What you need to know

48% of consumers turn to natural OTC products because they are free from harmful ingredients, indicating that “natural” is just as much, if not more, about what is not included as it is about what ingredients are used. COVID-19 heightened this awareness about what ingredients are used in OTCs, presenting an opportunity for natural products to replace traditional products that may give consumers pause. Traditional OTCs are, and will remain, the biggest threat to natural products, with familiarity driving competition more than any other quality. Education, then, becomes the cornerstone to marketing efforts, which should include points about ingredients included and excluded.

This Report looks at the following areas

  • How COVID-19 changed the way consumers think about and evaluate OTC products

  • How to make natural products competitive with traditional OTC products

  • Why education about natural products and ingredients is so critical

  • Opportunities with key demographics, like parents


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

  • Natural products and/or ingredients are naturally occurring substances that can be used to maintain or restore health. They can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids or parts of these substances.

  • The term “natural” does not have a standard industrywide definition, nor is it regulated by the USDA. However, in general, “natural” refers to products that are free of artificial ingredients including chemicals, flavors, colors and preservatives.

  • Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body’s natural powers of defense and recovery by using a substance that causes symptoms of a disease in healthy people to cure the same disease in sick people. It is based on the idea that the body can heal itself. Typical ingredients include diluted doses of a substance of animal, vegetable or mineral origin.

  • Herbal remedies are an alternative form of treatment made solely from parts of whole plants (eg leaves, bark or roots), in contrast to conventional modern medicines that extract and concentrate specific compounds. A large number of herbal remedies are available as supplements, and are not regulated as medicines.

  • Excluded from this Report are alternative therapies or treatments, such as chiropractic or osteopathy. Additionally, multilevel/network marketing and practitioner sales are excluded from The Market.

Market context

Concerns about the safety of traditional ingredients, a heightened awareness of physical health, and a general interest in overall wellbeing provide a strong base for market growth. COVID-19 certainly contributed, but as an accelerant of health trends and not as the sole cause for concern. Economic strain challenges consumers, but boosts this specific market, as natural products are typically more affordable than prescription medication.

Fieldwork was conducted in June 2021, and the report was written in July and August 2021.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel bases its expectations for economic growth on projections provided by the CBO, the FOMC, the Conference Board and other public sources. Consensus estimates forecast US GDP to increase by 6.5% in 2021. Unemployment has been forecast to decline to as low as 4.1% by the end of 2021 with an average of 5.7% for the year.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in Spring 2020, and nonessential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine rollout began in December 2020. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as vaccines are widely administered and social distancing restrictions and capacity limitations gradually relaxed.

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