Lose weight, clear up skin, boost energy, look like Demi, Gwyneth or Beyoncé—all in a matter of a week. With product manufacturers promising these astonishing results, detox must be an easy sell, right?
Not so much. Over the past couple years, sales of herbal cleansing—or detox—products have plunged, dropping nearly 12 percent in the combined natural and mass channels from July 2010 to July 2011, according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research firm SPINS.
The decline is due, in part, to recent research and product launches that have emphasized supporting digestive health as a daily practice over reaching for quick-cleanse products. As a result, while sales of herbal cleansing products have dipped, sales of digestion aids have climbed. SPINS data shows that probiotics and prebiotics sales spiked more than 28 percent, and fiber and laxatives sales rose nearly 3 percent in the combined channels from July 2010 to July 2011.
However, while shifting focus to promoting good digestion year-round might seem like a healthy transition, seasonal detox and cleansing regimens still have a place in a natural lifestyle, experts say. Many believe that whole-body cleansing programs play a key role in promoting gut health, which they are increasingly linking to overall immune function. But, clearly, consumers have lost focus on the bigger benefits of detox, likely because they’re befuddled.
“I think the consumer is confused,” says Brenda Watson, ND, CNC, author of The Detox Strategy (Free Press, 2008) and founder and president of Palm Harbor, Fla.-based detox supplements manufacturer ReNew Life Formulas. “The average person thinks cleansing is about weight loss or bowel movements—but it’s about much more.”
Watson believes this misunderstanding is a shame. “I’m so sad that cleansing got to be a fad,” Watson says of the quick-fix weight-loss plans that became synonymous with detox. “It’s up to manufacturers and retailers to speak with customers about the reasons for detoxification. It’s up to us as educators to show people the need.”
Unlike short-term weight-loss programs, healthy cleansing kits help the body get rid of fat-soluble toxin buildup, yielding valuable outcomes that users can feel. “Many find they have more energy or just generally feel better afterward, making the investment in a $30 kit worth it,” says Wendy McLain, health and beauty aids merchandiser for Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets.
Here’s how to get detox products moving at your store.
Why should customers cleanse?
There’s no time like the present to detox. For one, the new year is right around the corner. “The majority of our shoppers who use [cleansing programs] do so in January, in conjunction with New Year’s resolutions, and again a few months later, as part of general ‘spring cleaning,’” McLain says.
Watson says the time is also right because we are exposed to more chemicals today than ever before. In addition, our food quality has declined and prescription drug use has risen. “This is the worst toxic stress I have seen in people,” says Watson, who evaluates clients’ blood tests and stool samples in a Florida-based clinic. “They are loaded with fat-soluble toxins, from mold to benzenes to pesticides.”
Detox diets help the channels of elimination—the liver, skin, lungs, kidneys, lymph, blood and colon—to flush built-up toxins from fat cells. Although weight loss can be a fringe benefit of detoxification, a healthy plan achieves a more important goal. “My primary focus is cleaning up the bloodstream, because a cleansed bloodstream can better feed cells, tissues and organs,” Watson says.
Consumers also shouldn’t think of cleansing only as a once-a-year practice. “Everyone on the planet should cleanse preventively twice a year,” Watson says.This means detoxifying not just in response to joint pain, gas or bloating, but also to keep overall health in check.
Healthy detox also includes cleaning up your diet and your surroundings. And targeted herbs and supplements support each channel of elimination, as well as the liver, which breaks apart toxins for excretion.
Kits are the key to success
Customers are unique in what they hope to accomplish with a detox plan. Some want to remove parasites such as candida from their systems. Others intend to strengthen their immune system post-surgery or after a course of antibiotics. And, certainly, many plan to jump-start a weight-loss program. Yet detox proponents believe that everyone can benefit from a whole-body cleanse, which hits all the major players in digestion. “We sell more whole-body cleansing products than bowel or colon cleanses,” says Kris Berg, general manager and nutrition manager of Cambridge, Mass.-based Cambridge Naturals.
Rather than piecing together individual herbs for a comprehensive cleanse, many customers welcome the ease that whole-body detox kits provide. “Kits offer more benefits, as they support proper functioning of the liver, kidney, pancreas and skin, as well as colon health,” McLain says.
Each product within a kit has a pointed purpose—from colon cleansing to liver support to elimination—even if the plan calls for taking all products concurrently. “This targeted angle reflects consumers’ self care habits, which are focused on specific areas of concern,” says Sunil Kohli, chief operating officer of Chino, Calif.-based supplements manufacturer Health Plus.
Get to know detox products
The best-selling kits are those that offer detailed explanations of each stage of the plan. For example, one of the most popular kits at both Cambridge Naturals and PCC Natural Markets is ReNew Life Formulas’ Total Body Rapid Cleanse, a seven-day regimen. While customers are drawn to the program’s short duration, they also appreciate that the company describes each herb’s function on the packaging, Berg says.
Cleansing ingredients and formulations vary from brand to brand, but there are commonalities: botanicals such as dandelion root for liver detoxification, probiotics to establish healthy gut flora, and fiber and magnesium for healthy elimination. Some kits distinguish themselves by adding other ingredients such as antioxidants to eliminate free radicals, enzymes to help break down food and amino acids to aid the liver’s hard work. (For more information on common cleansing botanicals, see Top 5 detox herbs.)
To serve discerning customers, retailers should consult manufacturers on the subtle differences among the products they sell. (See 5 whole-body detox kits to stock.) “It’s very important that manufacturers educate retailers about their cleansing products so that accurate knowledge can be passed to the consumer,” says Greg Jacobson, senior vice president of marketing for Garden of Life, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based whole-foods supplements company. Both Garden of Life and ReNew Life Formulas offer online learning centers and full-time customer service departments for retailers and consumers. “Retailers often call us from the store aisles while they’re with customers,” Watson says.
Learn to manage expectations
McLain says today’s cleanses tend to be “milder” and Berg calls detox kits “safer” than products of the past. But customers still need to follow recommended doses, and they shouldn’t cleanse more than four times a year, depending on the plan, Jacobson says.
Be sure to explain to consumers what they can expect from cleansing programs. The process will take out the garbage, after all. “As toxins exit the system, it’s possible to experience cleansing reactions, which are considered normal,” Jacobson says. “If these side effects cause discomfort, or persist, they should stop usage and consult a health care practitioner.”