DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Natural

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DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Natural

By Carol Radice - 01/16/2019
It was not that long ago that pundits could be heard arguing whether the natural trend would have long-term legs, or if it was simply going to be the next fad to capture America’s attention. After all, what appealed to shoppers in other countries, and even within other retail channels, was not going to necessarily translate to mass consumers who in those days shopped more on price than features.

Several decades later, interest in natural is burgeoning, and what was once seen as a short-lived phase is now entrenched in virtually every category. In fact, some would go so far as to say natural opened the doors for other more narrowly defined niches to be introduced, among them gluten-free, cruelty-free, free-from products and others.

This month, Drug Store News recognizes those companies that have made major inroads in the natural category through product innovation and merchandising. These leaders stood out from a field of companies for their role in helping continue to grow interest in the natural products.

Boiron USA
As what company officials said is the largest homeopathic manufacturer in the world, Boiron officials know a thing or two about homeopathic medicine. Founded in 1932, the company, based in Newtown Square, Pa., offers more than 200 SKUs across a number of different segments, including cough-cold, external analgesics and children’s medicines. It is best known for its Arnicare line of pain relievers and Oscillococcinum flu medicine.

With the expertise of pharmacists, chemists and botanists, Boiron said it developed proprietary manufacturing practices that implement various quality controls at every production step to guarantee quality, standards and reliability.

To reduce its impact on the environment, most of Boiron’s medicines that contain plants are wild harvested. To counterbalance harvesting raw materials, Boiron promotes the resupplying of wild-harvested or organically farmed plants whenever possible. Boiron also works with botanist harvesters to ethically gather plants and follow World Health Organization recommendations.

As word of its products’ efficacy has spread via social media and elsewhere, company officials said this has influenced retailers to carry other products from Boiron, especially external analgesics. “As the U.S. shopper shifted toward a healthier lifestyle, there was a demand for products that contained better-for-you active ingredients,” said Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national accounts. “Arnicare, made from a type of mountain daisy and free of any parabens or fragrances, met that need.”

Dyla Brands
Named one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the United States by Inc. Magazine, Dyla Brands, best known as a maker of natural beverages, has been making a name for itself lately, particularly for its Forto 2-fl.-oz. coffee shots.

Neel Premkumar, founder and CEO of the New York-based company, told DSN that he created Forto after the birth of his twins. He found himself drinking coffee and energy drinks to keep up, but quickly realized there wasn’t a fast energy boost from a wholesome, natural source on the market.

Forto coffee shots are USDA-Certified Organic and made with Colombian arabica beans from family-owned farms. They are available in two energy levels: 100 mg and 200 mg of caffeine. Currently sold in 50,000 retail locations, Forto’s distribution is expanding rapidly with a national partnership with Keurig Dr Pepper.

Beginning in 2019, Forto will be available in 11-fl.-oz. ready-to-drink energy coffee drinks. The organic line will come in three latte SKUs: coffee, chocolate and vanilla. “As the top-selling RTD organic coffee brand in the U.S., we listened to consumers requests and created something they’re able to sip and savor,” Premkumar said. “Now with our coffee shots and energy coffee, we’re able to provide consumers an option for any occasion.”

Flora began in 1965 as a manufacturer and distributor of health foods and dietary supplements in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. In the late 1980s, the company expanded and established its U.S. headquarters in Lynden, Wash. Flora pioneered cold pressing of flax oil and is known for its Flor-Essence herbal cleansing tea and Udo’s Oil 3·6·9 Blend, as well as being the North American distributor for Salus liquid vitamin and mineral tonics.

Most recently, Flora has taken apple cider vinegar and worked some formula magic by adding Flor·Essence herbs, along with some additional organic herbs and spices, to make three Apple Cider Vinegar Wellness Tonic blends: turmeric and cinnamon, lemon and ginger, and elderberry. The company also has expanded its probiotic line with four shelf-stable formulas and launched Omega Sport+, an energy and recovery oil blend that fuses medium-chain triglycerides with omega-3s, turmeric and vitamin D.

“After all these years, Flora remains a family-owned business and prides itself on the scope of our operations, which include manufacturing and distributing, in-house quality control testing, graphic design, marketing, and an export presence in 50-plus countries around the world,” said Robert Dadd, the company’s product information supervisor.

According to Puneet Nanda, the self-described chief essential oil of GuruNanda, most retailers and consumers are not aware of the difference in quality among the various essential oils on the market today. Nanda likens the essential oils business to the wine business, and said, “You can’t expect to grow grapes in downtown Los Angeles and get a wine quality similar to Napa or Bourdeaux.”

He said many products marketed as essential oils actually are synthetic perfume-based oils. Nanda recognized an untapped opportunity to introduce authentic essential oils to consumers and consequently started the company, based in Buena Park, Calif., combining his last name with the Hindi and Punjabi word for someone with expertise. His line, which consists of 138 essential oils sourced from six continents, is featured in certain Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kroger, Costco, Sam’s and CVS Pharmacy stores, as well as Walmart.

Following a “farm-to-you” approach, Nanda said he has personally visited every field and farm he sources from to ensure he partners with the best growers and distillers. He has formed a global alliance of honest distillers and farmers who believe in ethical payouts and replantation of crops to ensure sustainability.

In an effort to distill only the purest and most powerful essential oils, each plant source is selected based on where it thrives most and its therapeutic properties. As a part of giving back, Nanda said he ensures part of the proceeds of these distillers goes to educate the children of farmers. The company recently introduced GuruNanda Tower XL, the first 2-in-1 open-top humidifier and aromatherapy diffuser. Its 2-liter capacity allows the unit to mist for up to 10-to-12 hours without needing to be refilled. “Winter is hard on the respiratory tract, and while heat keeps us warm, it also dries out the sinuses. This diffuser is an ideal way to add moisture to the air and get the benefits of your favorite essential oil at the same time,” Nanda said.

Healthy Ventures
Since entering the market five years ago, Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake brands have seen tremendous growth for one simple reason — the number of people looking for natural alternatives to fall asleep or stay awake has increased, according to company officials. The West Lake Village, Calif.-based company develops and markets innovative natural products.

Berry Sleepy is made up of a proprietary sleep and relaxation blend that includes tart cherries, passion fruit, goji berries and valerian root extract. The berry-based formula also has the added benefit of prebiotics. The idea for the product came about in 2013 when a young family with five children never got normal sleep. They were tired of all the side