Generational divide: the drivers behind dietary supplement demands

Published: 29-Jul-2022

Consumers of all ages are seeking proactive solutions to support their overall well-being; dietary supplements provide an opportunity to do just that. Vaughn DuBow, Global Director of Marketing, Microbiome Solutions at ADM, reports

The total global dietary supplements market saw a CAGR of 5.2% during 2016–2021, which led to a market revenue of $76 billion in 2021.1 Growth in the industry is projected to continue at a CAGR of 2.4% during 2021–2026.1

Market expansion by region is also promising, given consumers’ heightened focus on health and wellness. For example, approximately 20% of European consumers say that they use dietary supplements.2

And although consumer usage varies on a country-by-country basis, there is minimal difference in terms of age demographics at the regional level.2 A deeper understanding of the regional consumer landscape, including generational preferences, can help brands to meet the various needs of consumer cohorts, whether that’s supplement format or targeted wellness goals.

Furthermore, greater consumer awareness of the many ways they can incorporate dietary supplements into their lifestyles may encourage more people to add them to their daily routines.

Fundamental format distinctions

Many European consumers are new to the dietary supplements category. At 34%, the Generation X (Gen X) demographic reports the highest proportion using dietary supplements for 1–3 years.2

Comparatively, 48% of Generation Z (Gen Z) and 49% of millennials (the highest proportion across all age groups) reported they have been using the products for less than 1 year.2 The high proportion of European consumers who have been using supplements for less than a year raises questions about the longevity of usage.

This could be attributed to the challenge of making supplements a daily habit, the type of supplement format or ease of consumption. Research shows that 33% of global supplement consumers find it inconvenient to establish a routine of taking supplements, and 39% report the importance of supplements that are easy to consume.3

Plus, more than 60% of European consumers note supplements could have better flavours.2 Dietary supplement brands can take this as an opportunity to deliver a bit of fun along with functionality.

Supplements in capsule or tablet forms are most likely to be taken by multiple generations among European consumers; however, new offerings are finding space in the dietary supplement aisle.2 For example, chewables, gummies, powder sticks and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages are expanding the category with a convergence of traditional dietary supplements and everyday foods and beverages.

Interestingly, in Europe, baby boomers are most likely to reach for chewables, whereas Gen X and millennials are most likely to be enticed by gummies.2 Gen Z, by contrast, is leaning more towards powdered formats, such as powder sticks or drink mixes.2

Both millennials and Gen Z are drawn to supplements as single serve shots.2 These generational preferences may signal that, as consumers age and become more likely to use daily supplements, they want options with both sensory appeal and convenience. Now is the time for innovation around product format to gain an edge both regionally and throughout the global supplements market.

Varying functional targets

Nearly 60% of European consumers tend to feel satisfied with their health and well-being.2 Moreover, there are minimal differences in the proportion of consumers who say this across generations, which may be linked to quality of life. Nevertheless, research also shows that approximately 40% of consumers of all ages are dissatisfied with their health, which presents an opportunity to bridge this gap.2

More than 60% of European consumers say that they turn to dietary supplements for general health and wellness purposes as opposed to supporting a specific health target.2 Multifaceted solutions — those that conveniently provide support for physical, mental and emotional well-being in the same offering — can help to address this broad interest.

However, personalised options are finding a stronghold in the marketplace, meeting not only the needs of an individual person, but also those that are specific to a generation.

One of the hottest topics in the supplement arena is how to support the gut microbiota. Global consumers increasingly view the gut microbiome as the root of wellness and are connecting microbiome-supporting solutions such as probiotics to a wide range of benefits, including support for gut health and holistic well-being.4

Generational divide: the drivers behind dietary supplement demands

Additionally, 73% of European consumers say they recognise a link between cognitive health and overall well-being.5 Scientific evidence points towards an important relationship between the brain and micro-organisms found in the gut, known as the gut-brain axis.

A growing range of physiological functions are thought to be associated with this bidirectional communication system, such as aspects of cognition and behaviour. Thus, dietary supplements that focus on supporting the gut microbiome are increasingly popular among consumers.

At the same time, people are drawn to supplements that offer customised solutions. With more consumers understanding that their health needs can vary from those of others, they are looking for options that can help them to focus on specific areas.2

For instance, three quarters of European Gen Z users are seeking products that support immune function, whereas six in 10 users in the baby boomer cohort say that they turn to supplement products for digestive support.2 Furthermore, millennials and Gen X users are more likely to lean into support for sleep quality and balanced mood, demonstrating their interest in supplements that help to address their emotional well-being.2

Labels make all the difference

When it comes to evaluating wellness solutions, consumers place growing importance on the science behind innovative products. Nearly 73% of global dietary supplement users state that clinically demonstrated benefits are important to them, and 59% want to see scientific evidence supporting supplement efficacy.3

To overcome any concerns about product claims, supplement brands are tasked with providing data that support product efficacy.

Most European consumers are likely to deem supplements to be effective, although there are some differences in sentiments across demographics.2 Millennials and Gen X consumers were noticeably less likely to say that they deemed products to be effective compared with the other age groups analysed.2

Markedly, millennials were also most likely to say they will use dietary supplements during the next 12 months, highlighting how many recognise that such products serve an important role in achieving their wellness goals.2

As supplement consumers scrutinise product labels, they’re also interested in what they perceive as “natural” attributes. For example, 76% of European millennials find “100% natural” claims to be important and 76% of Gen X consumers place importance on non-GMO claims.2

Additionally, 69% of European consumers say they are more attentive to natural ingredient claims because of COVID-19.6 It’s not enough for products to be high in functional ingredients; they also need to be free from artificial ingredients.

European consumers also want to see dietary supplements improved in other ways. Gen Z, for example, is an age group that tends to have lower levels of disposable income and, as such, are seeking products that are less expensive.2

Baby boomers, by comparison, tend to want supplements that offer multiple benefits simultaneously and are likely to support specific needs.2 Brands that strike a balance between generational demands and develop more offerings that can be better incorporated into daily routines will having staying power in the supplements market.

Partnering with a global supplier that offers deep scientific expertise, a vast ingredient solution library, regional market knowledge and key consumer insights can help to address today’s opportunities with tomorrow’s innovations.


  1. Euromonitor International, World Category Dynamic (2021):
  4. ADM/Buzzback report: Microbiome Consumer Exploratory (2021).

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