VMS gains traction in acute needs spaces, natural
Consumers want results from the dietary supplement category.
That’s great news for retailers who benefit from the category’s steady sales, good margins and strong price points. But it also puts pressure on merchants to have a solid assortment of products, featuring a combination of today’s trendy items, the old favorites and some items for specific ailments and remedies.
In the end, the VMS category remains a key component of any retailer’s healthcare section, and retailers are well aware that they need to constantly fine-tune the section to maximize sales and profits. The opportunity, many have said, will only increase in the near future.
“Due to high healthcare costs and an increased emphasis on preventive care, consumers are spending increasing amounts on vitamins and dietary supplements in addition to their regular foods to maintain their health,” said Patricia Jones, general manager of sales at Mason Vitamins. “With an increased interest in healthy lifestyles, consumers continue to expand their consumption of vitamins and dietary supplements, particularly those targeted at systemic benefits like digestive health, immune system fortification, vitality and longevity.”
The best news is that it is not just older consumers who are buying into the supplement category. “Younger generations, including millennials, are taking a proactive interest in their health and are increasingly driving sales in the health-and-wellness industry,” Jones said. While millennials trail boomers in overall supplement use, an estimated 73% of adults ages 25-to-34 years old regularly take vitamin and mineral supplements. “Consumer research indicates that consumers of all ages are increasingly seeking out natural supplements to maximize their health and stay youthful.”
Those shoppers are hungry for supplement knowledge, suppliers said. “Consumers are more engaged in their health than ever before and want to create tailored regimens to address individual needs,” said Olly’s supplement brand manager Jessica Heitz. “Specifically, supplements that address acute need states like sleep, energy and stress are driving trial with new consumers. With respect to sleep supplements, millennials believe that sleep is a foundational pillar of health routines and are thus driving category growth. We expect the sleep category and other acute need states to continue to grow.”
That sleep opportunity, in particular, is representative of the trend toward natural. Many consumers who are tired of those same old OTC products and their associated side effects are finding relief in the VMS space. “Natural products are ideal because the consumer is currently looking for these products. Many of the old sleep brands are sleepy, and haven’t adjusted to the consumer trends,” said Jim Lacey, CEO of Healthy Ventures. “Increasing the space of natural sleep aids [and] decreasing some space for underperforming SKU’s of synthetic products will provide an excellent variety of products for the retailer’s shelf space.”
When those customers get to the supplement aisle, ingredient transparency across brands is becoming more and more important, putting pressure on suppliers to ensure they are educating both shoppers and retailers about their items. “There are a lot of proprietary blends out there and people really don’t know what they are truly getting out of a product, and if it is even an efficacious dose,” said Ben Benedict, national sales manager at Nutrex. “The supplement consumer is far more educated than what they used to be. More people are health conscious and are not only starting supplement regiments, but also making lifestyle changes. They are more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies and [subsequently] reading more labels.”
OTC hearing aids show promise, but are just the tip of the ear care iceberg
Did you hear? The ear care category is about to get a whole lot louder in terms of new product innovations following President Trump signing of the OTC Hearing Aid Act of 2017.
About 86% of Americans with hearing loss, more than 30 million people, currently go untreated, making hearing impairment one of the most common forms of disability in the country. While the Food and Drug Administration works on codifying the regulations to support OTC hearing aids — a process that suppliers said should take at least three years — ear care companies already are clamoring for shelf space with new and innovative products.
For example, iHear Medical is offering TReO, the first prescription-quality hearing amplifier for OTC markets, and the company’s iHearTest kit, the first FDA-cleared home hearing screener, both of which will be in 500 drug stores by June. The launches will expand to more than 1,300 stores by the end of the year, company officials said.
“We will see significant interest from consumers [in this category],” said John Luna, the company’s CEO. “[As many as] 85% of people who have mild-to-moderate hearing loss don’t own hearing devices. The key factors are access, price and cosmetics. If we can address all of those, [the subsequent] rising tide will raise all boats.”
This uproar around hearing aids could not have come at a better time, said Dan Fox, marketing director at Wally’s Natural, based in Auburn, Calif. “The OTC ear section has become stagnant. [The category] is not looked at as a destination, but that is going to change in the near future,” he said. “The new mandate is going to drive a whole new customer to the OTC section.”
Wally’s Natural is launching Organic Ear Oil, an innovative moisturizing product that soothes the ear. It’s not only really good for people who wear hearing aids, officials said, but it’s also applicable for anyone who wears ear plugs or hearable tech for long periods of time.
Another possible hearing aid adjacency that is expected to make some noise is ear wax removal. “There is an opportunity to educate seniors that hearing loss can be caused by excess earwax,” said Joseph Juliano, vice president of innovative and marketing services at Tarrytown, N.Y-based Prestige Brands. “About 21% of sufferers of excess earwax, almost 13 million people, are not currently treating, driven by lack of awareness of OTC options.” The company recently reformulated its Debrox solutions with more microfoam action that the company said lifts and loosens ear wax from the surface of the ear canal.
The aging baby boomer population is bringing new users into this segment. “The ‘ear discomfort’ segment is seeing some nice growth due to the introduction of the Eustachi device for unclogging ears,” said Yann Pigeaire, director of marketing at Similasan. “And ear ringing is also a trending issue regrettably — Google trends clearly shows a consistent increase in searches for this condition.” To meet the need of consumers with tinnitus, Similasan is introducing an Ear Ringing Remedy drop for the spring planograms.
Weight management program forms ‘ideal’ partnership
Officials at Ideal Protein believe that they have an effective program that offers the opportunity to combine the expertise of dietitians and pharmacists to improve client outcomes and, ultimately, bring in more foot traffic and profits for the retailer.
The Sarasota, Fla.-based company promotes a proprietary medically developed and scientifically based weight management protocol that calls on the use of healthcare professionals, including dietitians and pharmacists, to work with clients to achieve maximum results from the program. In the pharmacy, the Ideal Protein protocol is a consultative service that requires a consultation room, and that can offer existing pharmacy staff a new role as coaches following training. Patients visit weekly for one-on-one coaching. Ideal Protein is a cash-based model that the company said also can benefit pharmacies through increased foot traffic and front-end sales.
Retailers that employ dieticians and pharmacists can maximize the program’s potential by having the teams work in unison with Ideal Protein’s turn-key program, according to Thomas Barus, Ideal Protein’s senior national consultant. “We believe pharmacists and dietitians can work collaboratively,” he said. “Obesity is a condition that requires a multi-disciplinary care team and local relationships. Pharmacists and their teams are perfectly placed to manage patient therapy throughout the weight loss process, with Ideal Protein, and collaborate with the physician on medication changes where necessary.”
Barus added that pharmacists are there to ensure the patients medications, for such chronic illnesses as high blood pressure and diabetes, are correctly managed in collaboration with the physician during the weight loss protocol. Dieticians are positioned to collaborate with pharmacists in the transition from a structured nutrition intervention protocol to the ongoing maintenance which is a personalized regimen created by the dietician for the patient.
So how does the retailer benefit? Barus said the patient needs to visit the store for weekly consultations in addition to choosing and purchasing the Ideal Protein foods, which cannot be purchased online. Plus, the patients are more likely to purchase other products for themselves and their families. “The repeat foot traffic by itself creates a big win for the retailer,” he said. “Plus additional purchases and touch points with the customer provide exposure to other products and services the retailer has to offer.”