Approximately 200 natural foods/products stores responded to this survey. Overall sales at the "typical" natural foods/products store have continued to increase since 1995, with virtually all the growth emanating from the strength of the herbal products category. Respondents to the 1996 survey report that herbal product sales are up from 20.5 percent of total store sales to 27 percent of total sales. This includes herbal supplements, herb-content food and beverage products, and herb-content health and beauty care products.
The top five herbs accounted for 33 percent of herb sales, with the top ten accounting for 49.7 percent, or nearly half, of herb sales. Newcomers to the top ten list were psyllium and cascara sagrada. Beyond the top ten are cayenne at 2.5 percent, aloe at 2.4 percent, valerian at 2.2 percent, cat's claw at 2.1 percent, grape seed extract and primrose oil tied at 2.0 percent each, dong quai at 1.8 percent and each of the following herbs at 1.7 percent: pau d'arco, ginger, cranberry, milk thistle, and yohimbe.Asked to name three herbs that they thought would have "significantly increased impact in 1997," respondents noted cat's claw as the most promising "up-and-coming" herb. Interestingly, despite the fact that it was also elected the number one up-and-coming herb for 1996, this herb actually went down in rank of herbal supplement sales during that year. The other nine top ten up-and-coming herbs named for 1997 are, in descending order: echinacea, ginkgo, kava kava, saw palmetto, bilberry, elderberry, goldenseal, grape seed, and wild yam. In the area of obstacles that stand in the way of greater herb sales success, the number one response (41 percent) was "lack of consumer education about herbal products," and in second place (23 percent) was "government restrictions on information available to consumers." After these two came the following: "scare stories about herbs in the consumer media" at 18 percent, "competition from massmarket outlets" at 6 percent, "insufficient manufacturer promotion of herbal products" and "lack of standardization in herbal products" each at 5 percent, and "prices of herbal products" at 2 percent. [Richman, Alan, and James P. Witkowski. A Wonderful Year for Herbs. Whole Foods, October 1996, 52-60.] Article copyright American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Barbara A. Johnston