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03/08/2021

REX Awards 2021: Natural Products

Drug Store News spotlights the standout suppliers marketing natural products.

“Stay safe, stay healthy.”

That became the new mantra for many consumers during 2020 and now 2021 — and natural products are playing a key role in helping consumers achieve that goal. Not surprisingly, products that help boost one’s immune system, manage stress, address sore muscles and help with sleepless nights, have all seen an uptick in sales this past year, and consumers who purchase them want to know what is in the products they use.

Given that the pandemic is expected to be front and center for much of 2021, industry experts predicted interest in natural products will continue its upward trajectory, buoyed by consumer confidence that living the healthiest life possible is their best defense in both the short-term and long-term future.

This month, through our Retail Excellence Award, Drug Store News is recognizing the companies that are playing a key role in growing natural product sales.

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Alaffia
At the heart of what makes Alaffia’s products unique is incorporating wild-crafted ingredients indigenous to Togo, Africa. According to its founder and CEO, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Alaffia’s hair and body care products are made from either a coconut oil or shea butter base, and its most well-known, flagship product, Authentic African Black Soap, comes in a diverse selection of natural scents. Alaffia also offers a line of gentle skin care for babies and children. The company crafts all its products at its Olympia, Wash.-based headquarters and donates a percentage of its profits to the Togo communities from which the indigenous ingredients it uses came from.

Tchala’s mother, Ina Agbanga, was the inspiration for Alaffia. She guided him on managing a women-led cooperative in Togo and on understanding the importance of preserving one’s cultural heritage with traditional recipes and native ingredients.

In 2021, the company plans to promote its new Authentic African Hair Care Collection. “Authentic African is an Alaffia staple that is representative of our roots as a company,” Tchala said. “We will be promoting existing products, launching new innovations within the category and offering new scents within this heritage line that dates back to Alaffia’s inception in 2003.” The company also will highlight the reformulation of its textured hair care line, Beautiful Curls. The line includes shampoos, leave-in conditioners and styling products for type 2 to 4c hair that are free of silicone, parabens and sulfates.

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Boiron USA
Boiron is a leader in homeopathic medicines and an independent pharmaceutical laboratory that prides itself on quality manufacturing and responsible environmental practices. The Newtown Square, Pa.-based company is most known for its Arnicare and Oscillococcinum brands, but it also offers a selection of baby and digestive aid products as well.

“The consumer is at the center of everything we do,” said MaryEllen Tefft, vice president of sales for food, drug and mass at Boiron USA. “Our innovation is driven from the consumer’s point of view, and we keep at the forefront how our products affect their daily life, the issues they may have and the challenges they may be facing.”

This year, Boiron will be highlighting ColdCalm and ThroatCalm. According to Tefft, ColdCalm meltaway tablets target specific cold symptoms, including sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and minor sore throat pain. ThroatCalm tablets relieve minor sore throat associated with colds and hoarseness from overused vocal cords.

Boiron also aims to focus on its sleep and stress products. SleepCalm is a melatonin-free solution that relieves occasional sleeplessness, restless sleep and intermittent sleep issues. The meltaway tablets are made with plant-based active ingredients that help restore a natural sleep pattern. Likewise, Boiron’s StressCalm relieves nervousness, irritability, hypersensitivity and fatigue due to everyday stress.

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Camille Rose
Janell Stephens, CEO and founder of Camille Rose, described her company as a “gourmet-inspired lifestyle brand that caters to clean and conscious beauty sophisticates.” With a familiar backstory, Camille Rose was born from a need and from items found in Stephens’ own kitchen. A dedicated vegan, the Louisiana native and self-described “mompreneur” started off creating each handmade product using food-grade ingredients, guided by the mantra that “whatever you put on your body should be good enough to put in it.”

Her goal was to create premium, need-focused products, something she said was lacking on the shelves of her favorite retailers a decade ago. It was then that she expanded her initial goal of developing products for her family and soon started the process of creating the Camille Rose brand, which today encompasses more than 30 handcrafted products, ranging from hair and face to bath and body, and kids, as well as several product collections. Among the Atlanta-based company’s newest offerings is its Honey Collection, a line of hair care products leveraging the moisture and hydration benefits of honey.

“Through our product lines, we encourage a holistic approach to natural by using key ingredients with total health and wellness in mind,” Stephens said. “Our consumer landscape is inclusive and multicultural. Our growth is a result of delivering diversity with integrity and adding products into our portfolio that are innovative and authentic.”

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Flora Health
Flora Health has been developing and manufacturing herbal and nutritional supplements since 1965. With an extensive, plant-based product line that includes omega oil blends, detox formulas, immune support and probiotics, the Lynden, Wash.-based company offers a wide range of daily wellness essentials.

Owned and operated by Thomas Greither, a third-generation health entrepreneur and visionary, Flora continues to raise the bar for supplements. It was the first company to produce cold-pressed, unrefined oils for medicinal use and the first to offer a line of age-specific probiotics.

“Flora has always sought to push the bounds of the health industry and provide the highest quality products to the consumer, from sourcing the most potent and sustainably farmed ingredients to putting its products through multiple rounds of testing. Any less is simply not something we will stand by,” Greither said.

This innovation continues into 2021, as Flora will be launching a new plant-based iron supplement called Ferritin+. “With 11 patents and three comprehensive clinical trials, Ferritin+ stands as the most advanced and proficient delivery form of ferritin iron ever to enter the market,” Greither said, noting that Ferritin+’s delivery form uniquely protects the gut from irritation, while also avoiding oxidative cell damage.

“This new product line represents a renewed and amplified focus at Flora to never stop changing alongside the latest research,” he said.

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Hello Products
When company leaders founded Montclair, N.J.-based Hello Products it was with one simple goal — they wanted to create a line of personal care products that were as natural and effective as possible, with the ability to stand out on shelf.

The company has developed a line of oral care products, moisturizing lip balms and natural deodorants that are cruelty-free, vegan, and free of peroxide, dyes, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, parabens, microbeads, triclosan and gluten.

“We strive to bring our naturally friendly offerings to everyone in an affordable and accessible way, which is why we created Hello Products for the 100% and not the 1%,” said Craig Dubitsky, founder.

This year, Hello Products will feature its Hello Sensitivity Relief + Whitening toothpaste. The fluoride-based product contains the highest level of potassium nitrate allowed by the FDA, as well as aloe vera, moisturizing coconut oil and mint. Hello Products also will highlight its Seriously Fresh Breath Tablets, its Hello Reusable Toothbrush and its Hello Naturally Friendly Deodorant line.

The gender-neutral deodorant comes in five different scents, offers 24-hour odor protection and contains such ingredients as tea tree oil and shea butter.

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Irwin Naturals
For nearly three decades, Irwin Naturals has maintained a deep heritage in health-and-wellness brands through its commitment to formulating science-based products that exceed the highest standards for quality and purity. And, according to Michelle Ricks, senior brand manager, the Los Angeles-based company continuously strives to bring forward new ideas and groundbreaking formulas that enhance health and well-being.

In 2019, the company introduced its first plant-derived, full-spectrum hemp extract products with naturally occurring CBD. Irwin Naturals is in the process of expanding its CBD product portfolio to include high-potency balms, gels, creams and roll-ons. “Looking at sales data, it became clear that consumers were seeking the highest potency CBD items,” Ricks said. “Out of our 40-plus CBD products, by far our top sellers were higher potency. While consumers were interested in CBD for a myriad of health benefits, they are also seeking premium, high-potency products from brands they know and trust.”

Looking forward in 2021, Irwin Naturals will continue to highlight its CBD topical line, as well as some of its newest CBD products, including its 2,000 mg unflavored and peppermint CBD oils and CBD + Immuno-Shield. Ricks said the company also will be highlighting some of its best-selling products, such as Stored-Fat Belly Burner, Steel-Libido Red and Milk Thistle Liver Detox.

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Lifelab Health
Coconut Creek, Fla.-based Lifelab Health made a name for itself four years ago when it launched Nusyllium, a USDA certified organic, GMO-free psyllium fiber product. Since then, the company has expanded the Nusyllium line, as well as introduced a line of USDA certified organic cough syrup and throat sprays under its Honeyworks brand.

Lifelab followed that up with NuRelief Gas Relief Liquid, the first of its kind liquid formula for gas relief that also is dye-free and sugar-free. The company will roll out a NuRelief Extra Strength Natural Antacid chewable tablet, flavored with organic aloe juice and natural fennel in 2021.

Lou Machin, managing director, said innovation is a priority at Lifelab Health. “Our innovations stem from consumer research and insights gained from focus groups. We know what consumers want and need, and strive to provide options for healthier lifestyles.”

This year, the company will highlight its latest product, BerryWorks, which features black elderberry plus vitamin C. The berries and flowers of black elderberry contain antioxidants and vitamins that may boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, lessen stress and help protect the heart. Clinical studies have shown that various elderberry extracts can help reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. The initial lineup will include travel- and value-sized offerings for adults, children’s chewable tablets and children’s liquid.

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Marie Originals
Marie Originals, located in Pearl River, N.Y., is best known for offering plant-powered, condition-specific pharmaceutical topical and ototopical remedies. Since Marie formulated her now famous poison oak soap remedy on her organic farm in Oregon, the company’s lineup has expanded to include a range of effective therapeutic formulas that address such common health concerns as acne, eczema, skin itches, wound care, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, sinus issues and sore muscles.

Most recently, its Ear Drops formula has been garnering rave reviews from consumers and receiving national attention, according to company officials. The alcohol-based herbal blend helps dry excess moisture from the ear, inhibiting bacteria growth.

“Our products are popular because of their unique positioning as effective and powerful natural remedies without the risk of adverse side effects,” said Sammy Goodman, COO and partner. “We are a pharmaceutical company with a focus on offering bioactive products to treat a variety of health concerns and making them accessible to retailers everywhere. When health issues such as poison ivy or sore muscles occur, our customers want to know they can get these products when they need them. Often, that is their local pharmacy.”

Through its labs and research and development facilities located at Pearl River’s New York Center for Innovation, Marie Originals invests resources in developing products they acquire, learning how they work and how they can be improved. The acquisitions involve proven, effective products — often wildly popular in a smaller demographic — that have yet to take the national stage. The company then manufactures these condition-specific remedies with a focus on purity and quality control. Customer feedback is a key part of the company’s process and something Goodman said the company leverages to create strong product positioning.

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The Natural Dentist
Years ago, a dentist in Woodstock, N.Y., founded The Natural Dentist after seeking out safe, natural solutions for such oral care issues as gum disease. The products have since taken off and the Madison, N.J.-based company now offers mouthwashes, toothpastes and plaque removers under The Natural Dentist and Stim-U-Dent labels.

Kelly Kaplan, president, said the company’s move in calling out “bleeding gums” as an easily identifiable symptom of early stage gum disease was critical to bringing new mouthwash users into the category. Another was the company’s use of such therapeutic ingredients as aloe vera in its products.

In 2021, The Natural Dentist will feature its new Healthy Gums toothpaste, the first natural toothpaste designed to treat bleeding gums. “It too contains 20% purified aloe vera in a botanical/herbal base and is sulfate-free, as well as free of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives,” Kaplan said. The company also is introducing Earthpicks Plaque Removers. The single-use wooden picks are designed to accomplish all that floss does, but in an easy to carry around, earth-friendly form.

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Nordic Naturals
Nordic Naturals is most known for its omega-3 fish oils, research-backed probiotics, and highly absorbable vitamins and minerals. All of the company’s products use ingredients that are carefully chosen for their reliable health benefits and are thoroughly tested throughout the manufacturing process.

“At Nordic Naturals, quality drives everything we do,” said Brian Terry, national sales manager at the Watsonville, Calif.-based company. “For more than 25 years, we have spared no expense to create the highest quality, most effective supplements possible. Thanks to this enduring commitment, we are known for our leadership in innovation and for continually raising the bar.”

Nordic Naturals first made a name for itself pioneering fresher and more effective omega-3 fish oil. Since then, the company developed new technologies for omega-3 freshness testing and fish oil concentration techniques, resulting in exclusive products only sold by Nordic Naturals. The company has continually innovated, launching such new forms as gummies and shakable powders.

Terry said he expects 2021 to be a big year for both its flagship omega-3 products, including Ultimate Omega and its probiotics, vitamins and minerals. “We believe immune health and overall health will remain squarely the focus of customers in 2021, and that means we must deliver products across the full range of categories,” he said.

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Oceanblue
Oceanblue specializes in manufacturing and marketing high potency, high concentration omega-3 fatty acid products. To guarantee the quality, strength and freshness of its products, the vertically integrated company controls the entire manufacturing process from source to packaging.

According to John Licari, vice president of marketing at the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company, the Oceanblue brand is built on three pillars: providing consumers with omega-3 products that deliver significant daily dosages required to realize long-term health benefits; following a precise manufacturing method consisting of more than 10 refining and concentration steps; and committing to environmental sustainability and the health of the marine ecosystem, a decision which led the company to exclusively source its omega-3 oils only from certified fisheries.

Oceanblue’s flagship line, Omega-3 2100, features such products containing added-value ingredients as vitamin D to support immune health. Its newly launched Omega-3 2100 with CoQ10 is designed for patients taking prescription statins.

“We seek to deliver products that offer the highest potency omega-
3s in pharmacies, at a price point that is accessible to consumers,” Licari said.

The company additionally embraces partnerships with pharmacists and other healthcare providers to help educate patients on the benefits of omega-3s and fish oils, Licari said. “By creating educational platforms designed to help pharmacists provide more impactful patient consultations, we have developed amazing advocacy and loyalty from our partner pharmacists, who remain the cornerstone of our success,” he said.

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Olly
San Francisco-based Olly offers health products across a number of categories, including sleep, mood, immunity, beauty, multivitamins, energy, focus and probiotics. Giselle Balagat, brand director, described Olly as a “millennial brand that offers delightfully tasting vitamins and supplements with real benefits that help you live happy inside out.”

Last fall, the company continued to disrupt the vitamin aisle by expanding into the feminine health space, offering a collection of women’s self-care solutions, including Lovin’ Libido and Beat the Bloat. While most of its products are in gummy form, Olly launched two other formats and platforms last year. Its ultra softgels line offers multi-benefit solutions in the form of easy-to-swallow, no-sugar softgels. Its immunity powders line deepened Olly’s growing immunity business, offering all-day support with a millennial spin.

“At Olly, we like to move fast. We live and breathe by a launch, learn and then optimize our approach to innovation,” Balagat said. The company typically works with one retailer to exclusively launch a product and uses that test period to see what works and what needs adjusting before scaling to other retailers.

In 2021, Olly plans to dive deeper into categories they already play in that offer relevant solutions to millennial shoppers. “One product we are launching is Hello Happy (within the mood space), delightful gummy worms for grown-ups packed with vitamin D and saffron,” Balagat said. “Another product we are introducing is Happy Hoo-Ha, which deepens our presence in feminine health, offering probiotics for lady parts.”

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The Relief Products
The Relief Products offers more than 30 uniquely formulated homeopathic OTC medicines that address acute and chronic conditions. With a strong focus on eye and ear care, the company also offers asthma, cough, digestive health and pain management products.

Continued innovation, leadership and a loyal customer base have enabled the Reno, Nev., company to succeed. Thomas Pominville, the company’s founder, started TRP to provide branded and private-label products to retailers, acting as a master broker for a number of companies. Capitalizing on these key strategic relationships, TRP subsequently launched its own branded line, The Relief Products, addressing a niche in the market for natural, homeopathic remedies for everyday health issues.

Through speaking with customers on the phone, interacting on live chats and the use of focus groups, TRP has been able to authentically identify unmet consumer needs in the natural product space, effectively turning customer input into real-time innovation.

TRP will roll out Dryness Relief Eye Drops this year. “Based on research and extensive customer feedback, our company saw an opportunity to address this common eye condition using natural homeopathic ingredients,” said Susan Hanson, the company’s COO. “Given that dry eye is often age related, and the elderly population is expected to rapidly grow, data suggests the dry-eye market could see at least a 34% increase in global revenue by 2023.”

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Schmidt’s
Started in Portland, Ore., more than a decade ago, Schmidt’s is a natural deodorant company that prioritizes the use of quality ingredients to ensure its products are effective. The award-winning brand was founded by Jaime Schmidt, while pregnant with her son and frustrated by the void in the market for a plant-based deodorant that worked. She developed Schmidt’s first formulas in her kitchen and today the Schmidt’s portfolio — now owned by Unilever — includes a range of certified vegan and cruelty-free natural deodorants in both signature and sensitive skin formulas.

“We’ve made a name for ourselves in the deodorant industry as a result of our standing commitment to ingredient transparency and, most recently, for becoming the first and only certified natural deodorant in the U.S. by Ecocert with 100% natural origin ingredients,” said Laura Elliott, brand performance manager.

In 2021, Schmidt’s will introduce an upgrade to its best-selling signature formula, featuring its new natural certification and up to 24 hours of odor protection. “This game-changing formula directly addresses a need for ingredient transparency in naturals and brings this already efficacious formula to the next level,” Elliott said.

Gabriella Metraux, head of product development, said Schmidt’s is constantly inspired to raise the bar on consumer experience with natural products. In fact, many of the insights that guide the company’s innovation come directly from customer feedback. “We know that ingredient transparency is important to our consumers, which is why we have worked hard to set standards that help them see the difference between our product that is now certified natural and others that want to seem natural,” she said.

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Sera Labs
Los Angeles-based Sera Labs is best known for its innovative, science-backed products made from proprietary formulations, using cutting-edge technology and such ingredients as CBD. To ensure success, the company uses both full-spectrum and isolate CBD derived from organically grown hemp.

Strategically positioned in beauty, health, wellness and pet care categories, the female-founded company’s more than 30 products are sold under the brand names Sera Labs, Seratopical, SeraRelief and Nutri-Strips. This past fall, Sera Labs was acquired by CURE Pharmaceutical, a move that enabled the company to vertically integrate with CURE’s manufacturing and distribution systems, creating a more streamlined supply chain.

“Since we started this company, we have differentiated ourselves by focusing on offering the most advanced scientific practices, along with the highest quality ingredients to provide a product that is both safe and quality consistent with an effective value pricing proposition for consumers,” said Nancy Duitch, CEO of Sera Labs and CURE pharmaceutical’s chief strategic officer. “Creating and owning our own formulas, taking an educational approach in the market, and combining this with years of marketing experience has helped us build share during a time when other companies were collapsing.”

As for news in 2021, this spring, in partnership with actress Nicole Kidman, its new strategic business partner and global brand ambassador, Sera Labs will launch Seratopical Revolution — a plant-based line of all-natural products.

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Trigg Labs
Founded in 1989, Trigg Labs is best known for its Wet brand personal lubricants and SaniMoist moisturizing antibacterial hand creams.

Headquartered in Las Vegas, Trigg Labs manufactures its products exclusively in the United States in an ISO-certified, OTC-licensed facility to ensure integrity and consistency. Company officials said its Wet brand lubricants are top performers in the family planning and personal intimacy aisles. Category leading products include the U.S.’s best-selling silicone personal lubricant, Wet Platinum, and the best-selling flavored lubricant, Wet Sultry Strawberry.

This year, the company is launching SaniMoist 2 in 1 Moisturizing Antibacterial Hand Creams. The introductory assortment will include vanilla and lavender options, as well as a fragrance-free version. All three are NDC registered, paraben- and cruelty-free, and manufactured in an FDA-registered laboratory. Premium ingredients that include pure coconut glycerin, aloe, lavender and rosemary make it suitable for even sensitive skin.

“Unlike traditional liquid alcohol hand sanitizers, which are harsh and have a drying, cracking effect, our SaniMoist 2 in 1 Antibacterial Hand Creams moisturize and nourish skin, while the active ingredient, benzalkonium chloride, kills 99.99% of germs. Your skin is left sanitized, soft and hydrated,” said Michael Trigg, CEO and founder of Trigg Labs.

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Urban Hydration
Urban Hydration’s products encompass natural hair, bath and body solutions that target dry skin and hair. Its products feature plant-based formulas and ingredients, such as coconut oil, vitamin A and vitamin E.

As a purpose-driven brand, Urban Hydration has upheld a standard of clean beauty since its start. It was important to founder Psyche Terry that the products her company created be formulated using fresh, effective, transparent, recognizable ingredients. Founded as a small online store in 2010, the family-run business has been committed to offering plant-based products that are free of parabens, silicones, sulfates and phthalates since its inception.

“Urban Hydration is dedicated to making it easier and more affordable for consumers across the country to fill their cabinets with effective products that are gentle enough for the whole family and truly deliver beautiful results,” Terry said.

“In 2021, we anticipate the skin care shopper will continue to focus on achieving healthy skin and hair with products that feature clean, good-for-you ingredients,” Terry said. As such, the Frisco, Texas-based company will focus on the reintroduction of its Jamaican Castor Oil collection. Terry said the company has received positive feedback from customers experiencing dry and brittle hair who reported hair growth and restoration after testing the collection.

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Xlear
In 2000, Nathan Jones, founder and CEO of Xlear, launched his company with a single product, a xylitol-based nasal spray. The spray was developed by his father, Dr. Lon Jones, to help address symptoms associated with upper respiratory infections. In the past 20 years, the company’s lineup has grown beyond nasal sprays and now includes a complete line of oral health products offered under the Spry Dental Defense System brand and Lite & Sweet, a xylitol and erythritol sweetener used as a sugar substitute in cooking, baking and general consumption.

Officials at the American Fork, Utah-based company said given that respiratory health and staying COVID-19-free are worldwide concerns today, Xlear plans to highlight its nasal sprays in 2021. In the book “No More Allergies, Asthma, or Sinus Infections,” Dr. Jones wrote that “keeping the nose clean with xylitol is important because essentially all respiratory problems begin there. With its connections to the ears, sinuses, eyes and lungs it acts as a nidus, a nest from which bacteria and viruses spread to other parts of the body.”

In addition to xylitol, Xlear’s nasal sprays contain grapefruit seed extract. Studies show that when a concentration of 0.2% of grapefruit seed is taken, it can reduce the amount of SARS-CoV-2 below detectable levels. Based on this, Xlear officials approached the FDA in December 2020 seeking authorization for its nasal spray to be used as a new hygiene tool to help combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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