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DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Natural

BY Carol Radice

It was not that long ago that pundits could be heard arguing whether the natural trend would have long-term legs, or if it was simply going to be the next fad to capture America’s attention. After all, what appealed to shoppers in other countries, and even within other retail channels, was not going to necessarily translate to mass consumers who in those days shopped more on price than features.

Several decades later, interest in natural is burgeoning, and what was once seen as a short-lived phase is now entrenched in virtually every category. In fact, some would go so far as to say natural opened the doors for other more narrowly defined niches to be introduced, among them gluten-free, cruelty-free, free-from products and others.

This month, Drug Store News recognizes those companies that have made major inroads in the natural category through product innovation and merchandising. These leaders stood out from a field of companies for their role in helping continue to grow interest in the natural products.

Boiron USA
As what company officials said is the largest homeopathic manufacturer in the world, Boiron officials know a thing or two about homeopathic medicine. Founded in 1932, the company, based in Newtown Square, Pa., offers more than 200 SKUs across a number of different segments, including cough-cold, external analgesics and children’s medicines. It is best known for its Arnicare line of pain relievers and Oscillococcinum flu medicine.

With the expertise of pharmacists, chemists and botanists, Boiron said it developed proprietary manufacturing practices that implement various quality controls at every production step to guarantee quality, standards and reliability.

To reduce its impact on the environment, most of Boiron’s medicines that contain plants are wild harvested. To counterbalance harvesting raw materials, Boiron promotes the resupplying of wild-harvested or organically farmed plants whenever possible. Boiron also works with botanist harvesters to ethically gather plants and follow World Health Organization recommendations.

As word of its products’ efficacy has spread via social media and elsewhere, company officials said this has influenced retailers to carry other products from Boiron, especially external analgesics. “As the U.S. shopper shifted toward a healthier lifestyle, there was a demand for products that contained better-for-you active ingredients,” said Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national accounts. “Arnicare, made from a type of mountain daisy and free of any parabens or fragrances, met that need.”

Dyla Brands
Named one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the United States by Inc. Magazine, Dyla Brands, best known as a maker of natural beverages, has been making a name for itself lately, particularly for its Forto 2-fl.-oz. coffee shots.

Neel Premkumar, founder and CEO of the New York-based company, told DSN that he created Forto after the birth of his twins. He found himself drinking coffee and energy drinks to keep up, but quickly realized there wasn’t a fast energy boost from a wholesome, natural source on the market.

Forto coffee shots are USDA-Certified Organic and made with Colombian arabica beans from family-owned farms. They are available in two energy levels: 100 mg and 200 mg of caffeine. Currently sold in 50,000 retail locations, Forto’s distribution is expanding rapidly with a national partnership with Keurig Dr Pepper.

Beginning in 2019, Forto will be available in 11-fl.-oz. ready-to-drink energy coffee drinks. The organic line will come in three latte SKUs: coffee, chocolate and vanilla. “As the top-selling RTD organic coffee brand in the U.S., we listened to consumers requests and created something they’re able to sip and savor,” Premkumar said. “Now with our coffee shots and energy coffee, we’re able to provide consumers an option for any occasion.”

Flora began in 1965 as a manufacturer and distributor of health foods and dietary supplements in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. In the late 1980s, the company expanded and established its U.S. headquarters in Lynden, Wash. Flora pioneered cold pressing of flax oil and is known for its Flor-Essence herbal cleansing tea and Udo’s Oil 3·6·9 Blend, as well as being the North American distributor for Salus liquid vitamin and mineral tonics.

Most recently, Flora has taken apple cider vinegar and worked some formula magic by adding Flor·Essence herbs, along with some additional organic herbs and spices, to make three Apple Cider Vinegar Wellness Tonic blends: turmeric and cinnamon, lemon and ginger, and elderberry. The company also has expanded its probiotic line with four shelf-stable formulas and launched Omega Sport+, an energy and recovery oil blend that fuses medium-chain triglycerides with omega-3s, turmeric and vitamin D.

“After all these years, Flora remains a family-owned business and prides itself on the scope of our operations, which include manufacturing and distributing, in-house quality control testing, graphic design, marketing, and an export presence in 50-plus countries around the world,” said Robert Dadd, the company’s product information supervisor.

According to Puneet Nanda, the self-described chief essential oil of GuruNanda, most retailers and consumers are not aware of the difference in quality among the various essential oils on the market today. Nanda likens the essential oils business to the wine business, and said, “You can’t expect to grow grapes in downtown Los Angeles and get a wine quality similar to Napa or Bourdeaux.”

He said many products marketed as essential oils actually are synthetic perfume-based oils. Nanda recognized an untapped opportunity to introduce authentic essential oils to consumers and consequently started the company, based in Buena Park, Calif., combining his last name with the Hindi and Punjabi word for someone with expertise. His line, which consists of 138 essential oils sourced from six continents, is featured in certain Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kroger, Costco, Sam’s and CVS Pharmacy stores, as well as Walmart.

Following a “farm-to-you” approach, Nanda said he has personally visited every field and farm he sources from to ensure he partners with the best growers and distillers. He has formed a global alliance of honest distillers and farmers who believe in ethical payouts and replantation of crops to ensure sustainability.

In an effort to distill only the purest and most powerful essential oils, each plant source is selected based on where it thrives most and its therapeutic properties. As a part of giving back, Nanda said he ensures part of the proceeds of these distillers goes to educate the children of farmers. The company recently introduced GuruNanda Tower XL, the first 2-in-1 open-top humidifier and aromatherapy diffuser. Its 2-liter capacity allows the unit to mist for up to 10-to-12 hours without needing to be refilled. “Winter is hard on the respiratory tract, and while heat keeps us warm, it also dries out the sinuses. This diffuser is an ideal way to add moisture to the air and get the benefits of your favorite essential oil at the same time,” Nanda said.

Healthy Ventures
Since entering the market five years ago, Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake brands have seen tremendous growth for one simple reason — the number of people looking for natural alternatives to fall asleep or stay awake has increased, according to company officials. The West Lake Village, Calif.-based company develops and markets innovative natural products.

Berry Sleepy is made up of a proprietary sleep and relaxation blend that includes tart cherries, passion fruit, goji berries and valerian root extract. The berry-based formula also has the added benefit of prebiotics. The idea for the product came about in 2013 when a young family with five children never got normal sleep. They were tired of all the side effects from prescription drugs and sought out professionals who aided them in developing a natural sleep aid with no side effects.

The introduction of the Berry Awake Energy Shot created a new natural segment in the energy shot category. Berry Awake Energy Shot is made of a proprietary blend that includes green coffee berries, bacopa leaf, ginseng extracts and pea plant protein. All Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake products, which are gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO and vegan, are manufactured in the United States. CEO James Lacey said offering these products in different formats was done to appeal to a wide group of consumers looking for natural alternatives that were convenient and offered value. Most recently, the company introduced a four-pack option for its 2-fl.-oz. Berry Sleepy Sleep Shots.

In 1903, eight Los Angeles physicians founded Standard Homeopathic Pharmacy in the downtown area of the city. They placed a young pharmacist, George Hyland, in charge of ensuring their patients had the medicines they needed without having to wait for shipments from the Midwestern or eastern pharmacies. Fast forward 115 years and you get Hyland’s, named for the pharmacy’s top-selling brand, now the largest and oldest domestic manufacturer of homeopathic medicines in the United States.

“Hyland’s has worked over the course of its years to meet our consumer where and how they need us,” said Thao Le, Hyland’s vice president of marketing and innovation. “For instance, our unique quick-dissolving tablets make it safe and easy for young children to take our medicines, and just as easy for leg cramp sufferers who don’t have time to grab water for a pill.” Not one to rest on its laurels, Hyland’s has been busy introducing several products this year. Hyland’s Baby Oral Pain Relief Tablets now are available in day and night formulas. Building on the success of Hyland’s Leg Cramps, the company has introduced a children’s version — Hyland’s 4 Kids Leg Pain Relief. Next, Hyland’s debuted Restful Legs PM for those whose leg cramps keep them up at night. “Our gentle, safe medicine is made with natural, active ingredients and no aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen, and it has no known drug interactions,” Le said. This summer, the company launched a new premium brand called Doctor Wise Homeopathy, offering five homeopathic formulas for the relief of menopause symptoms.

Lifelab Health
The number of people interested in buying organic products continues to rise, and the cough-cold segment, where safety and efficacy are consumer must-haves, is no exception.

Coconut Creek, Fla.-based Lifelab Health’s HoneyWorks line of products was developed with those specific qualities in mind, according to managing director Louis Machin. Lifelab started with U.S.-sourced certified organic dark honey both for its flavor appeal and the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it offers, all of which help to calm coughs and soothe irritated throats. The company then focused on the delivery format, choosing to offer its children’s line in both a syrup and a portable spray. Its adult SKU includes HoneyWorks Adult Soothing Throat Spray Plus Zinc.

“We wanted to offer consumers a cough-remedy product they could trust to use for everyone in their family that was drug-free, long-lasting, free of artificial additives and was allergy-free — very important criteria for many parents today,” Machin said.

Lifelab also is known for its NuSyllium products, made with 100% USDA certified organic psyllium fiber and a natural orange flavoring. According to Machin, NuSyllium has been clinically proven to lower cholesterol, help with weight management and promote overall digestive health.

Maty’s Healthy Products
Bob Harrington, co-founder of Maty’s Health Products, is admittedly a little shy when it comes to having attention on his company. Yet social media is changing all of that, and this formally under-the-radar company quickly is making a name for itself with its unique line of natural and organic cough-cold and digestive products for babies, children and adults.

“The shift we are seeing today, driven in large part by millennials, is that consumers are hyper-focused on what they put in their body more than perhaps any generation before them,” Harrington said. “This has not gone unnoticed by retailers who are opening up shelf space to companies such as ours.” Retailers, Harrington said, also are willing to create a set within a set to feature such products as his. He also said that this is a sign that retailers are aware that more mainstream consumers are interested in buying natural and organic products for their families.

Of the company’s product offerings, Maty’s All Natural Baby Chest Rub is among its most popular. Unlike other rubs, Maty’s is petroleum- and menthol-free, and features eucalyptus, chamomile and lavender. “Our organic cough syrups are extremely popular as well, and this product in particular has helped define and separate us from the pack. Mom’s love it because it is certified organic and drug-free, which means it is safe for children and adults to use,” Harrington said.

While the addition of a baby to the family often is the reason many try natural options, Harrington said that adult consumers he described as “dabblers” increasingly are interested in trying Maty’s Healthy Products for themselves. Looking at 2019, Harrington said the company plans to launch several new products.

The Honey Pot
The Honey Pot is best known for offering healthy feminine washes, natural feminine wipes, herbal menstrual pads and panty liners. Launched in 2014, the company quickly has expanded in a number of retail channels.

“We are the first plant-based feminine care company that makes products for both daily and monthly feminine care needs,” said Beatrice Feliu Espada, founder of the Atlanta, Ga.-based company. “Never before has a feminine care company offered customers washes, wipes, pads, liners and tampons all under one brand.”

The Honey Pot also was the first brand to bring herbal menstrual pads to the U.S. marketplace. “Herbal pads are a mainstay in many Asian and European countries, so we’re thrilled to finally introduce this new healthy pad experience to the American female consumer,” Feliu Espada said.

The Honey Pot is expanding its product line with the addition of probiotics, natural tampons, deodorant sprays and a cramp salve.

The Relief Products
The Relief Products, or TRP, is a 32-year-old family-run company specializing in homeopathic medicine. The Relief Products is dedicated to a singular mission of helping as many people as possible “Stay Healthy, Naturally.” This mission has been the foundation of its continued growth and innovation, according to company officials.

Today, The Relief Products offers more than 25 homeopathic products, ranging across such categories as eye and ear care, cough-cold, digestive health and pain management. Its products are made using 100% natural active ingredients that work safely and gently, offering no known side effects or interactions with other medications, according to company officials.

“The Relief Products has been presented with five Women’s Choice Awards for 2019 and now the REX Award, all of which allows us to continue to spread our message of customer-dedicated innovation,” said Susan Hanson, chief operating officer at the Reno, Nev.-based company. “The continual growth of The Relief Products aligns with the expanding cohort of health-conscious consumers seeking new, innovative remedies.”

One of TRP’s newest remedies, Eye Strain Relief, is designed to relieve eye fatigue, headache and blurry vision resulting from digital device overexposure. According to Hanson, consumers continue to seek natural remedies for ailments that tend to worsen at night, including such conditions as pink eye, tinnitus, earaches, blepharitis, allergies and similar conditions that deliver painful, sleepless nights. The company’s newly introduced PM Ointments, Hanson said, support nighttime healing and recuperative sleep.

“The Relief Products will continue to respond to our consumers’ needs as we combine available technology, unique product offerings and compassionate pricing. Innovative, safe, affordable, award-winning products from our family to retailers’ shelves,” Hanson said.

Yes To
Yes To was created in Australia more than 10 years ago by two individuals who wanted to shake up the beauty world by creating a natural beauty line made with fruits and vegetables. Fast forward to today, the Pasadena, Calif.-based company is the second-ranked natural skin care brand in the United States. Its beauty solutions feature 95% or more natural ingredients. The brand is distributed in more than 35,000 mass, prestige and natural retail stores across four continents.

“Not only are our award-winning formulations free of parabens and other toxic ingredients, we created a modern, exciting, bright, colorful, fun brand that stands out among the sea of sameness in the natural beauty world,” said CEO Ingrid Jackel. “All of this makes Yes To an engaging and authentic natural beauty brand, No. 1 in attracting millennials and Gen Z with first to market beauty products that are good for your skin, cruelty-free, smell good, don’t damage the environment and don’t break the bank.”

Ranked at the top among the leading brands in driving natural skin care dollar growth in the last year due to its strong innovation performance, Yes To is the top-ranked facial mask brand in the United States, including the mainstream skin care market. “Facial masks are the second largest natural skin care segment and the fastest growing,” Jackel said.

Yes To also is the top natural acne skin care brand in the United States, something officials attributed to its innovative product forms and effective, yet gentle natural ingredients.


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