Dr. Oz dispenses wellness advice to millions of people each week, and when the healthy-living guru prescribes a new supplement or food, a good portion of viewers can't wait to give it a try. We've reported extensively about how Dr. Oz recommendations can leave retailers scrambling and manufacturers hustling to meet demand. Still, the question remains, what can be done?
Mike Fata, co-founder and chief executive officer of Winnipeg-based Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, is actively working to answer that question. Dr. Oz has plugged hemp seeds, touted as a source of vegan protein and essential fatty acids, 10 times in the last 18 months, and each time, "Fata panics a little," The Globe and Mail recently reported.
Fata, whose company produces hemp seeds, milk and butter, never knows when an Oz endorsement is coming. Often Manitoba can't fill all the orders that follow a mention, which is frustrating to everyone along the supply chain, including consumers who can't get the nutritious seeds to sprinkle on top of salads or blend in smoothies.
Because supply is dictated by how much is grown, meeting demand is not as easy as instantly scaling up. Manitoba works with about 60 farmers, and uses half of all the hemp on the Canadian market, the Globe and Mail reports. The rest is purchased by other hemp companies that also buy directly from farmers. When another manufacturer reneges on a commitment, more hemp may come available, but Fata can't count on that. Instead, he's doing the same thing as other manufacturers of in-demand crops: trying to track Dr. Oz recommendations through his marketing and PR team and hoping for the best.
I can't help but think though, that there must be a better way. Isn't it in Dr. Oz's best interest to give manufacturers a heads up before recommending foods with a limited supply?
Case in point? Quinoa. Dr. Oz promotes a 48-hour cleanse that includes a breakfast recipe with the seed. Unfortunately, the world's quinoa supply is under stress due to growing American interest. Increased demand is raising prices in Bolivia where much of the crop is grown. Natives who once relied on the protein-rich seeds as a diet staple are now eating much cheaper white rice.
Helping Americans eat healthier by promoting some of the world's healthiest foods is certainly necessary given the country's obesity epidemic. I wonder though if Dr. Oz could look behind the curtain and consider the impact of radically increasing the demand for a specific food before he decideds to prescribe it to his millions of viewers.