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Dietary Food Supplements: What Consumers Perceive?

In today’s competitive world, individuals set higher expectation levels leading to a stressful life. In order to achieve these expectations, somewhere the regular food habits are compromised due to hectic work schedules. Also, the way the entire vegetation is cultivated, nurtured, stored and cooked, results into a huge amount of nutritional loss. To bridge this nutritional gap, individuals consume dietary food Supplements (DFS).

A dietary food supplement (DFS) is intended to provide nutrients that may otherwise not be consumed in sufficient manner. Supplements are generally understood as food which includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, or amino acids, among other substances. US authorities have defined dietary supplements as foods, while elsewhere they may be classified as drugs or other products. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, approved by Congress in 1994, defines food supplements as products that are intended to supplement the diet, contain one or more ingredients (like vitamins, herbs, amino acids or their constituents), are intended to be taken by mouth and are labeled as food supplements. Dietary supplement refers to any item consumed by mouth that contains a dietary component and/or another dietary component intended to provide a balanced diet. In India, dietary supplements are sold in many forms like tablets, capsules, powders, liquids, soft caps and soft gels, under the banner of Fast Moving Healthcare Goods (FMCG).

There are more than 50,000 dietary supplements available in market. More than half of the U.S. adult population (53% – 55%) consumes dietary supplements with most common ones being multivitamins. For those who fail to consume a balanced diet, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says that certain supplements “may have value.” The intended use of dietary food supplements is to ensure that a person gets enough essential nutrients.

India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world and is under transition phase w.r.t. the lifestyle of individuals. India has witnessed huge increase in the usage of DFS in recent years. The reason being increase in health issues (such as increase in lifestyle diseases viz, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, cardio-vascular diseases) of Indian consumers due to changing food habits, absence of physical activities, increase in the consumption of junk foods, and desk bound employments. In recent past many changes have also occurred in spending habits of the urban population of the country, the consumers have become more health conscious. This affects the regular food habits resulting in improper nutrition. Consumers are looking for energy-boosting products to enhance their physical perseverance, mental sharpness and to become more dynamic and conscious, consequently increasing the demand for dietary supplements in India. This need of balanced nutrition is identified by the marketers and many Indian (whether of Indian origin or with tie up with MNCs) and foreign companies and have started manufacturing/marketing their dietary food supplements in India. DFS market in India is growing at significantly higher rate and witnessed sales of around USD 1-2 billion in 2015.

The popularity and the consumption of dietary food supplements have risen in recent decade. This popularity and consumption of DFS have resulted in the increased interest amongst researchers and the marketers. Hence the study was undertaken with the objective to understand the overall concept of food supplement along with the perception and preferences of consumers towards DFS. Authors have also tried to understand the level of awareness and knowledge of consumers regarding DFS along with their preferences with respect to the price, usage and form. Research was undertaken with structured questionnaire as the data collection tool, where respondents taking some form of food supplements, were asked to provide their genuine responses. The analysis of the data collected provides good understanding of consumers’ perception and preferences towards food supplements. Marketing implications of the findings are also provided which may prove helpful in designing marketing/communication strategies for the marketers of food supplement products.

Keywords: Dietary Food Supplements, Consumer Behavior, Consumer Preferences.

  1. Research Paper Published as a Book Chapter in conference proceedings Oakcom 2017 at Oak Brook Business School. ISBN: 978-81-933448-4-2
    Chauhan, H. A., Bhatia, M., & Hirpara, N. (2017). Dietary Food Supplements: What Consumers Perceive? In Making a Difference and Becoming the Agents of Change in the Field of Management (pp. 100–110). Gandhinagar: Billberry Studio. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3070859

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