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2 tips to sell high-priced natural products

The old adage, "you get what you pay for," definitely applies in the natural products industry, but higher price points may give consumers pause. This doesn't apply to me, though, seeing as I just spent $50 on a topical C cream recommended by a certified healthcare practitioner at a local integrative pharmacy.

While my coworkers think I'm crazy (or vain), I'm betting on Sanitas Topical C cream to heal and reduce the eventual scarring of a recent burn. A week ago while cooking, I burnt a dime-sized portion of skin on my left hand. Although it's healing nicely, it's also healing slowly.

So to the store I went and out I came with two different products said to be helpful. One is the Sanitas Topical C cream and the other is a Comfrey Root Salve by Tulipan. Both are local Colorado businesses and both have 30ml of product inside. But the Tulipan product cost $6, whereas Sanitas set me back $50.

To be fair, the practitioner told me she has used both in tandem and noticed great success, and she didn't push me toward the higher-priced product. It was music to my ears when she said I'd only need to apply Topical C once a day and that the bottle would last me a year. Purchase rationalized.

This one consumer interaction sparked two lessons for those in industry.

1. The retailer lesson

During checkout, the cashier asked me if I knew how to use the products (great!). But this employee contradicted what was previously recommended, telling me I needed to apply the products at least twice a day. I had already swiped my card and was feeling some sticker shock—and now confusion. Why didn't these employees' stories match up?

Retailers: Get all your employees on the same page about how to use products. If not, you could instill a sense of distrust or confusion in your consumers about your store and the brands it carries. As it turns out, Delicious Living reviewed the Topical C product in 2004 and gave it a thumbs up, giving me more confidence in my purchase.

In many cases in-store interaction provides the tipping point for a purchase, but manufacturers can also persuade consumers like me by justifying their price points.

2. The manufacturer lesson

When I got back to the office, I showed the product to the editors of Functional Ingredients and asked the question: Why is topical C so expensive?|

"With the exception of some vitamin C made by DSM in the green hills of Scotland, all the vitamin C in the world comes from China and it's traded like a commodity," my coworker Hank Schultz, managing editor of Functional Ingredients, told me. I don't like the idea of all our ingredients coming from China, land of murky regulation and supplement adulteration.

A closer look at the ingredients list reveals the vitamin C in Sanitas' product is not from China. In fact, it's sourced domestically the company told me. And it's not just any old vitamin C.

The vitamin C is­ ascorbyl palmitate, a fat-soluble form that Andi, a licensed aesthetician and educator at Sanitas, told me will heal and repair the skin's moisture barrier and heal the scar. "The skin is a soluble organ that doesn't understand a lot of watery things, at least not on a cellular level," she said. "In order to make a change in the skin you need something lipophilic." Hence, the active, biogenic fatty vitamin C found in Sanitas 15 to 20-year-old product. Fun story: The product came about when Sanitas formulator (and former pharmacist and chemist) was asked by a doctor to create a product for a patient in a serious burn accident.

Manufacturers: If your products cost a premium, there's usually a good reason why—just make sure your consumers know it. I was obviously highly motivated to buy the best solution for my burn, but I'm guessing during this economy I'm the exception. And not all consumers like me will call Sanitas and find out how its ingredient is sourced. Manufacturers who surface this information inside stores and on websites earn extra cred with health conscious consumers.

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