HFMA Health of the Nation Survey

The Survey

This research was conducted by 3gem on behalf of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) of 10,000 adults in the UK during 16th and 28th October 2019. The survey, one of the largest of its kind, covered a comprehensive gender, geographical and adult age representation.


  • 69% of the adult population (women 71%) are now taking food supplements, 41% of these (women 46%) on a daily basis
  • This equates to 16.5 million people now taking food supplements on a daily basis, compared to 15.2 million in the last (2016) Health of the Nation Survey, a rise of 8.6%
  • On a national basis, England has the highest consumption of food supplements (69.5%), followed by Northern Ireland (68.5), Scotland (66.8%) and Wales (65.5%)
  • Over a quarter (25.7%) have started taking supplements in the last year
    • Most popular is a multivitamin
  • 28.1% are taking food supplements to optimise their health
  • The average spend per week on ‘keeping healthy’ is still only £8.82 (men £9.18, women £8.46), but this is up from £7.62 (men £6.56, women £8.17) in 2016, perhaps reflecting the increasing role of food supplements. Average spend by men is therefore up by 40%
  • Nationally, this spend is highest in England (£8.96), followed by Northern Ireland (£8.71), Scotland (£8.34) and Wales (£7.37)
  • Less than half of those surveyed (44.6%), and only 41.8% of women, categorised their state of health as ‘Very’ or ‘Quite’ healthy, compared to more than two-thirds (66.8%) in the 2016 survey
  • In England this number is higher (45.5%) than the total average, followed by Scotland (41.3%), Northern Ireland (39.6%) and Wales (38.3%)
  • Around two-thirds (66.1%) are planning to take more food supplements as they get older
  • More than half (50.9%) of parents are giving food supplements to their children
  • 15% now take CBD supplements, with over a third (33.5%) taking them daily
  • On a national basis, England has the highest users (15.7%) and Northern Ireland the lowest (10.2%). The highest daily consumption is in Scotland (36.4%), followed by Wales (35.3%)
  • Londoners are the biggest CBD users. The figure is lower in women (13.2%), but 37.3% of women take CBD supplements on a daily basis
  • One-third (33.0%) don’t know who should take Vitamin D
  • Almost half (49%) don’t know that a lack of iron can lead to anaemia
  • 42% buy their food supplements from a supermarket, 64% from a pharmacy (including Boots and Superdrug), 35% from a health food store (including Holland & Barrett), 12% from discount stores and 17% online (multiple choice question)
  • The three factors most influencing the purchase of food supplements; personal research (38.1%), friend/family recommendation (27.6%), expert (e.g. doctor) recommendation (21.6%). Newspaper and magazine articles only 8.4%

Industry Facts

Industry overview

Key industry-related market statistics:

  • The UK vitamins and supplements market enjoyed growth in 2015, with value sales rising 2.2% to £414 million
  • Usage of vitamins and supplements increased in 2015-16, with 65% of all adults having taken some form of vitamin or supplement either daily or on an occasional basis in the 12 months ending June 2016, vs 63% in the previous year
  • The market has also benefited from an increase in the number of daily users, with the proportion of people taking supplements every day up 5 percentage points from 2015-16
  • Whilst men are less likely to use vitamins or supplements than their female counterparts, the proportion of men taking them on a daily basis increased significantly from 2015-16, illustrating men’s increased engagement with their own health and personal care
  • Demographic-specific supplements proved a key contributor to total category value sales in 2015, with strong growth in value sales of products targeted at men (+29%), women (+3%), children (+9) and the over-50s (+6%) in the year to May 2016
  • The overall category is predicted to see a steady rise in value sales in the long term, driven in part by the ageing population, as well as increased engagement with male audiences
  • The best- and worst-case forecasts take the value of the vitamins and supplements market from an expected £421 million in 2016 to £475 million (best case) and £439 million (worst case) in 2021. Based on predictions of the population of adults, however, Mintel estimates the market to achieve a total of £457 million in value sales in 2021

Source: Mintel – ‘Vitamins and Supplements’ report, UK, Sept 2016

Comparative consumer spending

On occasion the UK media calls into question the amount spent by UK consumers on food supplements annually (c. £400m), questioning the value gained. When doing this it is perhaps worth considering the following:

Compared to what they spend on food supplements, British consumers spend*:

  • 25 times that on tobacco
  • 15 times on chocolate
  • 7.5 times on their caffeine habit
  • 2.5 times on pies
  • Twice as much on Valentine’s Day
  • The same on gin

More specifically, compared to the annual spend on multivitamins:

  • More than 3 times is spent on gin
  • More than 6 times is spent on Valentine’s Day
  • More than 25 times is spent on pies

And, the annual spend by women on folic acid supplements*, is exceeded by:

  • More than 20 times on gin
  • More than 40 times on Valentine’s Day
  • More than 50 times on pies

(*HFMA estimates)

Sales of food supplements may reach £500m by 2022

30m adults now take food supplements every week, 45% of these on a daily basis

The natural health industry supports over 20,000 UK jobs

Industry articles

Below is a selection of articles prepared by the HFMA for publication in various Trade Magazines. Whilst accurate at the time, they have not been updated.

Health Food Business Magazine


Natural Products Magazine


Media & Events

Media Contacts

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Sarah Winterbottom
ROAD Communications
3rd Floor
12 Hammersmith Grove,
W6 7AP

Telephone: + 44 (0) 208 995 5832
E-mail: hfma.road@roadcommunications.co.uk

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