketing will make or break a brand

Brands who can market their products effectively will have people pulling their product line off the shelf. Social media is key these days. More people are engaged in social media than any form of print media such as health and fitness magazines. Money spent on social media marketing has a much better return on investment (ROI) than any type of print media. In fact, many health and fitness magazines are going out of business because they can’t compete with online publications these days. It’s too expensive to produce and send out magazines when everyone is glued to their laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. It’s a matter of convenience—it’s always on your or nearby.

For years, MET-Rx was one of the best in the business when it came to marketing. They weren’t even innovative when it came to new product development. They simply took a product doing well in the market, produced it, and then dropped a ton of money to market it better than the competition. Now that brands are getting more knowledgeable with their marketing techniques, you see MET-Rx disappearing on the shelf—which is a shame.

Many brands are getting a cult following because of their exciting advertising campaigns online, allowing consumers to feel as if they are truly a part of the brand, not just a consumer opening up their wallet. Brands are engaging consumers to test and evaluate products, gain access to products before they launch, win free swag and products, become part of a “club”, and have a sense of friendship and relationship with a particular brand. This type of marketing seems to be working and will continue.

It ultimately will still come down to the product itself though. If you don’t have a good product, you won’t stay in business long. No matter how much money you throw into marketing, if you have a bad product, you will not have repeat buyers. You may gain trial from your marketing techniques, but as soon as people try the product and have a negative experience, it will leave a bad taste in their mouth (no pun intended) and the negative press with spread like a wildfire. For that reason, don’t skimp on product development. You are only as good as your last sale. And once those sales dry up, you know what the outcome will be.

Focusing on the points mentioned above, a brand can be created or maintained. If any of the points are skipped or overlooked, the lifespan of a brand will be cut short. But those who pay attention to consumer needs and demand will also flourish over the competition. So, while the supplement industry may thin out a little, the industry as a whole will continue to show amazing growth. As a supplement junkie myself, I look forward to what’s to come and look forward to trying the new innovation and flavoring in the pipeline.