Delivery Formats: Will consumers sip their supplements?

Delivery Formats: Will consumers sip their supplements?

At this year’s Natural Products Expo West, Trace Minerals Research launched a line of supplement straws. The company isn’t the first to play with this concept, but it certainly is one of very few. So what’s the appeal of dipping one’s toes into these relatively unknown waters?

If the rise of supplement gummies isn’t indicator enough, pill-aversion is a popular reason both companies and consumers cite when talking about delivering dietary supplements beyond capsules or tablets.

Surveying over half a million consumers over the years, the Natural Marketing Institute found that 30% of Gen Y consumers “prefer to get supplements in other forms than pills and capsules,” we reported back in 2012.

“Customers are looking for new and innovative delivery formats. With the 45 years of experience we have in the industry, we have come to know that this is true,” Matt Kilts, Managing Partner of Trace Minerals Research, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Trace Minerals Research’s VitaStraw debuted last month at Expo West with two varieties: a cherry-flavored, magnesium + vitamin B6 variety, containing 45% and 50% of the recommended daily value for each nutrient respectively, and an orange-flavored multivatimin.

The products look like thicker tubes with crimped ends, filled with pellets that carry flavor and the nutrients when water is sipped through it. Sold in a 10-box display, each box has 7 straws and retails for a suggested price of $6.99 per box. Currently selling directly to consumers, the company is aiming to bring the product to specialty health food stores and bigger supplement chains.

Not the first: A look at Unistraw

Though the format may be novel, Trace Minerals Research’s VitaStraw isn’t the first to introduce sipping supplements to consumers. Singapore-based Unistraw brought the technology to market in the late 90s, and launched its first supplements with a probiotic variety using Ganeden’s BC30 and a collagen variety in partnership with Nippi Collagen.

What does the popping up of new straw products mean for the category? For one, it can benefit by more visibility being brought to the category and delivery format especially, in untapped demographics like capturing millennial women, Carl Freund, president of Unistraw, North America, told NutraIngredients-USA.

According to Freund, the straw format has worked well in capturing late teens and young adults, but there’s potential for it to expand to a greater buyer-base. “Consumer are looking for convenience and portability, while also requiring products to taste great and deliver on the functional promises of ingredient integrity, quality and stability,” he added.

Remaining in the niche

Will straws gain momentum? Trace Minerals thinks so. “The market feedback we’ve had on this product has been outstanding,” Kilts added. “I’m not sure if we’ve ever had this much excitement from consumers and retailers about a new delivery format.”

But others aren't as optimistic. Commenting independently on the delivery format, Kantha Shelke, a principal Chicago-based food science and research firm Corvus Blue LLC, said that the concept remains niche though it has existed for years because it's not part of one's routine. "Consumers, especially American consumers, accept products that readily fall into their routine," she said. "The concept of adding a straw to flavor or sweeten or nourish a liquid or a beverage means an additional step of adding the straw and therefore not easily adopted as part of one’s daily routine."

There's also the environmental caveat: "For many, disposable straws are wasteful, often avoided and therefore not very appealing, unless when consuming beverages away from home," she added.

But Freund at Unistraw argues that a larger market will form: "There is a larger market due to pill burnout, or issues with swallowing pills that help make the straw an attractive delivery system." 

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