The HCG diet is a good example of the heavy load put on natural products retailers, like it or not. Customers look to you not only to stock products, but they also want you to vet products and steer them toward healthy purchases. It’s a big responsibility. As the HCG diet trend proves, your decisions can affect the well-being of both your business and your customers.
Before you choose to sell homeopathic HCG drops—or any product—here are three questions to ask.
1. Is it legal?
In the case of HCG products, I don’t think the Food and Drug Administration has helped you decide whether homeopathic versions—which may or may not actually contain HCG—are legal. The agency announced that HCG weight-loss products were at least “economic fraud” via USA Today. But no recall has been issued.
As justification, the FDA reportedly claimed that HCG products don’t seem to be “a serious direct health hazard or a serious indirect health hazard” and, therefore, called them a low priority for enforcement. In an age of budget crises and cuts, this could be viewed as fair enough. However, that means that the buck stops with you. Or not. After a few conversations with the powers that be at the FDA, my advice is to err on the side of caution with HCG products. Enforcement may soon be bumped up the priority queue.
2. Does it support your health mission?
Most retailers I spoke with about the HCG diet met with their staff to weigh whether HCG products fit the store’s health mission. Answers varied. Some retailers who stock HCG products argued that their goal is to please customers without judgment. If the customer wants it and it works for them, they’ll stock it. Other retailers viewed themselves as valuable guides who make judgments on lifestyle trends and products. Most of these retailers considered HCG unfit for their stores. If customers ask for HCG, they redirect them toward another diet plan. Increasingly, I think consumers will seek retailers who embrace the latter role—that of guide—over the former.
3. Does it sustain the natural products industry?
Yes, we’re all in it together. When one store makes a misstep, it puts all natural products retailers in a bad light. Ask yourself if you’re jumping on a short-term fad that could jeopardize the long-term credibility of the entire natural products industry. If so, reconsider—or it may come back to bite you.