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How supplements became cool

From being a pharmaceutical product, they now seem to be a powerful and indispensable ally of beauty and well-being

How supplements became cool From being a pharmaceutical product, they now seem to be a powerful and indispensable ally of beauty and well-being

There are only 13 human vitamins: A, C, D, E, K and then 8 B vitamins. But there are about 85,000 food supplements. Each of them is associated with at least one specific function and, if deficient, can affect the body's overall health or well-being. Until a decade ago, many of us ignored this and limited ourselves to taking iron, vitamin D or whatever the doctor suggested after noticing the insufficient amount in our blood work. So he wrote us a prescription and we went to the pharmacy, bought the prescribed product and took it for the specified period and in the specified dosage. That was it until the next blood test or check-up. Today, things have changed radically and food supplements have not only become a daily health aid, a habit like muesli for breakfast or coffee after lunch, but a real billion-dollar business.

The market for food supplements has grown by more than 40 per cent in the last five years and by more than 10 per cent in the last two years. In 2021, the global market was worth 150 billion euros, an annual increase of 4.7 per cent over the last three years. The growth rate for the coming years is even faster in terms of the global beauty supplements market, which was estimated at $2.451 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $3.721 billion by 2027. Specifically, the number of products sold in the US market increased from around 4,000 to around 80,000 between 1994 and 2016, and the market is estimated to be worth more than $43 billion as early as 2019. And in Italy? In the peninsula in particular, the sector has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5 per cent over the past 10 years, giving Italy the largest market for dietary supplements in Europe, according to Gabriele Barbaresco, head of Area Studi Mediobanca, accounting for more than a quarter of the total market and with sales expected to reach almost $5 billion by 2025, while the global growth outlook is equally favourable, attesting to a compound annual growth rate of around 8 per cent for a global market of almost $240 billion by 2027.

The reasons for this growth in the industry depend on a variety of factors, from a new breed of supplements that are "tastier" and more Instagram-worthy to a new understanding of wellness. A big part of this is the pandemic awareness of the need to take care of one's mental and physical well-being. If our skin does not glow, if we feel tired all the time and our face is full of impurities, it does not always have something to do with a disease, but can also depend on what we eat or do not eat. With this in mind, food supplements are not only used to "cure" but also to prevent health problems and keep us healthy, a new field of business that is increasingly associated with beauty. Supplements are no longer just on dusty pharmacy shelves or in out-of-the-way supermarket sections, but are sold in shiny, elegant packaging in perfumeries (physical and online), carefully placed between anti-ageing creams and toners to preserve the skin's natural glow. They look more like gummy bears, like the teddy bears sold by the famous Bears with Benefits, take on the appearance of miracle powders drunk as smoothie versions, or are so essential and chic that you feel fitter just holding them in your hand, like Cuure's ad personam designed blend. In short, the supplements of 2023 are moving further and further away from the nasty and ugly drug pills we used to take. The glamour is also underlined by the way they are advertised and communicated, especially on social media. You only have to scroll through the Instagram of Aime, a skincare brand of lactic acid ferment-based supplements and treatments, to experience the same mix of inspiration and desire that triggers the account of newbottega or our favourite influencer. The images are carefully chosen, glossy, cool and aim more to create a mood board, a lifestyle for which Aime's supplements are key. And the marketing strategy has paid off. Founded in 2018 by Mathilde Lacombe and Francois Morrier, the brand has generated more than $ 3 million in sales in its first year with just 3 products and currently has more than 136,000 followers, to which the co-founder's 146,000 must be added. The new generation of dietary supplements is thus increasingly entering into a symbiosis with the world of beauty and well-being in general. The current trend is the combination of inside and outside: capsules or powders to take and cosmetics, with the supplements being part of combined topical treatments specifically designed to enhance our beauty routine and work in depth to heal and sublimate our skin, hair or any other area.

There are so many types of supplements and so many problems they promise to solve (although the studies are currently contradictory; there is no evidence that taking large amounts of these substances leads to additional effects, and supplements do indeed make a difference for people with real nutritional deficiencies or certain health conditions): to increase vitality, reduce stress, improve skin condition, make hair shinier, lose weight, aid digestion, overcome menopause, ... The business is so vast and palatable that even celebrities, from Ellen Pompeo to Cindy Crawford, Naomi Watts to Gwyneth Paltrow, have launched supplements promising consumers everything. With this boom of offerings, we wonder if we take supplements because we really need them, because they make us feel better (or have the illusion of making us feel better), because it's fashionable, or because we can not wait to share our blister pack of vitamins and various supplements as proudly on IG as we show off our toned abs after a workout-filled and deprivation-filled winter. Or maybe we just do it to feel virtuous and "healthy"," fit at any age like Taylor Swift, who announced in an interview on the occasion of her 30th birthday that one of her wellness secrets is taking L-theanine, a natural supplement that helps with stress and anxiety, and magnesium for muscle health and energy.