We sat down with Joshua Schall, a CPG expert & strategist to discuss the growing trends online in the supplement industry and what it means for consumers.
1) What can the supplement industry retailers - both online & offline - learn from the recent decline of Bodybuilding.com?
Regardless of its recent poor financial performance, Bodybuilding.com still holds a key position in the supplement industry ecosystem. Fact is, a whole generation of health and fitness enthusiasts (myself included) can directly point to the online supplement retailer as having a massive impact on their lives. That being said, (in my opinion) one of the main lessons that supplement industry retailers can take from the decline in Bodybuilding.com would be to not chase the sale at the price of losing yourself.
When Amazon started to focus on the supplement category about 5 years ago, Bodybuilding.com assumed they needed to overcome the convenience element of Amazon by being aggressive on promotional activity. Bodybuilding.com was never the cheapest in the U.S. online market and they focused on customer service, value-added content, and building a culture that aligned with their customers. Instead, Bodybuilding.com used their strong vendor relationships and to squeeze margin and other ancillary revenue out to try and offset declining overall revenue. The more that Bodybuilding.com got aggressive with pricing and promotions, the more it caused the Amazon third-party sellers to drive lower pricing on the marketplace. Amazon is a “price matcher” not a “price setter”, so this created a circular downward pressure that was only going to help Amazon’s deep pockets and marketplace business model.
The winners in this battle have been the supplement buyers, as they got the benefit of the aggressive price wars, but it has now trained them to only buy on sales, which hurts the industry as a whole.
2) Which emerging trends do you expect to see in the next year in the supplement industry still ripe for exploration for brands?
This is where I spend a great deal of my professional (and personal) time. I am tasked by clients to see around the corner even before I get anywhere near the part of the hallway with that turn.
I think there are a few very strong trends that are going on in the supplement industry. The first emerging trend is supplements and products that support the ketogenic diet. If you’re reading this and saying “duh”, explore how that emerging trend is fragmenting into keto lifestyle, keto diet, and keto indulgence.
The second emerging trend would be surrounding convenient consumption options. This idea that younger consumers are thinking about “supplements as food” has moved the caps, powders, and pills into energy drinks, RTD beverages, and protein bars. Even if brands aren’t willing to jump into “food and beverage” SKUs, they should be looking at implementing elements of convenience into their products and brand.
3) In the UK, a lot of brands are moving towards more transparent labelling and vegetarian & vegan-friendly ranges. Is this trend reflected in the North American market as well?
The trends you mentioned - transparency in labelling and use of plant-based ingredients - are also strongly reflected across in the North American market.
With the transparent labelling trend, it is actually being driven broadly across many different consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories, as consumers (many analysts point to Millennials) demand to know what is inside their products. This desire for deeper transparency can also be seen with these same consumers being interested in a brand’s sustainability practices, material sourcing ethics, and corporate social responsibility.
As for the plant-based trend, surveys show that about 1/3 of the population is considering lowering their consumption of animal products. I believe this is happening for many reasons, but I think the main one is that food technology has progressed to the point where their alternative products are available at scale and taste very similar to their animal counterparts.
The other reason is due to social media and the Internet because it allows others to gain access to communities and information that helps them adopt fully a new lifestyle or just lean on helpful elements (look into the flexitarian movement).
4) Finally, how can people reach out to you Josh if they'd like to work with you?
If a reader would like to learn more about my work, I consistently create several original pieces of content on YouTube, Medium, and LinkedIn weekly. You will notice that I thoroughly enjoy engaging with my community, so don’t be shy to reach out to me on those platforms (or Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).