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Herbal Products Are Driving Supplement Industry Growth.
Based on the proliferation of research and the growth in sales, herbal-based supplements, now represent a solid and growing category.

Reviewing SPINS Distributor Information, both the herbal formulas category, defined as items that contain more than one type of herb, and the herbal singles category have experienced impressive growth for the first six months of 1997 vs. the first six months of 1996.

Herbal formulas grew by 19.3 percent in dollar sales, and herbal singles, representing almost twice the sales of herbal formulas, experienced a 76.7 percent dollar sales increase for the same period.

Among all herbal products, certain segments are driving overall category growth. Cold and flu/immune system products, which include echinacea-, goldenseal, pau d' arco- and astragalus-based formulas, comprise more than 50 percent of category dollar sales and showed 24.6 percent growth in dollar sales from January-June 1997 vs. the same period a year ago. For herbal singles, the cold and flu/immune products represent the largest segment (24 percent of the total herbal singles category) and show a similar growth (24.3 percent) for the same time period. The cold and flu/immune segment is not only increasing in popularity during the cold and flu season but there is a consistent increase in demand during the rest of the year as well.

Other segments showing strong, consistent growth include calmatives (valerian, kava kava, chamomile, hops, and scullcap) and brain/circulation products including ginkgo and gotu kola. For the first six months of 1997 vs. the prior year, calmatives, in some cases marketed as replacements for prescription remedies such as valium, experienced 47 percent growth in dollar sales in herbal formulas, and similarly strong growth, 35.4 percent, as single herbal items. Ginkgo and gotu kola-based items, promoted to support oxygen flow to the body as well as to the brain, showed a 48.5 percent increase in dollar sales as formulas and 34.1 percent in dollar sales as singles.

Clearly, consumers are willing to try the natural counterparts to mainstream OTC remedies, and become loyal purchasers as well.

Finally, emerging segments such as children's herbal formulas and St. John's Wort contribute to the popularity of herbal supplements. Herbal products packaged and promoted for children showed greater than 100 percent growth in dollar sales for the first six months of 1997 vs. the same period in 1996. St. John's Wort, increasingly popular for its reported benefits to relieving depression, increased sales more than fivefold during this period.

[Reprinted with permission from Natural Business: the Journal of Business & Financial News for the Natural Products Industry, published by Natural Business Communications in Boulder, Colorado. 1997. Oct.]

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Laurie Isenberg