A recent survey suggests that the 'natural' vs 'mainstream' medicine debate might not have legs in natural retail.

Rick Polito, Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

December 1, 2022

2 Min Read

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Dec 1, 2022

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The tension between what consumers regard as “natural” medicine and the pharmaceuticals embraced by “mainstream” medicine has largely pivoted on questions of efficacy and safety with believers on either side willing to debate at a ferocity that boils across the internet and often into the headlines.

But that tension does not extend into the aisles of natural retailers, at least as far as people who buy herbs and botanicals supplements are concerned. That’s among the takeaways in polls featured in the new Nutrition Business JournalHerbs and Botanicals Special Report. The report's findings on supplement buyers’ attitudes can be instructive to both brands and retailers.

Not only are consumers who buy herbs and botanicals supplements more likely to reach for those products for a variety of concerns before taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs, more than half are also convinced that supplements are safer, according to the survey.


While 58% said the supplements were safer, only 12% said they believed pharmaceuticals were the less risky option. The remainder, 30%, were unsure.

What that suggests for natural retailers is that staff members don’t need to talk about the differences or advantages of natural options over pharmaceuticals. Whatever debate is going to happen in the aisles is not likely to be about whether herbs and botanicals offer a better solution. Instead, staff should be trained to talk clearly and concisely about how to choose between the brands, dosages and formats. Brands are already constrained in what they can say with regard to pharmaceuticals, but the Report’s findings are also important in building marketing strategies.

There is no shortage of white space of marketing as education. Indeed, the survey also revealed that the percentage of consumers already buying herbs and botanicals who said they were “very familiar” with the different herbal traditions (Chinese, Ayurvedic and Native American were included in the survey) never ranged higher than 9%.

That’s the kind of information that consumers are craving. The contrast between herbs and botanicals and pharmaceuticals was settled before they walked into the supplement aisle.

About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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