A spate of new launches is bringing much-deserved positive attention to the dietary supplement and natural remedy categories.
In today’s fast moving society just about everyone is looking to improve the way they feel. When looking to fight off illness, a study conducted by The Hartman Group on behalf of Boiron uncovered that more people are taking preventative action, particularly at the first sign of a symptom, rather than waiting to treat a full-blown problem.
However consumers are attempting to limit their usage of traditional OTC products. While consumers believe in the efficacy of OTC products, Hartman’s research found people expressing concerns about how “good” OTC products were for their long-term health, especially when used frequently.
For these, and other reasons, consumers are curious and open to adding more dietary supplements and natural remedies to their daily regimen, says Gary Pigott, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Miami Lakes, Fla.-based Mason Vitamins. One of the more influential sources for the change, Pigott says, has been positive recommendations coming from the physician community and the emphasis these doctors are placing on the benefits of incorporating good lifestyle habits with overall dietary changes.
In light of the recent negative press concerning the quality of some supplements, industry observers urge retailers to carefully vet the companies they partner with by placing their focus on companies offering quality products that are proven safe. Pigott says retailers should also follow prescription drug trends to help identify supplements that offer a similar benefit.
With this shift in mindset and openness to try natural products, consumers are increasingly turning to options such as homeopathy. Observers say that, while homeopathic medicines do not prevent illnesses, taken at the first sign of symptoms they can help to rebalance the body rather than mask symptoms. “Their safety features allow people to easily begin treatment early on—appealing to this new mindset on wellness,” says John Durkin, vice president, sales and marketing for Boiron USA, based in Newtown Square, Pa.
Side effects and rising costs of prescriptions and OTCs are two reasons why people who are suffering from aliments of the eyes, ears, nose, nerves and chest quickly are considering natural remedies, say observers. As prescription drugs become more prevalent and complex, and the cost of health care continues to skyrocket, the need for medicines that are natural, affordable, effective and available without a prescription will continue to grow.
“People often suffer through the illnesses with multiple symptoms,” says Dan Quail, vice president of sales for Similasan Corp. USA, based in Highland Ranch, Colo. “This is why Similasan offers our 100% natural active ingredient solutions with a line of products for the nose, ear, eyes and throat to build basket value for our retailers and a truly healthy alternative to the consumer.”
Much of the driving force behind consumer awareness comes from television shows, such as The Dr. Oz Show, which often highlights natural remedies. Also driving awareness is the number of suppliers—once exclusively serving the natural product industry—crossing over into the mainstream retail market. Dr. Frank J. King, Jr., president and owner of King Bio, based in Asheville, N.C., cites Procter & Gamble’s recent purchase of the New Chapter brand as an example of health food products expected to go mainstream. King Bio is also entering mainstream with its Safecare line of homeopathic products.
“People are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they are alarmed at the potential negative side effects of conventional medications,” says King. “They want and need safe, natural medicine that works, without any negative side effects. Homeopathic medicine fills that need, and people are flocking to it.”
In light of the research being published on omega-3 fatty acids, officials at Nordic Naturals say the average consumer is highly aware of the important role fish oil and other forms of omega-3 fats can play in preventative health. According to Marci Van Der Meulen, national sales manager for the Watsonville, Calif., based company, key health reasons consumers enter the omega-3 category include cardiovascular support, inflammation support, chronic pain, joint health, children’s health, mood support, pregnancy and blood sugar support.
The hot trend right now with omega-3s, says Van Der Meulen, are unique delivery systems. “Consumers are experiencing pill fatigue and want more options over pills, soft gels and even sometimes liquids,” she says. While some people do continue to prefer liquids, Van Der Meulen adds a large number of consumers have been responding to new and different forms such as powders. In response, Nordic Naturals launched Omega-3 Effervescent, a naturally orange-flavored powder that is added to water.
As adults seek out natural remedies for themselves, they are also looking for safe, effective products for their families as well. Observers say that while moms have always been concerned with how to treat their children appropriately with medicine, there has been a heightened awareness as to which medicines to give their child as well as the proper amount. “With several recalls affecting the availability of medications, moms have looked to alternatives such as natural options to fill this void,” says Les Hamilton, vice president of sales for Los Angeles-based Hyland’s.
Like attracts like
Suppliers say that while consumer interest in alternative products is peaking, they often face significant hurdles with retail buyers who are much slower to bring new products to market than competitive channels. What’s more, once placed, many grocery buyers are reluctant to give natural products the time they need to establish a strong presence. Other retailers are struggling with placement issues because they are unsure where natural remedies and supplements best fit.
Hamilton, who was a buyer and category manager for Target and spent years as a supplier, says the most successful retailers merchandise natural remedies next to their national brand equivalents. Doing so, he says, gives moms more immediate awareness of natural, safe alternatives to traditional medications, something she may not have considered had the products been placed elsewhere. “Merchandising homeopathic medicines in a separate area has never proved to be successful and ultimately leads to customer confusion, as that is not how mom shops the store,” says Hamilton.
Research also supports the belief that integration makes the most sense, says Durkin. From the findings he has seen, most shoppers prefer homeopathic medicines in the OTC section, “mixed in with the conventional OTC products” or “within their own section within the conventional OTC product sets.” According to Durkin, these findings suggest a substantial opportunity for retailers to increase sales by brand block homeopathic medicines into their respective sets.
However, Durkin points out that currently 44% of mainstream shoppers who purchase natural OTC products do so most often in non-traditional stores. Yet, when asked what the most important purchasing factor is besides price/value, “easily being able to find the product where I shop” ranked second only to effectiveness.
“This suggests an opportunity for retailers to expand their natural health and wellness offerings. Adding natural and homeopathic products can help retailers capture crossover shoppers from the natural product channel, as well as incrementally increase category sales,” says Durkin.
In addition to offering retailers higher margins than traditional OTC products, studies show consumer shopping baskets containing homeopathic medicines have a higher basket ring. “Homeopathic consumers are valuable shoppers. They shop more, and they spend more,” says Durkin.
Mason’s Pigott is not so sure he agrees that integrating naturally-oriented supplements and remedies with traditional options currently makes the most sense. Not only are the marketing and branding messages often different, Pigott says that the price-point difference of as much as 30% could create a handicap of sorts in an integrated scenario. “A natural consumer is looking for certain products, bromelain or ginger, for example, for a digestion issue, while the average consumer is purchasing Tums or Prilosec,” says Pigott. Furthermore, he says that as a vendor, it is often difficult to convince a category manager to consider natural SKUs because they expect the product productivity to match traditionally oriented products.
At the same time, Pigott stresses that missteps are still being made within natural sets, mistakes that he says are costing retailers valuable sales. “Simply, there are too many of the same items and far too many sizes offered. Why have 60-, 120-, 200- and 300-count of the same SKU and vendor? Better to take the best of the two and broaden the mix with other brands,” he says.
Given the relative newness of natural and alternative remedies, observers say consumer education can play a key role in growing sales. “The consumer may not understand, for instance, that rather than imposing a chemical drug on the body with the hope of temporarily masking symptoms, homeopathic products such as ours, which contain 100% natural active ingredients, attempt to stimulate a physiological reaction of the body’s own healing mechanisms,” says Similasan’s Quail. “It is also critical to the category’s growth that consumers feel these products represent a viable alternative to traditional products.”
Something as simple as product placement showcasing all-natural solutions for the nose, ear, eyes and throat, he adds, may help the consumer make more informed purchasing decisions. “It is simple, but it works,” says Quail.
Van Der Meulen says that Nordic Naturals’ products are often featured either in separate natural sets in grocery or are placed in a store-within-a-store set. “I am also seeing grocery stores dedicating store personnel to work in the aisles of these sections and training them to answer questions and offer support materials.” However, until the education level and presence of specialized personnel increases, Van Der Meulen says the grocery shopper is better served without that integration at this point.
TheraBiogen will be expanding its line of TheraMax homeopathic nasal sprays later this year with the introduction of TheraMax Migraine Relief. “Together the ingredients act synergistically in the reduction of pain and inflammation and also decrease the nausea associated with many migraines,” says Kelly Hickel, CEO of the Freehold, N.J.-based company.
Boiron recently introduced Arnicare Arnica Tablets to its Arnicare line. Company officials say the tablets work safely and naturally to relieve muscle pain and stiffness, swelling from injuries, and bruising. Although new in form, the tablets are made from one of the most popular homeopathic medicines worldwide—Arnica Montana. This single active ingredient is more commonly offered in a quick-dissolve pellet form traditional to homeopathy but company officials say the conventional tablet form was chosen to help those less familiar with homeopathy discover the benefits. “To the retailer, this helps connect consumers other than core natural product shoppers with the line,” says Durkin.
Mason Vitamins recently expanded its digestive health offerings with a Soluble Fiber with Probiotic Chewable. According to Pigott, the rapidly absorbed product addresses issues associated with intestinal regularity. “Our goal was to incorporate the ease and convenience of a chewable with a highly dissolvable form of fiber and an affordable retail price,” says Pigott.
King Bio’s first homeopathic product under its FDM Safecare label, AsthmaCare, will launch this month. Company officials say the product provides temporary relief of minor symptoms of asthma with no known negative side effects and was designed to complement, not replace, standard medical treatment. “This is comforting for asthma sufferers who never know when an asthma attack begins if it will be minor or major, and who are afraid to be without their inhalers,” says King.
The medicine in AsthmaCare is delivered via an oral mist through a CFC-free, medically metered, recyclable, pump spray bottle. “In addition to being convenient, this product scores points by eliminating the ‘embarrassment’ factor. Contrary to using asthma inhalers, consumers love the fact that taking a dose of AsthmaCare is discreet—it looks similar to using a spray breath freshener,” he adds.
This spring, Nordic Naturals introduced several new products targeted to consumers looking for a vegetarian source of Omega oils. Nordic Naturals’ Algae Omega is 100% plant based, contains no fish and comes in both soft gels and liquid options. Company officials say that having both EPA and DHA differentiates it from other omega-3 products from algae. The company has also launched Nordic GLA, a vegetarian, non- GMO borage oil exclusively from New Zealand borage.