Thought Leadership

Using Smart Packaging Strategy to Break Through the Nutraceutical Noise

By Becky Donner
Senior VP, TricorBraun Design & Engineering

We are experiencing a bona fide nutraceuticals boom.

Consumers’ concerns about rising health care costs, a focus on proactive preventative care, and a greater desire for balance and wellness are just a few of the factors contributing to the billions spent on vitamins, dietary supplements and sports nutrition products each year.

It’s a global nutra phenomenon with North America expected to dominate the swelling demand. The global nutraceuticals market, valued at $165.62 billion in 2014, is expected to reach $278.96 billion by 20211.

That’s a fantastic (and realistic) forecast; it’s an incredibly healthy market. So brand owners can develop new products and create new formats, and consumers will buy. It’s that easy, right?


It’s true that nutraceutical companies are responding to consumers’ needs and the category’s steady growth with the development of new products and format innovation. And these new formats are attracting new consumers to the market. Gummy vitamins alone are growing at double-digit rates – but they’re growing at the expense of pills and tablets.

So the task isn’t so simple. How do brand owners capitalize on nutraceutical growth and demand? The right way? The smart way?

As nutraceutical products continue to evolve, how do brand owners make their products stand out among the sea of merchandise on the shelf and break through the noise?

How do brand owners stay one step ahead of what consumers are looking for? In a crowded market?

How do brand owners enhance the consumer experience and drive loyalty so consumers select their product from among the thousands and thousands of nutraceutical SKUs, and buy it again and again and again? These are big questions. We have answers.

It starts with a packaging partner. One who understands the specific challenges of the nutraceutical category – including consumer preferences and brand owner needs – and has the know-how to address these challenges.


Changing Lifestyles & Healthy Attitudes Contribute to Nutraceuticals’ Rise

Consumers across generations demonstrate opportunities for nutraceuticals in their lives, but with different drivers and needs, understanding the motivation behind each one is as important as the eventual product solution. Marketers need to have detailed knowledge about what is motivating each consumer segment to purchase so products can be better developed and ideally positioned.

For baby boomers, concerns about rising healthcare costs lead to steps toward proactive preventive care. Eighty-four percent of consumers aged 55 years and older take vitamin and dietary supplements, compared to 78 percent of consumers overall2. These older consumers seek products for long-term issues such as bone health, cognitive maintenance and digestive heart health.

Generation X is more interested in vitamin and dietary supplements for short-term issues like improved sleep, better concentration and beauty issues. Products appealing to this age group include new formats like beauty drinks infused with collagen, and dietary supplements that offer support for skin, hair and nails. While vitamin and dietary supplement use among Gen X is lower than baby boomers, there is plenty of opportunity for growth: beauty supplements alone grew 9.2 percent in 20163.

Millennials – the largest generational cohort and the consumer segment that increasingly dictates the health of America’s top brands – are no strangers to supplements. Seventy-three percent of millennials take regular supplements, and from 2009 - 2013, the average millennial use of supplements increased 36 percent – and it only continues upward4. Millennials seek supplements to help maintain body health and enhance their workouts. This focus that is less about how their bodies look, and more about how their bodies feel and function help drives their nutraceutical purchase decisions. Case in point: drinks that help busy millennials manage their protein needs and provide energy on the go.

Other lifestyle factors contributing to nutraceutical purchases include the “eat clean” movement, which is heavily supported by digital and social media interactions, a continued desire to buy local and handmade, whether it be locally-sourced produce or handmade crafts, and cocooning, where consumers spend time trying out new recipes and dining in.

Across the board, nutraceutical companies are responding to consumers’ varying lifestyle needs with new products and formats designed to capture consumer attention at the shelf and create lasting consumer loyalty.

New vitamin formats help consumers young and old manage dosing, like vitamin packs that provide the right mix and right amount of vitamins in an easy-to-use and convenient to carry pack. Or a vitamin dispenser that offers daily nutrients in a pod to liquid form. Similar to single cup coffee pod machines, these dispensers provide an alternative for consumers who don’t like to take vitamins in pill form, or have trouble remembering to take their supplements.

A burgeoning market, however, means a rush to market to beat the competition and an avalanche of products for consumers to choose from.



Shelf Confusion for Consumers, Headaches for Nutra Marketers

Consumer demand, constant product evolution and steady market success contribute to a dizzying array of products that create confusion at the shelf. Consumers are bombarded with product options and marketing promotions (such as frequent BOGOs). This environment makes it hard for products to stand out when it’s more important than ever to stand out.

Meanwhile, shelf space is limited, and recent regulations around nutritional and supplement facts can cause additional headaches for brand owners rushing to get a product to market under very compressed product development timelines.




Smart Packaging as the Solution

To stand out in a crowded market, packaging can help brand owners stay one step ahead by meeting consumers’ needs and preferences, enhancing the consumer experience, helping to cut through noise at the shelf and differentiating the product, ultimately driving consumer loyalty.

It’s important to remember that loyalty is not driven simply by the product and the benefits it provides. Rather, it’s the product when paired with the packaging and the functional benefits that drive loyalty.  

Take for example, PERFORMIX Iridium, a sports nutrition product intended as a premium trade-up for consumers. The packaging needed to convey the category disruption that the Performix brand is built around, along with the product’s sports nutrition benefits. The resulting “disruptive” square tub design and closure interface, displayed in a stacked format in stores, is far from the industry standard, but the decision was the right one: sales of the PERFORMIX Iridium line, in part due to its unique packaging, rose 27 percent in one year.

Or, consider the Instant Knockout weight-loss solution. This product employs a dramatic package design to differentiate itself from the competition and appeal to its consumer target: younger men who work out but want help losing the last few pounds of fat. The clear plastic bottle molded in the shape of a clenched fist shows off the bright red capsules while maintaining the “knockout fat” theme.


But it’s more than simply procuring an exceptionally designed package; it’s about getting the packaging right with smart solutions.




Getting the Packaging Right

To get the package right, brand owners need a packaging partner who understands the market and has the expertise and experience to navigate the seemingly insurmountable nutraceutical packaging landscape. Just a few considerations:

  • Smart Differentiation: Packaging must captivate and differentiate to stand out among the sea of products on the shelf. More brand owners are considering custom packaging approaches to help differentiate their products and add value and convenience, but often need help navigating the myriad of material options to develop the right solution, whether it be stock or custom, a product rebrand or a new launch. 

However, it’s not enough to stand out. Packaging must be unique enough to draw consumers’ attention, yet also relate to the overall brand so loyal customers can recognize it and easily pick it out on that very crowded shelf.

  • Functional Preferences: Packaging functionality is critical, not simply to ensure that the consumer has a positive experience, but also to ensure that the brand owner is not forced to compromise operational efficiency or line speeds. Product formats are evolving, so packages that worked well for pill and tablets won’t necessarily be the right choice for gummies. For example, is the neck of the bottle wide enough for large chews and gummies? How does that impact line speed? Can consumers easily access the scoop for a sports nutrition powder without having to stick their hand in the product? These types of considerations are paramount, and must always be at the forefront of the development and decision-making.

  • Regulatory Compliance: The right packaging partner will know how to help you address compliance requirements. Does the label adhere to the FDA’s new rules for nutritional and supplement facts? Does the product require dual column labeling to address multi-servings? How can brand owners comply with regulations while managing label space limitations?

  • Online Purchase Considerations: The rise of e-commerce has led to increased online vitamin and dietary supplement purchases. In fact, online vitamin and supplement purchases have been increasing at such a fast rate that the category is moving 12 percent faster than the e-commerce average itself5. Brand owners might succeed in differentiating their product in the store, but when the consumer can’t hold, touch and feel your product, how do you stand out? A visually appealing design that communicates your brand promise is essential. And once the consumer gravitates to your product, clicks to purchase, waits for it to arrive, finds it at their front door, they open the shipping box, and voilà! Is it what they expected? It needs to be intact, look good, and since the consumer has only viewed it online and not on the shelf, it needs to look as appealing in real life as it did in the online photo. Disappoint the customer when it arrives and risk losing them forever.

  • Shipping Considerations: Packaging teams must consider how the packaging will ship. What will happen to the packaging contents during shipping? Dents, cracks, insecure seals and leakage are not acceptable and turns the customer off from future purchases. Additionally, how will consumers store the package in their homes? Will it require a stacking base or square bottles to maximize display space while creating consumer interest?

  • Consumer Compliance: Does your packaging promote consumer compliance? For example, individual packets of vitamins so it is easy for consumers to take the daily amount required for the product benefits. Or blister packaging that helps consumers dispense the right amount. Consumer compliance leads to consumers realizing the product benefits which leads to continued purchase.



Win with Packaging

Nutraceutical brand owners can drive consumer loyalty through packaging functionality that meets consumer preferences and enhances the consumer experience. An experienced, knowledgeable and technically astute packaging partner with a comprehensive understanding of the category can help you navigate the abundant options – including custom solutions. Developing the right packaging, the right way, at the right place, at the right cost and on time allows you to stay focused on what’s inside the package and one step ahead; delivering a smarter solution for more wins at the shelf.


1 Transparency Market Research, Nutraceuticals Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth and Forecast, 2015 – 2021.
2 Mintel Reports, Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements - US
3 Euromonitor: Vitamins and Dietary Supplements in the US
4 Mintel Reports, Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements - US
5 Slice Intelligence, September 2016, “Online Vitamin Sales Are Growing Faster Than the Rest of E-Commerce.”


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