March 2017 update: Please note that both Vitacost and iHerb have changed their first order discount to $5. There have also been a lot of additional changes at iHerb to their discount and shipping structure.
Way back in 2013 I wrote the original Vitacost vs iHerb post on my old blog, and it’s been pretty amazing just how much traffic that post has gotten over the years! I initially put the comparison together mostly for myself – I ordered (and continue to order) from both Vitacost and iHerb on a regular basis, and was curious to see which site was better for what needs. What an awesome feeling to see that post helping thousands of other people!
Over the years a lot has changed on both sites, and I thought it would be a good idea to completely redo the review and take a look at Vitacost vs iHerb in 2016: who is the leader three years later? Continue reading to find out!
If you are ordering for the first time, follow this Vitacost link to register and get $5 off your Vitacost order of $30 or more and follow this iHerb link and use code WELCOME5 to get $5 off your iHerb order!
Vitacost vs iHerb: The basics
This has not changed since my initial review: both Vitacost and iHerb are trustworthy sites that have been on the supplement, health food and natural product market for many years. They both sell authentic products and I have never had a single issue with expiration dates.
- iHerb.com is an online retailer that offers primarily supplements, and also a wide range of eco-friendly cleaning, makeup and food products. They are based in California, have been in business since 1996 and ship all over the world. You can connect with iHerb through their website, and find them on facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube.
- Vitacost.com launched as an online store in 1999 and was a health and wellness products catalog before that. Located in South Florida, they offer international shipping and sell a lot of supplements under their own Vitacost brand. You can also connect with Vitacost through their website, and find them on facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube. They have one retail store in Las Vegas.
Winner: tie – not a huge difference between the two.
Vitacost vs iHerb selection has definitely changed quite a bit since 2013. Back then, both companies claimed to sell over 35 000 different products, and iHerb was the winner as they had a slightly better catalog of products. Fast forward to 2016, Vitacost has expanded their product range greatly.
- iHerb offers 35 000 products from 1200 different brands.
- Vitacost now boasts over 45 000 products from more than 2500 leading brands.
In 2013 I wrote that I could find most Vitacost products on iHerb, but not vice versa. In 2016 the tables have turned, and I feel that the main change has come from iHerb focusing primarily on supplements, while Vitacost now offers a lot of health food, beauty and eco cleaning products that are not available through iHerb.
Winner: Vitacost. The recent changes might not make a huge difference for those who buy primarily supplements, but I personally order a lot of the other items that Vitacost has to offer and prefer their selection. Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, healthy snacks, Dr. Bronner’s soap – you name it, Vitacost has it.
First Time Buyer Discount
iHerb has rolled out some changes to their first time buyer discount, while the Vitacost discount has remained the same.
They used to offer $10 off of purchases $40+ and $5 off $25+, but now only the $5 discount is left. Update November 2016: iHerb has changed things again, now they offer 10% off the first offer. Update March 2017: changes yet again, now the first-time discount is $5.
- iHerb offers 10% off of your first order when you follow this link and use code WELCOME5, and free shipping over $35 in the US.
- Vitacost offers $5 off your first order, with a minimum purchase of $30. You need to create a Vitacost account through this link to receive the discount – the code will show once you click “Submit”.
Winner: Vitacost. They offer a more generous discount, although I wish they would offer a code like iHerb instead of asking that people register. Also, iHerb has changed their discount so many times over the past couple of years it’s making my head hurt! Seriously, just stick with something already.
- iHerb – I have not had much personal experience with iHerb customer service. Once I contacted them to let them know of an out of date ingredients list on one of their products, and never received any kind of follow up, and last I checked the ingredients list remained the same several weeks after I wrote them about the issue.
- Vitacost – these guys are AMAZING when it comes to customer service. I honestly have never experienced anything quite like it. They actually offer returns on items you did not like! Every single interaction I’ve had with them has left me feeling like a valued customer. One time I accidentally ordered the wrong flavor of Vega One, and they actually refunded me for it, even though it was my mistake and not theirs! It really does not get any much better than this.
Winner: Vitacost hands down. Easily the best customer service I have ever encountered with any online retailer.
The Vitacost vs iHerb websites look surprisingly similar to the 2013 versions, but there have been some slight changes. One thing they have in common is that both sites are safe and encrypted, so you do not have to worry about giving out your credit card information.
- iHerb – as I mentioned in the previous review, the iHerb website is definitely not going to win any design awards: let’s be frank, it looks quite dated. However it’s quite easy to navigate and what I love is that the expiration date of the item is immediately visible. International shoppers will also like that the shipping weight is right at the top of the page. What I do not like is that in order to read product reviews you have to click on the stars at the top of the page – you can’t just scroll down. The ingredients and product details are listed on the overview page, but you have to scroll down to get to them.
- Vitacost – they definitely have a sleeker, more modern looking site, and while they kept the tabbed layout that I wasn’t a fan of in 2013, they made information more easily accessible in 2016. Now you have two sets of tabs: one defaults to customer reviews and the second to a product overview. You can find the ingredients in the “Supplement Facts” tab to the left of the product details – I’m used to this layout, but for first time shoppers it might be a little confusing. The shipping weight is also clearly visible, however expiration dates are not shown and to me that’s a shame!
Winner: Vitacost – the iHerb site shows expiration date and has the ingredients clearly visible, but accessing the reviews is not straightforward and requires clicking through (and then back since there is no option to add product to cart from the reviews section). The Vitacost site readily displays the reviews, but does not show expiration date and getting to the ingredients list might be confusing for first time users. But what I find a lot more convenient on the Vitacost website is being able to put items in your cart without having to click on the item listing first (see screenshots below).
- iHerb offers free 1-5 day shipping on domestic orders of $35+ (this is after any discounts have been applied – another change from 2013),
and $4 flat rate shipping on orders of less than $20. Their packaging has been hit or miss, with some boxes showing a lot of wear upon delivery.
- Vitacost offers free 1-4 day shipping on orders over $49 (or $25 of Vitacost and select other brand products; after all discounts), $4.99 flat rate on anything under. They do a phenomenal job of carefully packaging each item and using cardboard dividers in boxes to make sure that everything arrives intact. There is also a new Free Shipping section full of items that make your whole order ship free.
Winner: tie – while I would love to give the prize to Vitacost just because their shipments have some of the best packaging I’ve ever experienced,
their free shipping cutoff is over 2x that of iHerb, and for smaller orders that makes a difference. Both companies use good shipping partners, and I’ve never had a package get lost or delivered after the estimated delivery date.
This time around I decided to compare Vitacost vs iHerb international shipping in a separate category, since there are always a lot of questions in the comments about that. Now, let me say right away that I am based in the US, so I do not have any personal experience with international shipping from either company. I can only go off of what I see on their sites and what my readers have told me.
In the screenshots above and below I tested out shipping charges for a mock order of three bottles of Maxi-Hair vitamins to three countries: Australia, Russia, Sweden. You can see the Vitacost vs iHerb estimated shipping cost by clicking on the thumbnail.
- iHerb used to be very well known for inexpensive international shipping. They even have built out translated sites and multi-language support to cater to international customers. But in late 2014 they changed their rates and that caused an uproar among the international customer community. You can read more about that at my old blog in this post. However, it seems that even after the change their international shipping rates are much lower than any US based competitors.
- Vitacost offers international shipping as well, but I don’t think that international sales are a huge focus for the company. Their rates are not as low as iHerb is able to provide, and I doubt they have a similar volume of sales outside the US.
Winner: iHerb – in spite of recent changes and complaints, I feel that their rates are just so much lower than Vitacost is able to offer. In the three sample countries I selected, all three had a free shipping option. And you can’t beat free shipping!
Vitacost vs iHerb Prices
I’ll be honest – when shopping I always check Vitacost vs iHerb prices against each other. Sometimes certain items will be a little more or less expensive on one site compared to the other, but often they are quite close. To compare, I put together a sample order or items I regularly purchase from both sites: Ecover dishwasher tabs, Kind Organics Women’s multivitamins, Nutiva Coconut Manna and a Chocolove chocolate bar with sea salt and almonds. Here are the results:
Winner: Vitacost. The price difference isn’t huge, but Vitacost is still on average less expensive than its competitor.
- iHerb has just rolled out an “iHerb Loyalty Credit” program: 5% of your order (not including shipping) posts to your account as a credit towards your next order. The iHerb Loyalty credit expires after 60 days. So if you place a $50 order today, you will be able to get $2.50 off your next order.
iHerb also offers a volume discount on many items, which allows you to save 5% and more. The volume discount can be combined with the iHerb Loyalty Credit.
- Vitacost offers 3% cash back through Ebates (not a member? Get a $10 gift card when you sign up), and I’ve seen this go up to 6% on some days. There are also regular email and snail mail offers to save 10-15% off your whole order, as well as regular additional 15-20% discounts on their top brands such as Megafood, Avalon Organics, Ecover etc.
The tricky part is stacking these deals. For the most part you can combine brand/individual item discounts with one % or $ off code. So for example if you take advantage of the $5 off of $30 offer by signing up via this link, you will be able to take advantage of current deals such as 20% off of Kind Organics supplements with code MYKIND (expires Feb 1, 2016), but won’t be able to stack the $5 off of $55 offer with code SAVEON55 (expires January 28, 2016) on top of that.
Winner: tie – I love that Vitacost allows cash back through ebates, and love the ever changing generous sales and coupons they offer. At the same time coupled with a lower free shipping requirement, iHerb’s new Loyalty Credit is quite generous – if you order on a regular basis you will effectively be getting 10% off your order all the time.
Extras With Order
- iHerb Here’s another area where iHerb has had significant change since I last reviewed the Vitacost vs iHerb differences. iHerb used to allow one free sample item with your order (with plenty to choose from), however now the samples are offered at an extra cost. While most items are under $1, it’s still a lot less fun than getting a freebie with every order.
They do however throw in an iHerb branded item such as a pen or tape measure.
never offered the same amount of freebies as iHerb, so not much change there. They do have a Vitacost Free Samples page, however I can’t recall the last time I saw anything other than that Toms of Maine deodorant sample on there.Also a couple of times they have sent free food samples such as Kind bars with my order, but that’s pretty rare. Update November 2016: free samples are no longer offered, however almost every shipment comes with a Vitalize with Vitacost magazine that has a unique 10% off discount code printed on the back. Best of all, this code can be combined with most other codes!
Winner: tie – while freebies used to be iHerb’s competitive advantage, nowadays you can expect to get what you’ve ordered and not much more on top of that. I have to say, I miss the days of iHerb samples!
Vitacost vs iHerb Conclusion
So, Vitacost vs iHerb 2016. Let’s break this down: in this review I judged the two competitors based on 10 categories, and Vitacost took the lead in five of those categories (most of the others resulting in a tie) making it the overall better choice for most people. This isn’t to say that you should never order from iHerb – on the contrary, as I’ve said before I am a loyal and frequent customer of both Vitacost and iHerb. But if I was forced to choose just one, as of today my vote would be for Vitacost. Vitacost was also the winner in my 2013 review, so they are definitely showing some consistency!
That being said, for smaller supplement orders and/or for international shoppers iHerb might be the better choice.
As I concluded last time, it’s great to have both options available – as we know the consumer always wins when there is healthy competition! I’d love to hear your thoughts on Vitacost vs iHerb – which do you prefer?