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01/24/2022

REX Awards 2022: Natural Products

Promoting wellness: This year’s Retail Excellence Awards pay tribute to an impressive array of standout companies offering natural products.

If there was ever a yearto recognize innovation in natural products 2022 is it. Interest in all things natural may have been on the rise for the past decade, but the events of the past two years brought to light just how important incorporating clean products into one’s daily wellness routine truly is.

Pandemic or not, more and more people are taking a deep dive into the choices they make and realizing what they eat and put on their bodies greatly impacts their overall health. Increasingly, consumers are turning to naturally oriented products to improve the quality of their life, whether it’s sleeping better, having more energy, feeling better, losing weight, de-stressing or boosting immunity.

Below are companies Drug Store News editors have found to have gone above and beyond in assisting their retail partners as they seek to create a point of differentiation between themselves and other merchants.

[Read more: REX Awards 2021: Natural Products]

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Nature Made

Pharmavite
While some companies only jumped on the wellness bandwagon in the last handful of years, Pharmavite has been researching and crafting health-and-wellness products with a purpose for half a century. Its founders strongly believe there was, and is, a better alternative to long-term health than prescription drugs. The West Hills, Calif.-based company sells products under several labels, but it is probably best known for its Nature Made brand. Not only has Nature Made earned the distinction of being the No. 1 pharmacist recommended brand, but it was also the first national supplement brand to have a product verified by the USP and remains the brand with the most products that carry the USP Verified mark. To earn this mark of distinction, products are rigorously tested by an independent third party and must meet stringent quality criteria.

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Mason Vitamins's Mason Natural Marine Collagen

Mason Vitamins
More and more consumers understand the benefits of incorporating dietary supplements into their daily regimen, but for a growing number of people, affordability remains a challenge. From its inception, Mason Vitamins set out to address this need by creating a line of safe, affordable vitamins made from the highest quality ingredients. Its portfolio today includes more than 300 exclusive vitamin and supplement formulas. The company continues to innovate with new products and forms that address specific needs, including their new convenient stick powder and effervescent products. Mason’s leaders work closely with suppliers to select and test ingredients. Its UL-certified manufacturing facility follows dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices and each product is produced following strict FDA guidelines. As a steward for the environment, the Miami Lakes, Fla.-based company packages its supplements in recyclable PET bottles and recycles about 600 lbs. of paper and cardboard each month.

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Lifelab Health

Lifelab Health
Looking at its distinct product lineup and the number of firsts under its belt, it’s clear that LifeLab Health, based in Coconut Creek, Fla., has made innovation a priority. Leveraging consumer research and insight gleaned from conducting numerous focus groups, Lifelab Health has a solid understanding of what consumers need — whether it’s organic honey-based cough and throat products or organic, GMO-free psyllium fiber offerings. The company was the first to formulate a dye- and sugar-free liquid gas relief product. Lifelab was also among the first to launch a black elderberry-based product intended to help users boost their immune systems and reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. With convenience top of mind, Lifelab has won over many moms who appreciate the chewable tablets and liquid options available in its kid-based products.

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Similasan

Similasan
What started in the ’80s as a niche brand in Switzerland, Similasan has become one of the top international innovators in OTC homeopathic remedies. The Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based company makes a wide range of options that provide temporary symptomatic relief for ear, nose and chest ailments, but it is probably best known for its eye care products. Not surprisingly, as more consumers grow wary about using chemical-based formulas in their eyes that only mask symptoms, its allergy and dry eye formulas have seen a surge in interest lately. Similasan creates its products using natural ingredients, such as botanical extracts, that are designed to stimulate the body’s natural defense and target symptoms, which means its products can be used as often as needed. Its single-use droppers also add a level of convenience, and its eye care products are safe to use with contact lenses.

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Nordic Naturals

Nordic Naturals
Satisfying picky consumers is a task nearly every supplier faces, but intense scrutiny of dietary supplement providers has never been higher. Watsonville, Calif.-based Nordic Naturals knows this well and has been able to stand out in a crowded field by never taking its eye off its goal: to provide consumers with a wide range of omega-3 products made from premium ingredients in a variety of price points. The inspiration for the company’s innovation came from founder Joar Opheim, a native of Norway, who used his country’s expertise in high-concentration fish-oil products as the impetus for starting Nordic Naturals here in the United States. From that one idea more than 25 years ago, the company’s lineup today has grown to include an innovative assortment of products. In addition to fish oil, the company offers children’s multivitamins, letter vitamins, probiotics, stress, sleep and joint relief options.

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Sheffield Pharmaceuticals

Sheffield Pharmaceuticals
While many current toothpaste brands have resorted to adding chemicals to its finished products, Dr. Sheffield’s Natural Toothpaste is made from only natural ingredients using the same recipe its founders did in the 1800s. Its most popular version, its Natural Extra Whitening Toothpaste, for instance, contains calcium carbonate, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, organic aloe leaf, rebaudiana leaf/stem extract, quillaja saponaria molina, yucca and wild yam among others and includes only natural flavors. The result is a toothpaste that is free from fluoride, synthetic detergents, foaming agents, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. Also, Dr. Sheffield’s toothpastes contain no animal byproducts or testing and are GMO free. In addition to producing its certified natural toothpaste in adult-appealing flavors, the New London, Conn.-based company offers chocolate, mixed berry and strawberry banana options for kids. Fun fact: Dr. Sheffield is credited with being the first to put toothpaste into a tube. His son got the idea after seeing street artists use paint housed in tubes.

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Olly

Olly
Bold and innovative are just two of the many words that describe Olly. When this San Francisco-based vitamin and supplement company first entered the overcrowded market in 2015, it came out swinging, disrupting the category with its unique vision on how to impact consumers and their communities. Calling itself a “modern wellness brand,” the company’s products, which range from sleep and mood to immunity and beauty, were created to give consumers a way to be the best versions of themselves. Olly’s goal was simple — the company wanted to make taking supplements fun and easy. It’s clear from its lineup that inspiration comes from putting itself in its consumers’ shoes. By continuously evaluating the health challenges people encounter day-to-day and thinking through how they can be solved for that has helped Olly stand out in a mature and over-SKU’d category. Its Modern Women’s Wellness line, which puts a playful twist on women’s everyday health needs, is a good example of just how much this company is in touch with consumers’ needs. Fun fact: The idea for the brand came to founder Eric Ryan in the vitamin and supplement aisle at Target. A customer asked him a question, mistaking him for a Target employee, and thus Olly was born — an easy-to-understand, benefit-based alternative to a confusing and often bland category.

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Sky Organics

Sky Organics
Consumers want to understand what goes into the products they buy so that they can shop smart. To help cut through the clutter of what is real and what is greenwashed, shoppers increasingly seek out companies whose products have been certified by well-respected industry groups. Sky Organics gets that, which is why its products feature a Bio-Based certification. This seal guarantees that its products are made from plant-derived and renewable ingredients. Like many natural companies, Sky Organics was born from necessity by a family looking to provide itself with the healthiest choices for themselves and the planet. Using simple ingredient profiles and botanicals known for their therapeutic benefits, the company has created an innovative portfolio of personal care, beauty, aromatherapy and household products. Sky Organics is committed to making natural and certified organic ingredients accessible for all and strongly believes in the concept of beauty from the inside out. One of its latest offerings, Youth Boost, is an organic skin care regimen formulated with a plant-based retinol alternative. One of its most popular products in that line, Youth Boost Antioxidant Day Serum, uses antioxidant rich ingredients such as vitamin C, manuka honey, hydrating green tea and organic bakuchiol, to support healthy skin.

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TRP EarAche Relief PM

The Relief Products
As the founders of The Relief Products can attest, being an innovator means more than just launching new products. It’s about having reliable manufacturing partnerships to overcome supply chain dislocations and offering an authentic customer service experience. It’s also about having a keen eye to identify unmet consumer needs. Through extensive customer feedback and market research, Reno, Nev.-based TRP recognized a need for products that address acute and chronic conditions overnight. This led TRP to develop a full line of PM products that provide around-the-clock relief for conditions that tend to worsen at night, including allergies, blepharitis, earaches, pink eye and tinnitus. This daytime/nighttime formulation — a feature that was in the past seen exclusively in the cough-cold segment — was a way for TRP to address consumer needs while also providing retail partners with complimentary products to effectively expand their eye and ear care sets. TRP’s Earache Relief PM and Ring Relief PM are two recent innovative, nighttime product additions to the ear care category.

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Canus

Canus
This Canadian company has been a standout in the personal care aisle for more than two decades. Known originally for its goat milk soap, the company’s goat milk-based offerings have grown to include body lotion, body wash, bubble bath and liquid hand soap. Canus’s products feature such unique fragrances as orchid flower extract, eucalyptus mint and lavender oil. But it is perhaps its approach to business that helps this company stand out most. From equipping its warehouse with smart lighting and improving the recyclability of its plastics to making its shipping boxes from recycled content, the company’s efforts to increase its sustainable practices is noteworthy. Canus also produces sustainable, carbon-negative palm oil for its Nature line. Handpicked from a strictly organic 4,000-hectare plantation, palm fruits are pressed without consuming external energy. In fact, the boiler used to extract the palm oil is fueled by palm tree husks and fibers.

Increasingly, consumers are turning to naturally oriented products to improve the quality of their life, whether it’s sleeping better, having more energy, feeling better, losing weight, de-stressing or boosting immunity.

Up-and-comers
Given the popularity of all things natural, the market has become flooded with companies looking to sell healthy alternatives to consumers today across a wide range of retail formats. Here are a few notable companies you may not have heard of yet but one’s we think might be worth keeping an eye on:

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Om Mushroom Superfoods' Lion's Mane

Om Mushroom Superfoods
Superfoods’ ability to jump-start wellness landed on everyone’s radar this past year with products derived from mushrooms earning much of the attention. Enter Carlsbad, Calif.-based Om Mushroom Superfoods. The company’s line of 100% certified organic mushroom-based products was formulated to address such health needs as immunity, cognition, energy, weight loss, stress, sleep and fitness recovery. Om grows 11 types of mushrooms in an environmentally controlled, certified organic facility, which helps heighten the mushrooms’ growing cycle and bioactive compounds. This process also ensures that no heavy metals, pesticides or toxins compromise the final product. Its founders also bring a wealth of experience to the company: Sandra Carter has a doctorate in preventive medicine and Steve Farrar has three decades of mushroom-growing experience. Fun fact: While most associate the term Om with chanting, the company’s name is short for the words “organic mushrooms.”

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Pacifica Beauty Vegan Collagen Lash Serum Primer

Pacifica Beauty
Consumers today want to align themselves with companies that follow the same core values as they do, and for a growing number that means refusing to buy products from companies that cause harm to animals or the planet. Considering this, attributes such as vegan and cruelty free are growing in importance, especially where beauty products are concerned. Portland, Ore.-based Pacifica Beauty has been quietly making a name for itself within such categories as hair care, bath and body, sun care, skin care, fragrance and makeup. It prides itself in offering natural products that work as well or better than any nonnatural line. The natural beauty product company recently launched the first vegan collagen mascara as well as a line of aluminum-free clean stick deodorants. The deodorants come in unique scents such as Coconut Cream, Watermelon Rainbow and Sandalwood Incense.

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Ecos laundry squares

Ecos
Sure, the movement toward all things natural is often focused on what we put in our body, but companies are increasingly focusing on how products we use in our homes affect the environment, be it through packaging waste or containing harmful chemicals. Ecos took both of those positions to heart when it created its line of cleaners, dishwashing, laundry, pet care and tree-free paper products. Its Liquidless Laundry Detergent Squares, for example, are made without plastic and are hypoallergenic. Sustainable and convenient, the squares are not tested on animals and its plant-based ingredients fight stains while being earth-friendly. Fun fact: In 2013, the company achieved carbon neutrality when it switched all its facilities to 100% renewable energy and dramatically reduced its transportation emissions.

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Compostic

Compostic
Consumers say they are ready to do away with plastic in their lives, but in reality they are seldom willing to give up something unless presented with an effective alternative. Jon Reed, founder of Compostic, a zero-waste packaging company from New Zealand, has made it his mission to find a sustainable solution for all the single-use plastic consumers use daily. In 2018, he created Compostic to tackle this dilemma. Reed’s company offers cling wrap and resealable bags in three sizes that when composted can break down in less than 24 weeks. Compostic products are nontoxic, FDA approved and free from bisphenol A and GMOs. Even its packaging is recyclable, compostable and features soy-based inks.

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Rind Snacks Orchard Skin-On Dried Fruit

Rind Snacks
It’s not often that the terms upcycled and fruit snacks are mentioned in the same sentence — that is until recently. But when Matt Weiss set out to create Rind Snacks, something his grandma taught him came to mind: let nothing go to waste. Believing that he could make a healthy snack that can be both good for people and the planet, Weiss created a variety of dried fruit snacks using upcycled whole fruits. This method not only maximizes the nutritional value, it minimizes food waste. Given that fruits and vegetables account for the largest portion of all food waste in the United States, products that involve upcycling can make a significant impact. By Weiss’ estimate, in 2020, eating Rinds helped keep 120,000-plus lbs. of food waste out of landfills.

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Bobo’s Oat Bars

Bobo’s Oat Bars
What started as a mother-daughter tradition of baking homemade oat bars has turned into a successful natural snack business based out of Boulder, Colo. Made from small batches and simple ingredients, including 100% organic whole grain oats, Bobo’s snack bars are also gluten free, non-GMO, kosher and soy free. Since its inception in 2003, the company has expanded its offerings to include oat-based bites, protein bars and toaster pastries. Bobo’s proudly stands behind a number of causes, such as  its Limited Edition LGBTQ+ Artist Series Pride Bars, which launched in May 2021. Bobo’s founders’ hope for this cause bar was to illustrate inclusion and acceptance. All profits from this bar were donated to causes such as PFLAG.

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Kos

Kos
Calling itself a “plant-centric nourishment lifestyle,” Kos is best known for its boutique lineup of organic plant-based protein products derived from such sources as chia, pumpkin, quinoa and flax seeds. Its powder and capsule products address various wellness concerns such as energy, mood, immunity, sleep, relaxation, digestion, mental clarity, circulation and heart health. Its energy-packed Blue Spirulina & Immunity blend features organic blueberry flakes, blue spirulina, adaptogens and elderberry. All products are non-GMO, vegan friendly, USDA certified organic and made in the United States. The company’s name (pronounced K-AW-SS) comes from the Greek Island of Kos, which was known as a bastion of peace.

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Solely

Solely
The healthy snack category has been on fire lately and with just cause: people have begun to see they can indulge in their favorites in a way that doesn’t compromise their health. This is especially a challenge for a growing number of children whose access to fresh fruit is limited. The founders at Solely wanted to change that and created a line of organic dried fruit products featuring whole fresh fruit. Chock full of nutritional benefits, Solely products contain no added sugar, preservatives or chemicals and are made with the fewest possible ingredients. All fruit is hand-selected from Solely’s own network of certified farms and then dried at the company’s facilities. Its Organic Mango & Orange Gummies contain three ingredients — organic mango, natural orange extract and vitamin C. Solely Gummies are also 100% vegan friendly, gelatin free, organic and non-GMO. Featured in individual pouches, the gummies are a convenient on-the-go snack and easily fit into lunchboxes.

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