Scraping Vitamin Shoppe: A Protein Powder Analysis
According to Fortune Business Insights, the “global dietary supplement market was valued at USD 48.22 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 117.92 billion by 2027”. This massive market is continuing to grow in popularity as people are constantly bombarded with fad-diets and swimsuit cover bodies. However, there is room for danger as much of this market is not regulated by the FDA. Companies have a good amount of freedom in their ingredients, marketing, pricing, etc. The general public has little idea of what they're putting in their bodies when they buy these products. Most of their rationale is based on readily available data such as reviews, recommendations, and pricing. For this reason, I conducted a type based analysis of different protein powders offered on VitaminShoppe.com to provide a more detailed picture of how customers choose their products.
To obtain this data, I scraped Vitamin Shoppe’s protein powder subcategories using selenium. The scraper opened each product’s URL and scraped the necessary information including product name, item number, listed price, price per serving, brand, rating, number of reviews, and the number of people who recommended yes or no.
Types of Protein Powder
The website’s protein powder section was divided into 5 categories: Whey Protein, Casein Protein, Natural Protein, Plant Based Protein, and Other Protein. For those unfamiliar with the extensive variety, they are marketed as the following:
- Whey protein, a milk product, is a good choice for a workout because it is easily digested and absorbed which can help you feel full and energized
- Casein, also a milk product, is absorbed more slowly so that you can feel full longer and it can aid in long term muscle growth
- Plant-based protein can be made from various plant proteins including beans, rice, pea, and hemp. Essentially, the benefits come from whatever its plant source is. This is an ideal option for people who are intolerant to milk products or vegan
- Natural proteins on this site included anything considered organic, containing natural ingredients, non GMO, etc.
- Other Proteins include blends of different proteins for example, a Whey and Casein protein blend, or products that did not fit into the other subcategories
Analyzing the overall market of the protein powders offered at Vitamin Shoppe, I made a scatterplot comparing the listed price to the number of reviews for that product. The red dashed line indicates the mean price for all the protein powders offered. The observations seem to be normally distributed around the mean showing that most consumers pay the average price for their proteins. Not as many people are willing to pay other prices.
To get a better idea of differences in the types of proteins offered, I made a box plot of the type of product compared to the listed price of each type and put that alongside another box plot of the type of product compared to the price per serving of the powder. Interestingly, if you just looked at the distribution of the listed prices, one would conclude that whey proteins generally contain the most expensive products and plant based/natural are on the lower end. This is not what you would expect as natural products are assumed to be more expensive. However this assumption is proved correct as you examine the boxplot of price per serving distribution. Here, whey proteins have the lowest price point. Whey proteins may have higher listed prices, but they make more sense economically if someone is using this product every day. The plant based and natural may seem cheaper but may just be offered in smaller quantities.
To visualize the distribution of ratings awarded by customers to products of each category, I created a stacked histogram. This makes it easy to see what ratings each type of protein has received.
Additionally, the website offers customers who purchased a product the ability to select whether they recommend it yes or no. I created another set of boxplots to visualize the number of people who selected yes or no for products in each subcategory. The left boxplot, people who recommended yes shows pretty tenuous results. However, it is more telling to look at the right plot where people returned to the website and recommended no. For the plant based section a good amount of people said they would not recommend this product for a range of plant based products. In many cases, a consumer is more likely to take a negative review into consideration and be persuaded to not purchase the product.
Lastly, I constructed a series of bar charts to examine which brands are selling these specialty types of proteins. The five brands with the top counts of each type of protein is shown below. This can be cross referenced with the subsequent bar chart which displays the top 10 protein powder brands that received the highest ratings across all types. Such analysis ensures that the product you are purchasing is of the best quality.
- Explore consumer data on other sites that offer these protein powders to normalize the rating data and be able to find the best products within these type categories
- Ingredient analysis of different protein products and cross reference with the FDA’s list of chemicals to look out for in protein products to see how many of these products contain harmful ingredients