COVID- 19 and Soaring Supplement Sales
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
The coronavirus pandemic has put health and wellness top of mind for many consumers and this is playing out not only in what foods are being purchased but also with soaring supplement sales. In particular, the sales for ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and elderberry are skyrocketing. Multivitamins for children and adults are also up in sales as families look for ways to protect themselves. Sleep products, like melatonin, are also doing very well as consumers understand the role of adequate sleep for a strong immune system. By purchasing vitamins and supplements, shoppers take comfort in feeling like they have some control over supporting their wellbeing in a time where there is anxiety and uncertainty. Here are some key communication strategies for talking with customers about supplement use:
Advise caution regarding scams. Help shoppers identify products that are trying to capitalize on the public’s fears. There are some unscrupulous companies who looked at the pandemic crisis as a way to promote their products as effective virus preventions and cures. The trade associations quickly condemned these claims, and the FDA wrote warning letters to these companies almost immediately, however, some may still be lurking in the shadows.
Encourage supplement discussion. If you are having telehealth sessions, virtual classes or communicating digitally, use these opportunities to ask questions regarding supplement usage while offering facts and resources. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is the leading trade association representing dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers and they offer a variety of educational fact sheets and tools.
Promote total health. During this unprecedented time, responsible retailers and health influencers will not be focusing solely on dietary supplements, of course, but will be communicating the many health solutions they have available for maintaining health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 crisis has made many consumers realize that staying healthy is central to immune function. It’s a perfect time to promote the many nutritious foods you have around the store and the nutritional attributes of specific items, while also offering affordable meal ideas and encouraging physical activity and rest.
If there is some positive news during this pandemic it could be that consumers mindset might be positively changed to understand that living healthy is the way to stay healthy. If so, retail dietitian services, expertise and advice will be needed by retailers and the customers they serve well into the future.