According to preliminary estimates from Nutrition Business Journal, 2010 proved to be another fruitful year for U.S. dietary supplement sales—even with the continued sluggish economy, tamp down of the H1N1 flu scare, and barrage of negative media headlines questioning the efficacy, quality and even safety of dietary supplements.

NBJ, the leading market authority on dietary supplements and other natural products, estimates that U.S. consumer sales of supplements in all sales channels grew nearly 7 percent to $28.7 billion in 2010. Strong sales performers included the usual suspects: vitamin D, fish oil, probiotics and magnesium.

Supplement sales have continued on a steady growth trajectory during the recession, increasing 6.3 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2009—outpacing the 5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) the U.S. supplement category achieved from 2000-2009. The idea that taking supplements is less expensive than visiting the doctor or paying for pharmaceutical drugs helped to keep supplement sales growth relatively strong over the last several years.

Carla Ooyen, NBJ’s director of research, said the consistency of supplement sales growth throughout the downturn is a positive for the industry. “The market remained strong in 2009 and it continued to remain strong in 2010,” Ooyen said. “Supplements didn’t see the declines that the food and beverage category experienced.”

NOW Foods is one supplement manufacturer that saw an uptick in sales growth last year. "We grew in the double digits in 2010," Al Powers, president and CEO of the Bloomingdale, Illinois-based company, told NewHope360.com. Fish oil, vitamin D and CoQ10 were among those products fueling NOW Foods' growth last year, Powers said.

2011 could be an even better year for NOW Foods. "It's still very early in the year, but so far we are seeing explosive growth for 2011," Powers said. "January is often a good indicator of what kind of year it will be, so I am hopeful that we, as an industry, can see a year of strong double-digit growth."

NBJ will release its official 2010 U.S. supplement sales numbers in June when it publishes its Annual Nutrition Industry Overview. The research group’s 2010 Supplement Business Report, which provides the most in-depth analysis of 2009 supplement sales by product category and sales channel, is available for sale via the NBJ website.

Consumers stick with supplements despite negative press

Along with providing some good news for the start of 2011, NBJ’s positive U.S. sales estimates for dietary supplements shows that even with all of the negative mainstream press these products received last year—including Consumer Reports’ hatchet job on “The 12 Most Dangerous Supplements,” coverage of the Proposition 65 lawsuit against fish oil manufacturers, and the uptick in U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings over potentially dangerous adulterated supplements—consumers continue to view supplements as an important element of their overall health and wellness regime.

That said, however, the outlook for dietary supplements could dim should adulterated supplements lead to more consumer deaths, the U.S. government decide to enact much stricter regulation of supplements, or regulatory uncertainty continue to thwart ingredient and product innovation as it currently is in Canada and the European Union.

Dietary supplements will be a key focus of NewHope360’s editorial coverage in 2011. We look forward to your readership and input on this issue in the coming year.