The male libido category is another that has held up well in the recession, no pun intended. According to SPINS data, sales of yohimbe, a standard bearer for the category and one of the principal botanical ingredients in natural erectile dysfunction products and male libido products, skyrocketed over the past year in dollar terms.
"Even though the economy was down, libido segment sales have jumped up. This seems to show that people value mental and physical well being as a key area to spend, as having a good libido increases positive feelings about oneself," said R.V. Venkatesh, managing director of Gencor Pacific, which sells Testofen, a fenugreek extract which the company markets as a testosterone booster.
"In the past twelve months the sales of our ingredient (Testofen) have shot up dramatically. The product is proving to be extremely popular," he said.
Not all ingredients in the sector have shared in its overall success, however. Sales of ED and libido products containing ginseng, which has a long anecdotal use as libido enhancer among its many other applications, dropped significantly over the last twelve months. Indeed, the ingredient's fortunes sank to the point that in August it was reported that the North Korean government offered to pay off part of its foreign debt held by the Czech Republic with in-kind shipments of ginseng. The Czechs declined.
The category has continued to be tarred with a brush wielded by shady operators pushing phony 'supplements' laced with knock-off versions of sildenafil citrate, otherwise known as Viagra.
"We are extremely concerned with the phony libido supplements selling in the market laced with sildenafil and other similar pharmaceutical ingredients and analogues. These phony supplements can be life threatening and endanger the safety of the users. It makes it very hard to market a legal supplement with scientific studies behind it," Venkatesh said.
Chart: Libido category sales