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Monitor: Consumers trust safety and efficacy for herbs and botanicals

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

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Dec 1, 2022
 
As the world emerges from COVID-19, new challenges arise. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other week to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

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 Journal Herbs 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.

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