Vitamin E, Echinacea Continue to Lose Sales

As regular readers of NBN know (and if you’re not a regular reader get with it!) starting in 2005 and continuing in 2006 the media was rife ongoing reports over the inefficacy of nutritional supplements with Vitamin E and Echinacea bearing the brunt of the bad press. Studies about these were widely reported, overstated and often misreported. If it sounds like we’re conspiracy theorists we’re not. The math is pretty simple: mediocre science plus lousy reporting and the results speak for themselves.

Meanwhile data provided to NBN by SPINS shows that sales of both supplements have are to put it politely, sucking wind! For the year ending December 31, 2006 sales of Vitamin E continued a nearly two year decline, losing 12% from year ago dollars in Combined Natural Supermarket and Mainstream Food Drug and Mass channels. More importantly 2006 sales compared to 2004 showed a 48% decline, with 2006 sales of Vitamin E at $80.6 million compared to $154 million in 2004.

Meanwhile Echinacea sales declined as well, though much less steeply, losing 7.6% from 2006 to 2005 in combined channels with combination formulas of Echinacea Goldenseal fared worse, declining 12.2%.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that the steady decline is getting less steep. More importantly overall sales of vitamin and nutritional supplements were up last year but the power of bad press requires a more powerful response from the industry.

Nonetheless time will tell if the recent study on antioxidants has the same impact. NBN thinks not, as the overall consumer confidence in antioxidants has been high and unlike Vitamin E, this study is currently the only one of its kind.

We’ll revisit SPINS data mid-year to look at these and other antioxidant sales figures to determine the impact. And as reported yesterday, the proposed FDA new rules on regulating supplements may add a whole new problem much bigger than bad press.

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