Let?s face it, not only are many consumers baffled by homeopathy, they are intimidated by it as well. They may venture into the homeopathy section, get stared down by a hundred plastic tubes, and then hightail it back to the safety of the vitamins and minerals aisle. But homeopathic manufacturers have worked hard to change the image of this benevolent healing system. They?re increasingly offering unique delivery systems and blends for common ailments, coupled with appealing packaging, to entice more consumers to try homeopathy.
For many homeopathic product manufacturers, stepping away from single remedies and offering more blends has been key to finding customers. ?With homeopathic consumers, you?ve got the one that wants a lot of single remedies, and at the other end of the spectrum is the consumer who uses homeopathic products and doesn?t even know it,? said J.P. Borneman, chief executive of Hylands Inc. in Los Angeles. ?What the natural foods stores have to do is play to the middle—that customer who buys some single remedies but mostly combos. Homeopathic blends make homeopathics accessible—when your child wakes up with a runny nose, you don?t think, ?Pulsatilla, that?s what I need.??
Helping retailers market the products also helps sales, Borneman said. ?We give retailers a package that has enough pop to stand by itself, but that still works in a section. Our packaging allows the store to put more inventory in.? Offering merchandising programs and consumer advertising has helped Hylands achieve double-digit sales in natural products stores, he said.
Hylands introduces about two products every three months, Borneman said. Recent introductions include a leg cramp lotion with quinine and earache drops as a line extension to the earache tablets. The company?s tablets are made by an extrusion process that produces pills with a marshmallow-like quality that melt when wet, so they are ideal for infants, Borneman said. The company avoids liquid formulations because of breakage and shipping costs.
After experiencing slow sales with single-remedy products, Robert Cohanim, founder of St. Paul, Minn.-based Historical Remedies, said he decided to create homeopathic blends in a sweet lozenge to turn consumers on to homeopathy. ?Many people never want to try homeopathy, but they are drawn to the cool box and then they find that it really works,? he said.
His lozenges contain homeopathic blends to treat common complaints such as stress and insomnia. The fun, appealing boxes adorned with retro photographs were designed to ?soften the look of medicine, change its image,? Cohanim said. The company also makes homeopathic body oils for consumers wanting yet another way to experience homeopathy.
In classical homeopathy, after a detailed intake session with a practitioner, a single remedy is prescribed, said Eileen Sheets, director of product management at Bioforce USA in Hudson, N.Y. ?But blends are good for consumers who don?t have the time or maybe the money to see a practitioner,? she said.
The company?s blends were formulated by the Swiss naturopathic physician Alfred Vogel. ?It?s a broad-spectrum approach. Five or six single ingredients are combined, and only a few of those might be working, but you?ve covered all your bases,? Sheets said.
Bioforce is finding wide consumer acceptance with its Pollinosan nasal spray for allergies. ?It?s intended to give very fast relief by putting the medicine right there in the sinuses,? Sheets said. The bottle has a special silver-coated nozzle that sterilizes the remedy so preservatives aren?t necessary. The company adheres to Swiss good manufacturing practices, and product labels sport the Swiss GMP seal, which helps boost sales, Sheets said. ?This is important to consumers, especially with all the scare about herbs in the media. Homeopathics are a safe alternative.?
Although Boiron USA, based in Newton Square, Pa., makes oscillococcinum, one of the best-selling homeopathic products on the market, the company continues working to make homeopathy more appealing.
In May 2003, it launched its CareKit line, which includes three single remedies packaged together in a reusable bright plastic carrying case. ?It takes the guesswork out of choosing a homeopathic remedy,? said spokeswoman Alyssa Gould. The line includes the Summer Pack, with remedies for insect bites, allergies and bruises; a Jetlag CareKit and a Menopause CareKit.
Boiron also recently introduced a new arnica cream that marries ointment and lotion and can be used on sensitive skin, Gould said.
BHI/HEEL, based in Albuquerque, N.M., began in Germany as a homeopathic supplier to practitioners. The company has taken its most successful practitioner remedies and created blends for the consumer market. ?It seems that consumers and retailers are turning a corner and seeking out combination homeopathics with more active ingredients,? said Gibson Archer, sales and marketing manager.
One of its more popular blends is Viburcol Baby Pure, a pediatric formula with clinical studies that demonstrate its efficacy, Archer said. The formula is used to reduce irritability and moderate fever, rather than suppressing it like Tylenol and other conventional children?s medications. The plastic, single-dosage vials are ideal for infants because they?re sterile, there is no need to dissolve pills and there?s no risk of breakage, Archer said.
The company?s most popular product is Traumeel, a blend of arnica and 13 other ingredients for bruises and soft tissue damage. Traumeel is available in gel, tablet and drop forms as well as an injectable solution for health practitioners. ?Providing consumers with a variety of dosage options with products that have varied applications is really a no-brainer [for success],? Archer said.
Retailers? savvy about cross-merchandising is also helping homeopathy sales, Archer said. ?The retailers that are putting Traumeel in sports sections and homeopathy sections are really seeing benefits.?
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 6/p. 56, 60