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3 reasons formulas sell better than single ingredients

Like it or not,  cold and flu season is right around the corner. If you’re a retailer, it’s not too early to consider what products to stock. At Boulder, Colo.-based Pharmaca, formula immunity products are out-performing single-ingredient products for the same purpose by a margin of three to one, according to Don Summerfield, vice president of integrative medicine for 23-store chain.

“Natural product brands that have moved away from marketing a single ingredient like echinacea are performing much better,” Summerfield says. The appeal? Here’s the formula for success, according to retailers.


  1. Formula products tend to have a name that indicates the product’s intended use.
    Even if a formula contains echinacea, the product is labeled for its purpose. Cases in point: WishGarden Kick-It Immune and Gaia Herbs Quick Defense. “These types of products have more appeal for our customers,” Summerfield says. The same is true at Ritzman Natural Health Pharmacy in Ohio. “So much boils down to packaging and how well the company describes how the product helps,” says Janine Peterson-Black, retail operations manager for the 13-store chain.

    But, retailer, beware: Products claiming to prevent, cure, treat or mitigate a disease violate the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, and you could get dinged by the FDA for carrying them. “Cold, cough and flu indications are over-the-counter drug claims,” says Steve Taormina, standards director for New Hope Natural Media, the parent company of

    OTC claims are permissable for homeopathics, which are considered drugs, but not supplements. Some supplement manufacturers use creative wording to market their products—for example, a name like ColdFix might suggest temperature rather than a health condition. Flu and cough, however, are tougher to suggest, according to Taormina.
  2. Formulas tend to resolve multiple symptoms. "
    “If you have a cold, you don’t have just one symptom,” says Gary Kracoff, naturopathic medical doctor and registered pharmacist for Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Waltham, Mass. “Instead of having 19 bottles and wondering if you have the right amount and whether they’re interacting, the synergy of a well-formulated product works much better.”
  3. A manufacturer can better build brand recognition with a formula versus a single ingredient, which may be marketed by numerous other brands. “I believe consumers like to be brand loyal,” Summerfield says. “However natural product manufacturers have not given their customers a reason to be brand loyal when they continue to sell single ingredients in the cold and cough category.”

Do you carry formula immunity products in your store? Which ones sell best and what new ones do you plan to stock this season? Sound off in the comments.

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