Monitor: Psychedelics are back. What does this mean for retailers?Monitor: Psychedelics are back. What does this mean for retailers?
Millions of consumers are turning to ingredients such as psilocybin for therapeutic benefits. Natural product retailers should start preparing now for customers' questions.
October 19, 2023
The tie dye and day-glo that decorated many a natural co-op back in the old days has long been replaced by more muted tones, but the psychedelic trappings, if not the psychedelics themselves, are wandering back onto shelves just as a movement to treat depression, PTSD and other psychiatric conditions with psilocybin magic mushrooms and other psychedelic ingredients goes mainstream. We can now see psychedelic branding on everything from mushroom snacks to mushroom supplements for mood, with some brands describing their products as “psychedelic adjacent.”
How the industry should respond to this trend is still being debated, but nobody should ignore growing interest and mainstream acceptance of these substances. When something is featured on 60 Minutes and supported by a chorus of bipartisan voices, a threshold has certainly been crossed. In New Hope Network research presented at NBJ Summit, 30% of consumers said they had either used or currently use psilocybin psychedelic mushrooms. That survey did not separate out natural channel shoppers, but it’s an easy assumption that the percentage could be even higher in that cohort.
Natural grocers would be wise to at least be prepare themselves for customers' questions that might range from, “Will those mushroom snacks get me high?” to “What could I take to make my trip more awesome?” The law for brands is that they can’t say anything that would connect their product to the use of controlled substances. By law, supplements can’t include prohibited substances like psilocybin, but regulations also prevent supplement makers from selling products designed or marketed to enhance or be used with illegal drugs. There is talk about “after care” supplements to be taken after the psychedelic experience, but the FDA might not look kindly on such claims.
The law for store staff and practitioners is less clear, but it could be worth it for retailers to have some conversations and training on what answers they might provide. Psychedelics are powerful drugs that have no place in a natural grocery store, but we’re sure staff at those stores have gotten stranger questions than whether herb X will enhance the psylocibin experience. They might also get questions about substances that have psychedelic properties, but have not been made illegal yet. One of those substances, the amanita muscaria mushroom, is being sold openly despite health risks.
What’s clear from the consumer research is that a new psychedelic renaissance is underway. So far, there is no legal overlap for the natural products industry, short of the gray zone of those not-illegal-yet ingredients, but the cultural overlap is hard to dismiss. Speaking at Natural Products Expo East, mushroom researcher and fungi philosopher Paul Stamets said natural brands and retailers have an obligation to support psychedelic therapy. “I believe the natural products industry can lead the charge of this paradigm shift and the revolution in freedom of consciousness,” he said.
The tie-dye and day-glo is gone, but we’d be surprised if support for such freedom ever went away.
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