Natural Foods Merchandiser
Inflammation moves beyond joint health

Inflammation moves beyond joint health

Experts talk inflammation supplements and where they matter outside of painful joints.

Inflammation remains slightly ahead of the curve in terms of adequate consumer understanding, but the link between it and most health conditions makes it an imperative condition to address in your aisles. In fact, according to recent medical investigations, inflammatory disorders include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, arthritis and osteoporosis.

The role of inflammation in the aging process is also now being studied in earnest. “The growing body of evidence is that it’s chronic, low levels of inflammation in the body that create the foundation for aging in the body,” writes Andrew Weil, MD.

Inflammation also often manifests itself as physical pain, and the supplement industry has traditionally addressed this with joint health products. Such offerings address only a portion of the pain management needs of consumers, who also suffer PMS symptoms, headaches and stress-related aches and pains.

In response, ingredient suppliers and supplement manufacturers are now rolling out new products targeting the broader inflammation and pain-management category. One challenge has been developing products that quickly provide relief.

Sales trends

NBJ does not specifically track supplement sales based on inflammation or pain management claims. The $1.6 billion joint health category, which has been most tied to inflammation and pain relief, has experienced stagnant sales over the last year, NBJ reports. One reason joint health supplement sales have been flagging is because the category’s old standbys—glucosamine and chondroitin and herbal products such as boswellia—don’t provide the results expected by many consumers. “It’s not that they don’t work—they just don’t work fast enough,” industry consultant Anthony Almada told NBJ for its 2012 Condition-Specific issue. “They aren’t delivering on the promise that people hope for.”

The ability of tart cherry supplements to act quickly on pain is one reason Dr. Oz recommended the products on his show and why sales of these supplements have experienced triple digit growth over the last year, according to Schaumberg, Ill.-based market research firm SPINS. From August 2011 to August 2012, sales of all products making pain and inflammation claims grew 20 percent to almost $30 million in the natural channel, SPINS reports. In the conventional channel (including Walmart), sales increased 14 percent to nearly $65 million during this same period.

Key anti-inflammatory ingredients

Polyphenolic compounds, including anthocyanins (found in red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables), resveratrol, curcumin and lycopene, may help promote a healthy inflammation response. The well-documented anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s DHA and EPA make them a foundational nutrient for this condition. Quercetin bromelain, ginger and alpha-lipoc acid also may be helpful.

Retailer tips

Although much more education is needed to help consumers understand the connection between inflammation and serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, a growing number of shoppers is seeking out products specifically to quell inflammation.

“People are asking for turmeric and various forms of turmeric [because they’ve heard turmeric is good for inflammation management],” says Pat Sardell, owner of Country Vitamins in Corvallis, Ore. “This is directly tied to our aging population. There are a lot of baby boomers that are feeling the effects of joint pain and they’re looking for alternatives. Health care costs are increasing and maybe they don’t trust the pharmaceutical medications out there.”

Jon Fiume, vice president of retail operations and natural products at Wadsworth, Ohio-based Ritzman Pharmacies, says he’s seeing “people with osteoarthritis, as well as fibromyalgia—but those people are looking for an all-encompassing supplement program that’s aimed at not only reducing pain but also increasing mobility.” Ritzman is having big success with homeopathic arnica pellets and gels, he reports. “It’s become an everyday thing in first aid kits,” he says.

Along with carrying new, science-backed products that provide inflammation management, Ranger of Peggy’s Natural Foods suggests educating your shoppers on the role diet and lifestyle, particularly stress, play in stoking inflammation and pain. “We take a whole body approach,” Ranger says.

3 anti-inflammatory product picks

Europharma’s Curamin Extra Strength: This new version of Terry Naturally’s popular Curamin offers a higher dose of the same BCM-95 curcumin (which is up to 10 times more bioavailable than standard extracts) plus boswellia and mood-supportive DLPA.

Solgar’s No.7: A “next-gen glucosamine” supplement, this product includes turmeric, boswellia, ginger, collagen and white willow bark and promises improvement in joint comfort within seven days.

Natural Factors Turmeric Root Extract Theracurmin: This new supplement features a highly soluble form of curcumin that studies show is significantly (up to 30 times) better absorbed by the body.


Navigating condition-specific product claims

As condition-specific solutions become more popular with your shoppers, it’s important to be sure the products you carry make appropriate label claims—and that your sales associates are using DSHEA-compliant language when recommending products. Triple check your signage, third-party literature, website and the discussions going on in your aisles to be sure that none could be perceived as intending to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Retailers always need to be wary of supplement products that make non-DSHEA compliant claims or that could potentially be adulterated with drug ingredients—but there could be even more reason for good product vetting in the emerging pain supplement category. “If it sounds too good to be true, if it sounds pharmacological, it probably is and you should probably be cautious,” says Daniel Fabricant, director of the FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.


Want more info about the market for condition-specific products?

Nutrition Business Journal’s October 2012 issue offers a deep dive into the condition-specific supplements market. Learn more or order a copy of the issue at NBJ also coauthored with New Hope Natural Media’s Engredea team the Ingredient Market Forecast 2012-13, which explores the trends, conditions and science driving the ingredient market. Learn more or buy the report at

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.