Always respect your elderberries

I cherish the whole health condition-specific construct. It makes so much more sense to consumers who, let's face it, aren't really looking to supplement their diets with elderberries because they pine for that crack-up scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur is told, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." Matter of fact, the average consumer might not even know what elderberries are good for. But retailers do, and elderberry sales are up an impressive 61 percent in the last year in natural food stores and an off-the-charts 219 percent in mainstream outlets.

Is this boom because some grower printed King Arthur on a bushel of elderberries? No, of course not. It's because some savvy marketer put 550mg in a bottle and called it "Seasonal Antioxidant Defense" while another created a syrup and recommends people take it "during the cold winter months." Neither packaging is liable to raise the hackles of the Federal Trade Commission — the copy doesn't say to take it to prevent colds, only to take it during those chilly cold (temperature-wise) months.

Retailers, of course, help the cause mightily because there are plenty of products whose labels read simply "Elderberry 500mg." And so just in case consumers don't know the difference between an elderberry and a juniper berry, the retailers organize their shelves by health condition: "Immunity," "Bone Health," "Heart Health" and so on. It's all good.

In this way, retailers and manufacturers work together to provide consumers with what they really need, which is help to support their health — and certainly not to cure, treat or prevent any disease (ahem).

Each health condition in this issue also contains a chart of sales data for that particular condition, courtesy of SPINS, which reports sales information in natural and mainstream stores (sans Walmart and Whole Foods Market) on 430 ingredients and 80 consumer health concerns. Most of this sales data are from supplements, though foods or beverages get counted if they explicitly state a health concern — Vitaminwater's Energy would count ribose, for example.

As a nod to its innovative health-concern coding IP, I should mention that SPINS' data could be useful if you want to see which health concern is growing, or even which area of the country is growing a particular health condition — helpful if you're thinking about starting with a limited regional distribution.

Read it and reap!

Todd Runestad
[email protected]

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