No longer restricted to natural food stores, homeopathic remedies have gone mainstream. It is time for retailers to take note.
Consumers are becoming more aware of their actions and how those actions affect their long-term health. A byproduct of this awareness is the growth of homeopathy and all-natural medicines. Increasingly, these alternative options are being used as a replacement or supplement to traditional allopathic medicines.
Once known as the practice of hippies, homeopathy has become a legitimate category in the healthcare industry. Recent industry figures suggest that an estimated four million adults and nearly one million children used homeopathic medicines in one form or another in the past year—and the numbers continue to increase.
Manufacturers attribute the effectiveness of natural and homeopathic medicines to the use of 100% natural ingredients that activate the body’s natural defenses, not just masking the symptoms but also targeting the root cause.
Many add that retailers can and should educate themselves on the benefits of the growing homeopathic category. The benefits are obvious, as the more retailers understand what homeopathy is and how it works, the better they can partner with manufacturers to meet the growing demands of customers.
“We are seeing strong growth in complementary and alternative medicine,” says Haley Ball, product manager for Similasan USA, based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. “Consumers are concerned about the long-term implications of using allopathic medicines that contain chemical and preservatives, and hence the pursuit of alternatives.”
Industry observers say the benefits of homeopathic substances include fast-acting, immediate relief from unwanted symptoms, its non-addictive properties and very few contra-indications with prescription and over-the-counter medications. “They can be taken by nearly anyone at any time, including those taking prescription medication,” says Les Hamilton, vice president of sales for Los Angeles-based Hyland’s. “Because of the high margin of safety, homeopathic medicines can be given to young children without fear of miss or overdosing.”
Rather than quantity, homeopathic medicines are designed around frequency. “By putting every ingredient at three levels: low, medium and high, we have a better chance of matching the right ingredient and the right frequency with what the body needs,” says David Gerhardt, vice president of sales at King Bio, based in Asheville, N.C. “Homeopathic medicines can handle the acute and chronic symptoms throughout the entire body at the same time with one remedy.”
One of the biggest challenges manufacturers of homeopathic and all-natural medicines face is education at the corporate and professional healthcare level. According to observers, there is little taught on homeopathy at the university level, meaning it is up to manufacturers to educate pharmacists, doctors and nurse practitioners so that they understand and can provide consumers more choices in their healthcare options. That is an important distinction because it is the awareness of the consumer that is driving growth of the natural and homeopathic healthcare category.
Hebron USA provides samples of their all-natural products to doctors’ offices and pharmacists along with educational material so that they can recommend and provide natural alternatives to patients either in place of, or along with conventional healthcare products. The hope is that once that patient/consumer realizes the value of homeopathic products they will continue using the remedies, making purchases at retail.
One of the biggest concerns manufacturers have is where in the store these products should be marketed. Therein lies the debate. Joe Gallucci, vice president of sales and marketing for Newbury, Ohio-based Hebron USA, which offers a variety of products to aid respiratory and digestive health, believes that retailers are better off creating a separate space for natural and homeopathic healthcare products to reduce confusion for the consumer.
Similasan’s Ball says retailers should promote natural/homeopathic products right along side traditional OTC’s so consumers are not searching the store for them. “From our shopper insight research, we have found that many consumers purchase natural/homeopathic products and allopathic, or traditional OTC’s in the same shopping occasion,” she says. “We believe that many people are using the products concurrently because they know homeopathic products have a very low chance of interacting with allopathic medicines.”
Products in the homeopathic category cover a myriad of areas. Similasan offers eye, ear and pediatric cough/cold remedies. According to company officials, they are best known for their ear relief product, which alleviates symptoms like pressure and discomfort due to colds, sinus, flu, water in the ear or allergies. Similasan’s eye products treat irritation due to allergies, dryness or sties. They even have products available in their pediatric line to provide allergy and irritated eye relief for kids.
Hyland’s specializes in products for the youngest members of the family. Its products are dosed for children as young as six months old. Hyland’s recently repackaged their entire 4 Kids line to better align with the brand, and to represent medicines for the whole family. Company officials say the streamlined look will create a brand block on shelves that will allow consumers to recognize the compatibility and safety of the brand.
King Bio provides a wide range of homeopathic products to treat all members of the family. According to company officials, King Bio makes the only over-the-counter asthma relief product available. They also offer the Aqua Flora line, which relieves the symptoms of Candida, the overgrowth of yeast in the body. “People are looking for natural products because homeopathy doesn’t contra-indicate other drugs,” says David Gerhardt, vice president of sales. “CVS likes it because they known their pharmacists can go out there and pick up a King Bio product and recommend it to a consumer without having to check their entire drug profile.”
Sambucol is an immune system support product designed to assist flu-symptom relief products. Made using the extract of black elderberry, officials for San Diego-based PharmaCare US, maker of the Sambucol brand, say it is effective against all strains of the flu and helps reduce severity and duration. The all-natural product has a suggested retail price of $12.99-14.99. “Our product doesn’t take away from anything on the shelf, it only adds to it,” says Art Rowe-Ceverny, marketing manager. “With a 30% repurchase rate, we help retailers increase the size of the market basket.”