A generational journey through the world of supplements

MARKET TREND | 02 May 2024

In the increasingly dynamic landscape of nutrition and wellness, dietary supplements have played an increasingly important role, adapting to the changing needs and preferences of different generations. From the Baby Boomer era to Millennials and beyond, the approach to health and wellness has been substantially transformed, reflecting the social, cultural, and scientific trends of the time. In this context, it is interesting to note which dietary supplements are the most popular among different generations. Multivitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin B/B complex are among the most popular and appreciated. This selection reflects the nutritional needs and health concerns prevalent in each generational group.

In this article we will take a journey into the world of supplements, exploring how preferences and trends have evolved across generations.

Baby boomers: health care pioneers

For Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, the idea of supplements and functional foods was still relatively new. This generation experienced the rise of the first vitamin and mineral supplements, driven by a growing awareness of the importance of nutrition to health. Vitamin C pills and calcium tablets became symbols of an impending revolution in personal health. In addition, advertising played a key role in educating consumers on how to incorporate these products into their daily diet, promoting them as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.

This generation focuses on healthy aging and the adoption of products that improve quality of life and address age-related challenges. Baby Boomers, representing a considerable portion of dietary supplement users, show a preference for natural products that reduce the signs of aging and the risk of age-related diseases. Their main focus is on heart health, joints, cognitive health and immunity.

Fitness boom: Gen X and the rise of functional supplements

With the arrival of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, the culture of fitness and wellness began to take hold. Protein supplements and amino acids gained popularity among those who frequented gyms and engaged in intense physical activities. This generation also saw the introduction of functional products such as protein bars and energy drinks designed to support an active and dynamic lifestyle. Advertising played a significant role in promoting these products, highlighting the benefits related to fitness and sports performance.

So, Generation X, interested in healthy aging, prefers products with benefits related to exercise or weight management, natural ingredients, clean label products, and influencers who provide resources and consumer education on food, health, and lifestyle.

Millennials: green living and natural wellness

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, have brought with them a growing interest in environmental sustainability and natural wellness. This generation has seen the rise of supplements and functional foods made from organic and sustainable ingredients, driven by an awareness of environmental impact and a search for more authentic and transparent products. Herbal supplements, superfoods, and vegan products have gained ground, reflecting the importance of the connection between body, mind, and environment. Advertising has played a key role in educating Millennials on these issues, highlighting the benefits of natural and sustainable products. In addition, Millennials show a growing interest in functional foods due to factors such as speed, convenience, and flexibility in their busy lifestyles.

This generation values quick, convenient and inexpensive food options over traditional ready-to-eat meals, reflecting a shift toward healthier and more functional eating habits. Millennials, highly active on social media, prioritize holistic health, sports nutrition, energy and sleep solutions, preferring personalized, sustainable and natural products such as plant-based proteins, clean label products and fitness and health influencers.

Generation z: embracing personalized health in the digital age

For Generation Z and subsequent generations, born after 1996, access to information and products has become easier than ever thanks to the spread of the Internet and social media. Today’s youth are more informed and aware than ever before about their health and well-being, and this is reflected in their consumption behaviors. The trend toward individualization of health has led to the customization of supplements and functional foods, with companies offering genetic testing services and nutritional counseling to tailor products to each individual’s specific needs. Digital advertising has played a crucial role in reaching this generation, using online platforms and influencers to educate consumers and promote the idea of personalized and accessible health. Generation Z, still young, is influenced by social media and is willing to try health and wellness products advertised online.


Preferences for dietary supplements have evolved significantly across generations, reflecting changing attitudes toward health and wellness. Millennials and Gen Z, for example, show a preference for supplements tailored to specific needs such as beauty, cognitive function, or digestion. These younger generations often treat supplements more like drugs than simple dietary additions, emphasizing personalized health solutions, holistic approaches, and natural ingredients. Their inclination toward plant-based proteins and clean label products underscores their commitment to sustainable and ethical consumption.

In contrast, older generations, such as Baby Boomers and Generation X, tend to view supplements as a form of nutritional insurance, supplementing their daily diet to address age-related problems and midlife disorders. Traditional multivitamins and condition-specific products get the better of these demographic groups, who favor proven benefits and natural alternatives.

The generational divide in supplement preferences underscores the importance of targeted marketing strategies and product innovation. As the supplement industry continues to evolve, understanding these nuanced consumer behaviors is paramount for businesses seeking to thrive in the market.

In conclusion, the evolution of supplements and functional foods has closely followed the cultural, social, and technological changes of different generations. From initial interest in health to environmental awareness and digital personalization, these products continue to adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs of consumers of all ages. This dynamic adaptation underscores the industry’s commitment to responding to emerging health and wellness needs while meeting diverse consumer preferences.

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1. NIH, Consumer Acceptance toward Functional Foods: A Scoping Review, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8835010/
2. Pew, Dietary Supplement Usage High for All Ages—Including Millennials, www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2019/06/19/dietary-supplement-usage-high-for-all-ages-including-millennials
3. Nutaceuticals World, Generational Preferences Affect Consumer Engagement with Dietary Supplement Brands, www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/issues/2019-01/view_breaking-news/generational-preferences-affect-consumer-engagement-with-dietary-supplement-brands/
4. Adv Media Lab, Marketing per integratori alimentari: perché adottare un approccio centrato sul cliente, blog.advmedialab.com/marketing-integratori-approccio-customer-centric
5. Pharmacy Scanner, Integratori, secondo indagine nell’ultimo anno consumati da sette millennials su dieci, pharmacyscanner.it/integratori-secondo-indagine-nellultimo-anno-consumati-da-sette-millennials-su-dieci/

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