The Covid Effect – The New Normal or Short-Term Reaction?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant and potentially long-lasting effects on our day-to-day lives, from traveling to social gatherings to work environments. The last few months have also seen drastic changes in the types and amounts of Vitamin, Mineral, and Supplement (VMS) products that consumers are purchasing online. This article will examine the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer purchasing decisions within the VMS space on Amazon. 

Consumers have been purchasing significantly more VMS products that they believe relate to immunity, regardless of whether or not these products actually do. The fear of contracting the virus has pushed consumers to purchase all types of products that, in their eyes, can help them prevent the disease or even help treat/mitigate it. In the first weeks of April, a majority of the top 20 products in the Vitamins and Dietary Supplements category on Amazon were immunity-related. The question is – is this increased focus on immunity products indicative of a long-term trend, or simply a short-term reaction to the pandemic? 

Let’s take a look at the Multivitamin category on Amazon. This is a relatively large category in the VMS space which generated over $300MM over the past 12 months. The category doesn’t generally have much seasonality, other than a small bump in sales in January every year. If we look at the growth of the category as a whole, it shows over 25% growth year-over-year. However, if we remove the past 3 months and look at the trailing 12-month growth from January of 2019 to January 2020, we see only around 10% growth. Just taking the month-over-month growth from February to March of this year shows a whopping 36% growth, which is almost unfathomable given the previous growth of the category. 

If we dive even deeper, and look at the top 10 products in the category which claim some sort of immunity benefit, we see an even larger jump, around 60% from February to March of this year. This is further reinforced by the fact that the top 3 products in the category are currently all immunity-related, each for a different demographic (kids, women, and men). 

Even if we look at a different category which isn’t traditionally tied to immune health as a primary or even secondary benefit, we see the effect of Covid-19 on consumers. For example, the Omegas category, which last year stayed essentially flat from February to March, saw around 10% growth this year from February to March. Looking more closely we see that this growth is partially driven by products making an immunity claim. Within the top 25 products in the category, those without any immunity claim actually saw a drop in revenue from February to March. Compare that to those products that made an immunity claim, which actually saw growth in that same period. This indicates that consumers are looking for any sort of VMS product that they believe will help support their immune system, regardless of whether it actually will. 

It is clear that the pandemic has spurred the recent increase in sales in both immunity products (and products that make an immunity claim). We have seen a slowdown, however, in the past month of sales, which indicates to us that this may have been a short-term reaction driven by the fear of the unknown. As new cases and deaths continue to drop, and the uncertainty around the virus diminishes, we would expect this slowdown of immunity sales growth to continue, but it is likely that the new normal will have a higher sales floor.