Multi-vitamin marketing easily swallowed by consumers

CHOICE says ‘worried well’ can spend up big on unnecessary supplements

CHOICE says marketing tactics are persuading healthy people to use multi-vitamin/mineral supplements that they may not need.  In an investigation into the multivitamin market, CHOICE also found that unnecessary product segmentation, along with confusing labelling, is making it difficult for consumers to know if they really need multivitamins.

Seventy-three percent of first-time mothers-to-be purchase vitamins and 37 percent of Australians aged 14 and over buy vitamins in an average six month period.

“Marketing messages, often backed up by high profile sporting celebrities, give the impression that we all need multivitamins to be fit and healthy ,” says CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just. “If you have a healthy diet and you’re not a person with specific nutritional requirements, there’s a good chance you’re wasting your money. At 20 to 70 cents per day for multivitamin products we priced, the ‘worried well’ can spend several hundred dollars a year simply by taking a daily pill.”

CHOICE says consumers face inconsistent and complex labelling when trying to interpret some multivitamin product labels. CHOICE  is calling on manufacturers to apply uniform labelling information so that consumers can make accurate comparisons.

“Some ingredients on multivitamin products are listed under their vitamin name while others appear as their chemical name. For example, vitamin B3 can be listed under its vitamin name or its chemical name (niacin). An untrained person probably wouldn’t know that the two things are one and the same,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE says multivitamins are also a product category that exhibits unnecessary market segmentation. Some products are advertised to appeal to specific target groups, despite there being very little difference in the ingredients.  “An example of market segmentation is the boys’ and girls’ Bioglan Kids Gummies Multivitamins. The products are identical – the only difference is that one packet features Disney Princesses and the other features characters from the movie Cars,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE’s multivitamin tips:

  1. Your diet may already be taking care of your nutrient needs, so talk to an accredited dietician or GP before opting for multivitamins or other nutritional supplements.
  2. If a medical practitioner asks what medications you’re taking, include multivitamins and other supplements (as well as the dosage) in the list – these products can interact with other medications.
  3. If you do decide to take a multivitamin, consider one that’s suited to your particular needs based on professional advice. Avoid mega-doses and ignore special claims and additional ingredients – they may be more about marketing than real health benefits.

To read more on CHOICE’s report on multi-vitamins, visit