HerbalGram's 2020 Herb Market Report explores pandemic-related consumer trends in herbal supplements
AUSTIN, Texas (September 15, 2021) — Total annual sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States surpassed $10 billion for the first time in 2020, according to the American Botanical Council’s (ABC’s) 2020 Herb Market Report.¹ Consumers spent an estimated $11.261 billion on these products in 2020, a 17.3% increase from 2019. This is more than double the annual growth of 8.6% reported for 2019.
ABC’s 2020 market report was published in issue 131 of ABC’s quarterly, peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram. The report is based on US retail sales data provided by SPINS, a wellness-focused data technology company based in Chicago, Illinois, and Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), a publication of Informa/New Hope Natural Media based in Boulder, Colorado. The sales figures for individual herbs and fungi discussed in the report reflect sales of herbal dietary supplements in which the particular herb or mushroom is the primary ingredient. The report does not include sales of most herbal teas, botanical ingredients used in cosmetics, or government-approved herbal drug ingredients in over-the-counter medicines.
The report was written by Tyler Smith, managing editor of HerbalGram; Farhana Majid, marketing operations associate, and Veronica Eckl, associate data manager, both at SPINS; and Claire Morton Reynolds, senior industry analyst at NBJ.
NBJ based its total herbal supplement sales figures for 2020 on data from market research firms, company surveys, interviews with major retailers and industry experts, and other secondary materials. SPINS determined sales of herbal supplements in two retail channels: the conventional multi-outlet (mainstream) channel powered by IRI, and the “natural enhanced” retail channel. SPINS’ mainstream channel includes select grocery stores, drug stores, and mass merchandisers such as club, dollar, and military stores. The natural channel includes co-ops, associations, independent retailers, and large regional chains (excluding Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s).
In mainstream US retail outlets, consumers gravitated toward products marketed for immune health and stress support. Elder berry (frequently written as “elderberry”) was the top-selling herbal supplement ingredient in this retail channel in 2020, with sales totaling more than $275 million. Since 2018, annual sales of elder berry supplements in mainstream retail outlets have more than doubled each year. Ashwagandha root had the largest percentage sales growth of 185.2% in the mainstream channel in 2020. Widely used in Ayurveda, the primary traditional medicine system in India, ashwagandha root is a well-known adaptogen — a substance believed to increase the body’s ability to adapt to different forms of stress.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) supplements saw strong sales growth in both mainstream and natural retail channels. ACV supplements marketed for digestive health and “cleanse and detox” were the top health focuses of these products in 2020. US consumers in natural retail outlets also prioritized fungi supplements, including some marketed for immune and cognitive health. Chaga, for example, made its first appearance among the 40 top-selling natural channel ingredients in 2020, although human clinical research on this so-called “king of medicinal mushrooms” is lacking.
“Consumer trends in herbal supplements have never been more pronounced — the pandemic’s effects on supplement purchases can be seen in almost every data point for 2020,” said Smith, who has co-authored the annual ABC Herb Market Report since 2014. “Throughout the year, consumers sought out products commonly used for immune health, stress relief, and digestive support, likely in response to pandemic-related stressors. However, sales of products for age-related concerns, such as prostate and heart health, also grew in 2020, which suggests that consumers were turning to herbal supplements for both acute and chronic conditions.”
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, said: “These sales data suggest that millions of people seem to have realized that they have something called an ‘immune system,’ and that they can enhance its function by modifying their behaviors, including, but not limited to, an improvement of their diets, and the consumption of various dietary supplements. While there are little scientific or clinical data supporting the use of botanical dietary supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19, the fact that many consumers chose to use these products indicates a strong consumer interest in natural products as a means to improve their overall health and particularly to enhance their immune response to potential challenges.”
The 2020 Herb Market Report features six tables and one chart, including tables of total US herbal supplement sales from 2000 to 2020 and the 40 top-selling herbs in the US mainstream and natural retail channels. It also includes detailed descriptions of SPINS and NBJ market channels and tables of sales broken down by product type (single-herb supplements vs. combination formulas) and retail channel (mass market; natural, health food, and specialty; and direct sales).
HerbalGram's 2020 Herb Market Report is available for free on ABC’s website.
1. Smith T, Majid F, Eckl V, Morton Reynolds C. Herbal Supplement Sales in US Increase by Record-Breaking 17.3% in 2020. HerbalGram. 2021;131:52-65. Available at: http://herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/131/table-of-contents/hg131-mkrpt/. Accessed September 8, 2021.