Up until a few years ago, being truly “healthy” meant completing a two-day, three-week or even month-long cleanse—a right of passage to solidify your identity as a practitioner of a natural lifestyle. But the idea of cleansing has steadily shifted: detoxes have gotten shorter in duration, gentler on the stomach and more pleasing to the palate.
Consumers are increasingly adopting the “daily detox” mentality—eating or drinking something small, easy (and even enjoyable) every day to support the largest cleansing organ—the liver. “People have learned that the harsh detox [products] may not work, and may even make someone feel worse energy- and overall health-wise,” says Ashley Koff, RD, creator of the Better Nutrition Simplified program. “For true detox and cleansing, you need foods that deliver the nutrients that help identify, liberate and eliminate toxins.”
Another reason attitudes about cleansing are mellowing? Fibrous products intended to flush the colon over a period of a few days act as a Band-Aid to the overarching problem: Having a lifestyle that requires a detox in the first place. “The idea that you can take or drink something to detox or cleanse actually translates to permission to ‘tox’ or to eat or drink dirty,” explains Koff. “It’s the equivalent of saying we can act badly and then apologize and it will all be OK.”
While health experts suggest that modern toxins such as environmental pollutants and agricultural pesticide residue on food necessitates shoppers to detox, eating clean, abstaining from binge drinking, smoking and more can make a more beneficial and longer lasting impact on health than eating doughnuts and smoking cigarettes for 351 days of the year and cleansing for 14 days.
Because customers are taking a more holistic approach to cleansing, traditional detox products have suffered. In the 52 weeks ending Oct. 4, 2015, sales of supplements marketed for cleanse and detox across all channels fell 6.5 percent to $94.2 million, according to SPINS. The one bright spot in detox supplements are ones that are derived from food (also called whole-food supplements; learn more about these on page 31), or that can be eaten like food, such as green-food powders, which increased 17.7 percent to $4.95 million in the same period.
Rather than relying solely on supplements to help with detox, consumers are choosing nutritious foods and beverages that support whole-body health. The smartest brands are gaining trust by incorporating liver- and inflammation-supporting herbs, roots and spices into products shoppers already use every day, such as teas, beverages, bitters and more. According to New Hope Natural Media’s NEXT Concept Lab, a consumer survey tool that measures interest in innovative natural products, shoppers are significantly more interested in detox items that are easier to consume than detox supplements. For the survey, a group representative of the U.S. population (read: both natural and conventional consumers) predicted that Americans had an 81 percent likelihood of buying detox teas.
Foods and beverages with added detoxifying ingredients such as dandelion root, milk thistle and lemon that support liver health (the main detoxifying organ) are rising in popularity as an easy delivery system, and quick-to-make beverage to sip every day. Bonus: Some brands are even incorporating cleansing compounds such as glucoraphanin, also found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, that accelerate the detoxifying process. “Decades of science backs the health benefits of glucoraphanin and specifically for detoxification,” says Sarah Sullivan, VP of sales and marketing for Brassica Protection Products. “So we want to give consumers the benefits of this phytonutrient in a number of different ways—supplements, and foods and beverages, including our tea.”