The unmistakable shift in consumer sentiment toward all things natural is percolating to OTC shelves.
Savvy drug stores should thoughtfully curate product offerings to reflect this desire among shoppers to use medicines that have at least a veneer of natural ingredients in them.
A 2017 white paper from data analysts at IRI and Kline found one-third of consumers considered natural OTC products to be safer than their traditional counterparts. That trend has continued, with consumers increasingly choosing more natural products and ingredients, and willing to pay more for them. Most consumers are now using natural OTCs, mostly because they think natural products are safer and with fewer nasty side effects, but, perhaps surprisingly, many consumers believe natural OTCs are just as effective as synthetics.
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“In terms of trends appealing to the ‘natural’ shopper, research conducted by IRI in November 2020 found that 20% of consumers look for products that are free of artificial ingredients and chemicals when they shop for health items,” said Barbara A. Kochanowski, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, “and 13% seek out products that contain only natural ingredients.”
Probiotics offer natural access
Probiotics are the top-selling natural ingredient in supplements. They are billion-dollar ingredients, according to Nielsen data measuring all of 2021 sales. The “friendly bacteria” populate the body’s digestive tract and larger microbiome that runs throughout the body to the tune of about 10 times as many cells as the entire rest of the human body’s cell count.
Think about that — our bodies are made up of far more bacterial cells than human cells! That may be why the health applications for probiotics is growing far afield from the traditional digestive health and even immune function (some 70% of the body’s innate immunity is housed in the gut). Virtually every part of the human body has various bacterial cells exerting influence on the structure and function of organs and tissues.
Probiotics are quite the consumer-resonant term, which first came to consumer attention thanks to the live active cultures found in yogurt. Probiotics are probably the leading supplement-style ingredient to cross over to other categories, including foods, beverages, supplements and cosmetic applications. Researchers are now finding probiotics to aid in everything from cognitive function to weight management.
Probiotic supplements now line shelves in all retail channels, and, unlike earlier generations, do not necessarily need to be stocked in refrigerator boxes. Hundreds of reputable science and press articles have provided the public with valuable information about the role of probiotics and the microbiome in digestive health.
Bacteria and oral health
Tom’s of Maine was the first natural toothpaste to break into the mainstream food and drug channel when the fluoride-free natural toothpaste was sold off to Colgate for a cool $100 million back in 2006. We don’t know how Tom himself thinks of the deal today, but a line extension now offers Tom’s toothpaste that actually does contain fluoride. But there are other ways to diversify oral health product sets that meet the moment with consumers.
The oral microbiome is changing oral care away from simply brushing, flossing and rinsing. Traditional fluoride toothpaste brands, like Crest and Colgate, use sorbitol, a sweetener known to feed cariogenic bacteria in the mouth.