The worlds of beauty and wellness are continuing to intertwine, and the ingestible beauty category is set to be the industries’ next big boom.

While previously relegated to the aisles of fringe-y health food stores, the beauty supplement market, which encompasses vitamin packs, collagen capsules, mineral-rich tonics, and probiotic and prebiotic pills, now accounts for $89.6 million in sales in the U.S. alone, according to market research firm Euromonitor International — that’s a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent from 2012 to 2017. Luxury retailers like Net-a-Porter, Goop, Nordstrom, Sephora and Bluemercury are doubling down on the opportunity.

The rapid retail response
Nordstrom, for one, introduced its Well Beauty shop — which includes supplements, as well as sleep and aromatherapy products — in January 2018, as an offshoot of the Natural Beauty department, launched in 2017. The assortment includes cult-favorite products like Hum Nutrition’s Raw Beauty powder, which supports radiant skin and energy; Moon Juice’s Beauty Dust, an adaptogenic blend that promotes glow; and Glotrition Collagen Peptide Drink Mix, that encourages skin firmness. Gemma Lionello, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of accessories, beauty and home, called these brands Nordstrom best sellers.

“Based off the reaction [to Natural Beauty], we were encouraged to go after a more ‘beauty from within’ approach, which spearheaded our Well Beauty launch,” she said. “Well Beauty is one of our fastest-growing categories, and we have been really pleased with the customer’s response. We were one of the first in the industry to go after this initiative, and we truly believe this is not a trend but is here to stay; our customers continue to be more conscious about ingredients and self-care. Our strongest growth and consistent results in Well Beauty are coming from ingestibles.”

Bluemercury’s Marla Beck launched the company’s supplements program just this month by introducing two new brands, The Beauty Chef and Hum Nutrition, and the expanded product offerings of three existing Bluemercury brands: Dr. Barbara Sturm, RMS and Phyto. For her merchandising strategy, Beck chose to focus on what she deemed the best supplement available for each concern, such as aging, pollution or a lack of collagen. “Over 50 percent of Bluemercury clients come into our stores with a question or concern, rather than a brand in mind,” she said. “We looked need-by-need for clients and developed a selection.”

Ingestible beauty makes sense to the Net-a-Porter woman, too, said Newby Hands, Net-a-Porter’s beauty director, who has seen year-on-year double-digit growth in the category for the last three years. “We now stock a number of ingestible products on site, and they are not just from wellness and supplement brands, but also from skin-care and hair-care brands,” she said, noting that ingestible beauty is becoming mainstream. Some of the newer supplements Net-a-Porter sells even touch on the celebrity opportunity that exists, like Ouai hair-care supplements by Kardashian and Jenner hairstylist Jen Atkin.

Goop has positioned itself at the intersection of beauty and wellness since its inception in 2008, and senior vice president of beauty Erin Cotter called ingestible beauty “a cornerstone of [its] product strategy.” While Goop creates and stocks its own private label, like the Goopglow morning skin superpowder, it also sells products by leaders in the space, like Carla Oates, aka The Beauty Chef, who was way ahead of the curve, launching her Sydney-based line in 2009.

Educating the customer
As Goop has noticed more and more entrants in the growing category, like Nordstrom and even Sephora, which has a dedicated Wellness Wall in retail stores, it prefers to take a more measured and independent approach. “We see ourselves as a leader among smaller brands who are working to disrupt the vitamin aisle and add a new perspective to a very mature industry,” said Cotter. Additionally, the e-tailer is banking on tried-and-true testing from Gwyneth Paltrow, and Goop’s merchandising and editorial teams, to show their expertise.

Nordstrom, too, understands that educating the customer about this blossoming category is key for the future of the business. Aside from the 12 physical stores with double-exposed Well Beauty towers (with more rolling out in September), and an easy-to-shop web page featuring engaging content, it continues to host in-store events, from yoga classes to self-care sessions to drive awareness in ingestibles and wellness overall, explained Lionello. 

“This is a whole new world for a lot of our customers, and they might not know where to begin on their wellness journey,” said Lionello. “These events and experiences we offer not only make [wellness] easy to understand but also make it fun and interactive.” And these events aren’t just Nordstrom-specific; the Seattle-based retailer recently partnered with online media property Popsugar at its June New York Play/Ground! experiential festival to create attention around Well Beauty.

For Jules Miller of the vitamin and supplement company The Nue Co., which launched last year, that customer dialogue is extremely important, not only for retail partnerships, but for the brand itself. “I don’t think a lot of brands do education well,” said Miller, who sells at retailers including Net-a-Porter and Anthropologie, as well as her own e-commerce site. “[Retailers] like CAP Beauty do it extremely well, but they look at ingestibles as part of a very holistic view of well-being — as much a part of beauty as skin care.”

The Beauty Chef’s Oates also has plans to create more educational content online and on the brand’s social platforms like Instagram, Stories and IGTV in the next 12 months, as she recognizes the continued importance of teaching the customer about her products herself — she previously sold The Beauty Chef on Home Shopping. “Because we sell on so many different platforms, we have to make sure our message is always consistent,” she said.

This trickles down to how important content is to their third-party retail relationships, too, according to Leilah Mundt, founder and CEO of Crème Collective, a brand development agency working with The Beauty Chef in the U.S. “This is a product and a whole category that can get overcomplicated, and at the end of the day, you just need to get it into your mouth,” she explained. “Breaking down what that looks like in somebody’s day is all the consumer needs sometimes. In online assets, we show how to take a teaspoon of Glow and stir it into your water, and that’s one video. This is what the retailers are asking for.”

The untapped ingestible potential
Miller, who recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding with Morningside Group and has exceeded $1 million in revenue in only one year, has seen the need for that direct connection with the consumer firsthand, not only through her own direct-to-consumer site — where she sees 60 percent of her business and has invested heavily in customer marketing — but also her Soho pop-up, which ran for two weeks in January 2018. It spurred Miller to open a semi-permanent physical space next month.

Tied to a new subscription service The Nue Co. will be unveiling online, Miller expects online business to spike from 60 percent to 75 percent starting in August. “With the new Facebook laws and how competitive online acquisition is becoming, it is important for any digital brand that really wants to grow to be able to connect with the customer directly.”

The store, which will not only have face-to-face consultations about well-being with customer service members and a trial bar for those curious to test the products, is really all about starting a conversation around ingestibles. “We have to be able to facilitate that community and conversation on our own,” said Miller.

Hands agreed: “[Ingestible beauty] is still an untapped market, and there is huge potential for the beauty industry to build it out. For customers, I think it has an appeal, as it would for anyone who spends time looking after his or her skin.”