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Capitalizing on homeopathy’s big break

Homeopathic remedies are coming to the rescue of consumers seeking a unique way to combat illnesses and other maladies.

According to SPINS, for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, sales of homeopathic medicines in multi-outlet stores totaled more than $437.3 million, a 12.5% increase compared with the same period the previous year. The biggest segment was cold and flu at $174.4 million, followed by pain relief at $84.9 million and children’s at $81.6 million. The biggest percentage gain was in digestive, which totaled just under $1.9 million in sales, but saw a 58.7% increase.

In addition, it appears that the Internet is helping sales. Industry officials have said that many shoppers are going online to find out more about what homeopathic remedies can do for them, and where to buy these solutions. Meanwhile, large retailers are helping consumers find these products by posting information about homeopathic products on their websites. CVS Pharmacy, for example, has a section on its website that lists homeopathic treatments by condition, as well as articles summarizing studies that evaluated the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for each condition. The Walgreens homeopathy website neatly arranges the homeopathic remedies by condition, including allergy and sinus, pain relief and digestive health. Rite Aid also has a homeopathic remedies page and an herbs A-to-Z page.

Retailers’ online approaches highlight something that manufacturers know well — that the category is no longer a niche.

“Homeopathic medicines have been widely embraced by consumers and the medical community,” said Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national accounts at Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron USA. “Consumers no longer expect homeopathic products to be found just in natural product stores. They have come to expect a variety of these products at food, drug and mass.”

In fact, Wittenberg said Boiron’s two flagship lines, Arnicare and Oscillococcinum, are widely available at national and major retail chains. They also are merchandised in various sections of the stores to make it easier for consumers to find the products. For instance, Arnicare Bruise and Calendula topicals can be found in the first aid aisle. Boiron’s recently launched Arnicare Footcare is located in the foot care section.

“Consumers are speaking with their wallets and are looking for more personalized healthcare options like homeopathy,” Wittenberg said. “Ultimately, the big win is that consumers are using homeopathic and natural products concomitantly, and therefore increasing retailers’ market baskets.”

More accepted and growing
The homeopathic remedies category is continuing to grow, according to Yann Pigeaire, director of marketing at Similasan in Highlands Ranch, Colo. “In eye care for instance, which is Similasan’s main business, homeopathic eye drops grew approximately 8% year-to-date,” he said. “The other eye drops grew less than 4%.”

The consumer trend that is driving the growth is that people are trying natural alternatives first, or in conjunction with conventional remedies. “This is true not only in eye care, but also cough-cold and other categories,” Pigeaire said. Among Similasan’s newest products is Ear Ringing Remedy drops for people who suffer from ringing, or other such sounds as buzzing or roaring, in the ears. The formula, developed by Similasan’s formulator in Switzerland, contains such active ingredients as mustard seed extract.

Others agree that homeopathic remedies are gaining recognition and becoming mainstream. “The homeopathic category is continuing to be accepted in a broader consumer base,” said Les Hamilton, president of Los Angeles-based Hyland’s. “The consumer is looking for natural alternatives and homeopathic items to provide the safe and effective relief they are looking for.”
It helps that retailers have embraced the category and made homeopathic remedies more easily accessed than before. “Natural is still a driving factor in the consumer choice today,” Hamilton said. “Natural products, including homeopathy, will continue to expand into new categories as the demand for retailers to carry these items will grow.”

Hyland’s offers baby oral pain relief products for day and nighttime, Restful Legs and new Restful Legs PM, as well as a new product brand under the Dr. Wise name. The company said this new line of five items addresses key indications associated with menopause and the changes a woman experiences as she progresses through this natural state. “We have been very pleased with the retailer acceptance of the new brand and look forward to helping our female consumers at this stage of life,” Hamilton said.

Taking control
Another trend driving sales in the homeopathic category is people taking their health matters into their own hands. “The wellness industry is exploding across categories,” said Kim Knoblauch, brand manager at Nelsons, a British company with U.S. headquarters in North Andover, Mass. “Consumers are taking a more active role in both their physical and mental well-being.”

In response, retailers are merchandising homeopathic products in mainstream stores in line next to big OTC options. Among the winners, Knoblauch said, are products that reduce stress and support a healthy sleep cycle, as these are gaining share and helping consumers round out their holistic approach to well-being.

“Retailers recognize that consumers want what they want where they shop, regardless of drug class or category,” Knoblauch said. “Food/drug/mass retailers traditionally have had small natural sets with a handful of natural channel brands. We’re seeing those natural brands move in line with the vitamins and supplements.”

Essential oils are another huge trend, said Puneet “Guru” Nanda, founder of GuruNanda in Buena Park, Calif. They are especially popular among women between the ages of 30 and 60 years old. “Essential oils are not something new,” he said. “The oils are from biblical times. Look at frankincense and myrrh and the wise men.”

Nanda said within the segment, the three most popular oils are lavender, peppermint and tea tree. For years, essential oils were available in such stores as Whole Foods at high retail prices. Now, GuruNanda has brought them to Walmart. By using its “Aromatherapy from Farm to You” approach, the company is able to keep costs down and make 42 different oils available at the mass retailer, he said.

“The essential oils business was in the hands of perfumers and flavorists for the last 50, 60 years or more,” Nanda said. “We saw an opportunity to bring high quality essential oils by sourcing it from farm to customers in a very efficient way.”

The oils GuruNanda offers use real oil, not synthetic versions that perfumers, flavorists or flavor chemists specialize in. “We are bringing 100% natural oils,” he said. “That is not the case with some other companies.” Frankincense is one of the offerings, and the oil is supposed to help the user stay focused, centered and relaxed. The company also offers such blends as Thrive to help purify, energize and boost immunity; Calm Muscle to relax muscles and minor aches; and others.

A regulatory complication
There are some headwinds as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced
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