DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Natural
Standing out in a crowd.
That is pretty difficult when it comes to the natural products segment among HBC brands. With the category growing at steady double-digit rates for at least the last five years, a large number of suppliers have entered the market, all hoping to grab their fair share of this burgeoning segment.
The result has been a mixed bag for retailers, who are often caught between finding enough space for a hot category and making sure that they do not go overboard with selection, especially from companies that are simply offering redundant products that are already on the shelves.
Drug Store News wants to do its part to help retailers understand the suppliers who can help them make a difference. Our Retail Excellence (REX) Awards—Natural are designed to help merchants learn more about products that make a difference in this growing category. Here’s a look at the 2018 REX award winners:
“We are the global leader in homeopathic products,” said Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national accounts for Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron USA. “No one sells more of these products than we do.”
Not bad for a nearly 86-year-old company founded in France by twin brothers Jean and Henri Boiron. Today Boiron offers more than 200 SKUs in a number of different segments, including cough-cold, external analgesics and children’s medicines. “We believe in educating the healthcare professional about Boiron and our many products,” Wittenberg said. “We want them to understand exactly what we offer and then give their recommendations to their patients. Besides our sales team, we also operate a medical sales team that is charged with influencing the influencers.”
Boiron has recently introduced ThroatCalm, designed to temporary relieve minor sore throat and hoarseness; Camilia, which relieves the symptoms of teething, including painful gums and irritability; and baby ColdCalm to the marketplace.
“Right now there are very few natural alternatives for mom to pick from on store shelves,” Wittenberg noted. “And, they are looking for natural alternatives, especially for their babies. If they can’t find it at your store, they will walk out and shop elsewhere.”
For more than 80 years, Carma Laboratories has manufactured Carmex brand lip care products and, although Carma Labs is a family-owned business based in a small Wisconsin town, it produces an impressive volume of products for both national and international distribution.
The company continues to produce its original lip care formula in its iconic jars as well as tube and stick, and has expanded the line to include a natural formula, flavored moisture-rich lip care products and Carmex Cold Sore Treatment.
Carmex Comfort Care is a natural lip balm, providing long-lasting moisture with the help of nature’s best ingredients. It is formulated with natural colloidal oatmeal, contains antioxidant-rich fruit seed oil to help restore lips’ natural beauty and provide hydration, and helps defend against free radicals that accelerate the appearance of aging. The product also is formulated with beeswax and cupuacu butter to improve moisturization and soften lips. Carmex Comfort Care comes in three flavors: Mixed Berry, Sugar Plum and Watermelon Blast.
“We are committed to driving continued growth both for the brand and for our retailers by developing lip care products that consumers will love,” said Jona Mancuso, vice president of marketing for Carma. “The brand has a lot of market momentum right now with Carmex dollars sales up 10.7% in a lip balm category that is growing 1.9%. Extending the brand through meaningful innovation is one way we’ll work to maintain that momentum.”
What started as a small health food store in southern California has turned into one of the leading natural skin care companies in the country. And officials at Simi Valley, Calif.-based Derma E are quite proud of that history.
“We have been in business for 34 years, and we are quite proud of our roots,” said Jeff Carducci, senior vice president of North American sales for the company. “We are the only one of the top 10 companies in the natural facial care segment that is still family-owned and not owned by a private equity group. We think that says a lot.”
Derma E offers about 100 SKUs in facial care, including products in the cleanser and moisturizer segments, as well as hair care, body care and therapeutic products. “Our mission is simple,” noted Carducci. “We want to deliver products that exceed the standards in the natural product category. We are an open book to what is inside all of our products, and we believe that strategy has helped us develop a strong emotional connection with consumers — and that we have earned their trust.”
He added that retailers need to focus on these types of products because of consumer interest in quality when it comes to skin care items. “The type of consumers who look for these products are highly educated and willing to spend money on the right products,” Carducci added. “Retailers who want to bring these types of consumers into their stores need to stock our items.”
Company officials at Éclair Naturals said their mission is to create great natural products for people who are looking for these types of items. “We believe that everybody deserves to have access to luxurious body care products that are also natural, efficacious and affordable,” said John Matise, the company’s CEO.
[pb]“We also believe in being socially minded and environmentally conscious as a company. One example of this is where we take our bar soap trimmings and make ‘mutt soap’ which is a hodgepodge of many different types of our bar soaps. We then give this to our partner, Convoy of Hope, to be used in disaster relief efforts, homeless shelters and other community outreach programs. This accomplishes two of our company goals simultaneously — zero waste and helping those less fortunate.”
The Chatsworth, Calif.-based company focuses on three main strategies: the luxuriousness of products, the purity of its formulas and food-grade ingredients, officials said. Food-grade ingredients are used to create unique formulas that are also vegan, GMO-free, gluten-free, soy-free and cruelty-free. “We know our consumers won’t settle for anything less than the best, which is why we are rooted in our mission to bring them the purest, most luxurious ingredients,” Matise said. “That means never any harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, silicones, propylene glycol, or synthetic colors or fragrances. So there is never any cause for concern.”
The line includes a wide range of body and hair care products, including soaps, scrubs, bath bombs and bath salts, moisturizers, deodorants, hand sanitizers, shampoos and conditioners.
“Making our products affordable to everyone is one of our main objectives,” he said. “That is why they are priced at a ‘masstige’ level, and we focus our attention on the food, drug and mass markets for approachability and convenience. It is a challenge to make a difference in the constantly growing market of natural products, but we believe we bring a unique and more complex perspective by offering high-quality products that adhere to our strict brand promise and our ‘Never Any’ seal, one of the most comprehensive ‘free from’ lists in the industry.”
Jim Lacey, CEO of Healthy Ventures, said that his company is perfectly positioned to take advantage of changing consumer demands. “The shopper today wants natural sleep aids,” he said. “The category is exploding because consumers are tired of synthetic products. Plus, our products work. They keep the person asleep without any of the side effects that come with synthetic products.”
The Westlake Village, Calif.-based company offers Berry Sleepy superfruit sleep aids and Berry Awake superfruit energy shots. “This is an exciting time for Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake, as we aid in growing the natural products segment within the two fast-growing categories of sleep aids and energy shots,” Lacey said. “The response from customers has been tremendous.”
Company officials said that Berry Sleepy is a naturally healthy sleep aid, rich in naturally occurring vitamins and antioxidants that contain a proprietary sleep and relaxation blend. The base is all berries — tart cherries, passion fruit and goji berries — with valerian root. The formula features 5 g of prebiotics, supporting probiotic “good bacteria,” which help keep the digestive system healthy.
Berry Awake is a proprietary blend of green coffee berries extract, guarana seed extract, bacopa leaf extract, and ginseng, delivering natural energy with a powerful blend of superfruits for an energy blast that lasts for hours. Berry Awake features an added boost of energy from 2,000 mg of pea protein.
Lacey said that Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake have broad appeal from millennials to baby boomers looking for a healthy alternative to coffee and energy products or seeking quality sleep without morning-after grogginess, all without harmful side effects.
Hyland’s has a lot to hang its hat on. Company officials said the Los Angeles-based, family-owned company is the oldest and largest manufacturer of homeopathic products in the country. Plus, they said that Hyland’s has fought long and hard to earn the respect of retailers and consumers alike. The result is a successful company, which now produces more than 100 SKUs across the baby, children and adult segments.
Hyland’s produces products in the pain relief, cough-cold and allergies, digestion, ear care, first aid, skin care and women’s health segments. “Things really took off for us about 25 years ago when one retailer decided to give us a chance on their shelves,” said Hyland’s president Les Hamilton. “We did very well there, and many other retailers quickly got on board. I think consumers see the quality of our products and the fact that our items are safe and effective alternatives to other products on the market.
Officials at Lifelab Health are focused on organic health brands especially as more consumers buy these products and sales get close to $50 billion annually.
“Millennials are driving that growth,” said Lou Machin, Lifelab Health managing director, who added that since 2010, organic nonfood sales are becoming a large portion of total organic sales. “Consumers of all ages are not getting the recommended amount of fiber from diet alone, so supplementation is key to good health. Lifelab developed NuSyllium, the only fiber product sold on shelf in the United States that is made with 100% USDA-certified organic psyllium fiber.”
Machin said the finished product contains 95% to 99% pure husks. He also noted that organic crops have significantly higher levels of all main nutrients and are grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. NuSyllium is GMO and gluten-free, is free from artificial flavoring and food dyes, and comes in Original (Unflavored) and Natural Orange flavor. “The organic psyllium fiber in NuSyllium is clinically proven to promote digestive health, lower cholesterol levels and help with weight management,” he said.
Company officials said other certified organic products from Lifelab include the HoneyWorks cough-cold brand for kids and adults made with 100% USDA-certified organic honey. “The two USDA-certified organic kids’ SKUs will be unique in the children’s cough-cold category,” Machin said. “HoneyWorks Kids Spray will deliver incremental sales and an organic throat spray alternative to the current products on the market.”
Officials at New London, Conn.-based Sheffield Pharmaceuticals know they have history on their side. The company was the first to put toothpaste into a tube, way back in 1878, after the founder’s son saw paint being put into aluminum tubes while on a visit to Paris. The company has used its status well, developing a strong presence in the controlled brand category with dozen of products.
Sheffield offers four SKUs — whitening, peppermint, sensitive care and natural wintergreen — of toothpastes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy, with a fifth flavor, charcoal, being introduced this year. “We think the key to our success is to make a really good product,” said Jeffrey Davis, president/CEO of Sheffield. “We cover our bases. We have a great story and great retro packaging. But we also have a great product with natural ingredients that people love. The bottom line is that our products taste good and consumers keep coming back for them over and over again.”
A true Horatio Alger story. Sundial Brands CEO Richelieu Dennis came to the United States from Liberia to attend college. When he graduated in 1991, he was unable to return to his country because of civil war. Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship, Richelieu partnered with his best friend, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a dream: address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies. Drawing from deep traditions born out of his family’s roots in Africa and passed down to him from his grandmother, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes, wisdom and cultural experiences into natural bath and body care products, co-founding Sundial with his mother — Mary Dennis — and Nyema.
Sundial remains true to the deep family legacy and inspiration of Richelieu’s grandmother, Sofi Tucker. Sundial’s brands — Nubian Heritage, SheaMoisture, Nyakio and Madam CJ Walker Beauty Culture — are inclusive, addressing underserved issues such as hyperpigmentation, dark spots and the special needs of textured hair, as well as consumer demands for efficacious natural products.
“Today, our uncompromising focus on research and innovation enables us to continuously explore holistic and culturally authentic practices and ingredients from around the globe and incorporate them into the unique skin and hair care formulations of our brands,” said the company’s website. “Sundial — a certified B Corp company with a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification — proudly self-manufactures our natural and certified organic ingredient products at our state-of-the-art facilities in Long Island, N.Y.”
Wahl Clipper offers a full assortment of Pet Friendly wet goods, including a line of 24-oz. dog shampoos for specific applications, waterless no-rinse bathing solutions for in-between bathing, bathing wipes and refreshing sprays for that time when deep cleaning bathing is not available.
According to company officials, the product’s unique high concentration with more ounces is designed to provide consumers a value that helps them save time and money by getting more and by using less. In addition to the value proposition, Wahl Pet Friendly shampoos are formulated with plant-derived ingredients that provide a great lather and easy rinse-ability leaving the pet fresh, smooth and clean. Wahl’s shampoos are PH balanced, alcohol and paraben free, they noted.
“To maximize sales, retailers should really consider offering a line of wet goods that provide benefits while giving pet parents extreme value,” said Shay Moeller, the company’s consumer pet product manager. “Dog owners are willing to spend more on products they feel that the benefits match the value while they are safe and easy to use. In addition, retailers should look for trusted brands that offer education and support for how to best serve their dogs.”
Millennials and Generation Z consumers say they want more natural products that are also fun to use. Officials at Pasadena, Calif.-based Yes To said they have the answers. The company offers about 100 SKUs in the face care category, including facial masks, facial cleansers and acne treatment products.
“We view ourselves as a millennial and Generation Z beauty brand that is not only natural, but also colorful, fun and is free of all the nasty chemicals out there,” said Ingrid Jackel, the CEO at Yes To. “Our products are filled with love, passion and care.”
Company officials added that Yes To products feature a seal that shows that all product contain at least 95% natural ingredients. All products are formulated without parabens and packaged in recyclable packaging whenever possible.
Jackel said that Yes To is the top brand in the natural facial segment. The company recently launched a charcoal peel-off facial mask. “We definitely attract an audience that is looking for unique and natural products,” she said. “Our products appeal to a very demanding group of consumers who are looking for quality and are willing to pay for items that work.”
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The Amazon question: How the online giant could shake up the Rx landscape
Though CVS Health and Aetna have had a working relationship since 2010, and their pending merger had likely been in the works for some time, its timing, experts say, suggests that the merger is as much about staving off the looming threat from Amazon as it is about competing with top health insurers and retailers.
“The merger of CVS and Aetna is likely anticipatory positioning in the face of a looming competitive threat from Amazon, which is expected to enter the prescription drug market after reportedly acquiring pharmacy licenses in at least 12 states,” Deborah Weinswig, managing director of New York City-based retail think tank Fung Global Retail & Technology, said when the merger was announced. “In our view, this merger announcement is likely the first of many to come between pharmacy companies and insurance companies.”
Indeed, Amazon seems to be closing in on some sort of pharmacy entry. The company last March hired Premera Blue Cross veteran Mark Lyons as its senior manager of pharmacy benefits. The company also reportedly acquired wholesale licenses in 12 states, and continues to apply across the country. However, while a November analysis by New York City-based financial services firm Cowen suggested that such moves indicate an interest in distribution — which would put Amazon in competition with such players as AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — the company seems to be indicating that its interests lie elsewhere.
“In Massachusetts and Indiana, it’s told regulators it’s not going to ship drugs, it’s not going down that path,” said Dave Raiford, senior director of market access insights at Burlington, Mass.-based healthcare research and consulting company Decision Resources Group. “It’s interested in medical devices, which I think is an easier entry point for them. It’s a little less rigid in terms of the regulatory aspect. They’ve also pulled back in Maine.”
Cowen’s report, “Amazon’s U.S. Pharmacy Opportunity,” suggested another angle of approach that meets Amazon’s needs of avoiding as much regulatory headache as possible — an acquisition of Rite Aid that would bring the online giant into the world of brick-and-mortar retail pharmacy in much the same way its Whole Foods acquisition made it a grocery player.
Cowen noted that the main achievement of a Rite Aid acquisition would be infrastructure that already passes regulatory muster, gaining six distribution centers and roughly 2,500 stores. The distribution centers would offer DEA-compliant storage and distribution of controlled substances, among other licenses that Amazon would need to acquire if it wanted to build out pharmacy offerings in its existing retail footprint.
“If you think about it, going the retail pharmacy route, that would [require] a build out,” DRG’s Raiford said. “Not that Amazon certainly doesn’t have the resources to do that it if wants to. It already owns Whole Foods, so it has a presence where it could add pharmacy. It probably is more likely that if it did go the route of retail pharmacy, an acquisition of Rite Aid, which also has the EnvisionRx component gets it there a little bit faster.”
Like Raiford, Cowen noted that in addition to infrastructure and a retail footprint, Rite Aid would bring Amazon a PBM of its own — opening the doors to small-scale mail-order pharmacy. This possibility is why such analysts as Raiford suggest Express Scripts as another potential acquisition target, though Cowen noted that it would require a more substantial financial commitment. Kantar Retail vice president Brian Owens, who leads the Norwalk. Conn.-based company’s health and wellness and drug channel research, noted that a pharmacy entry would only build on the ways that Amazon already plays in health care — on the retail side, it’s a top seller of health and beauty products, and on its AWS side, it offers technical support to payers and government agencies.
“I want to be clear — the CVS-Aetna deal is not an overreaction to Amazon potentially coming into the pharmacy space in a more meaningful way,” Owens said. Indeed, if Amazon were to acquire Rite Aid, Cowen noted that it would bring Amazon access to reimbursement networks that, alongside its existing capabilities, would make it a true threat to the existing order in retail pharmacy.
“We think RAD’s remaining footprint of 2,575 stores, along with Prime home delivery, Prime Now and pharmacies integrated into existing Whole Foods locations, would essentially provide AMZN with nationwide coverage, positioning it as a viable partner for payers in establishing preferred, narrow pharmacy networks, which we think would be crucial in establishing AMZN as a legitimate player in the retail pharmacy market,” Cowen said.
And while Cowen noted that acquiring Rite Aid would bring it stores that generate roughly 23% less revenue and 79% less EBITDA than CVS Pharmacy stores, the acquisition also could give Amazon the ability to participate in Walgreens Boots Alliance’s generic purchasing consortium.
This means that in this scenario, Walgreens would be partnering with a key competitor in a way that would help it continue to build out distribution capabilities — the company owns a nearly 25% stake in AmerisourceBergen— as a way to influence price. Walgreens Boots Alliance also is continuing to build out its global footprint, adding a 40% stake in Chinese chain GuoDa Drugstores to its ownership of Boots in the United Kingdom and various other international chains.
“[Walgreens is] playing more on the wholesale side, and being able to understand how the flow of prescription drugs is facilitated globally,” Owens said. “If they have a global footprint and the more they’re able to acquire more points of commerce from a pharma standpoint …, it allows them to have the ability to influence how prescription drugs are flown, and potentially the cost of them as well.”
If Walgreens succeeds, it would mean better prices for its partners, which likely could include Amazon. This would be the biggest example of an increasing trend that also could help retailers stay competitive in the face of an Amazon threat, namely, increasing numbers of partnerships among what Owens calls “frenemies.” Such alliances as CVS Caremark’s performance-based network that’s anchored by CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and independent pharmacies is just the most recent example — and certainly not the last.
Fighting off Amazon will ultimately come down to the retailers’ abilities to leverage its capabilities — even if it means forming a team of rivals to do so. “I think there’s always going to be a place for everyone to play,” Owens said. “It comes down to less about trying to acquire more lives and more about how profitable you can make it with the resources you have and people you service.”