HEALTH

GHT Companies launch vegan VMS line

BY Michael Johnsen

The GHT Companies on Thursday announced the introduction of Vegan Life Nutrition in an effort to provide nutritional supplements completely free of animal products. Whether consumers identify as vegan or not, VLN was created to meet the growing demand for vitamins that are plant-based.

A Harris Poll conducted in 2016 found that approximately 3% of the U.S. population eats a strictly vegetarian diet, and about a half of those are vegan. The bigger revelation was that 36% opted for at least some vegetarian meals on a regular basis. All of this points to an emerging trend toward a decreasing reliance on animal-based nutrition, the San Diego-based supplement manufacturer suggested.

Choosing to move away from a meat-heavy diet may result in numerous weight loss or a decrease in blood cholesterol. But research has also uncovered a prevalence of potential nutritional deficiencies associated with a plant-based diet, such as vitamins B12 and D3.

VLN’s D3 products are derived from lichen, a plant source; and the B12 products use cyanocobalamin.

According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, two thirds of people who ate a vegetarian diet and 92% of those who followed the stricter vegan guidelines were found to be deficient in Vitamin B12. This same publication reported that vitamin D deficiency is now considered a pandemic, among people who follow all dietary regimens.

The VLN line is available online and through partnerships with medical providers. Plans to expand the product line to offer more vital nutrients in vegan form are “in the works,” according to the company.

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15 states still reporting highest levels of ILI activity

BY Michael Johnsen

At least 15 states are still reporting the highest levels of influenza-like activity even as the percentage of patient visits attributed to ILI dropped to 3.7%. Judging from the second consecutive sharp week-to-week drop in ILI rates nationwide, the season may officially end in the next week or two even as pockets of the nation still contend with a virulent flu season.

Current data indicate that the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at 7.5% in early February (during week 5) and is now on the decline. However 34 states plus Puerto Rico continue to report widespread flu activity and 21 states plus New York City continue to experience high influenza-like illness activity.

“This flu season has been particularly hard,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday during a review of national response efforts to this past season. “This year is not the first time we’ve seen vaccines be less effective against H3N2. Recent flu vaccines have proven on average only about 33% effective against H3N2 viruses. Given this, we’re looking at several factors to better understand why effectiveness tends to be lower against this strain.”

While H3N2 viruses remain predominant overall this season, the proportion of B viruses versus A viruses is now about even. In recent weeks, B viruses have been increasing while H3N2 viruses have been decreasing. Early vaccine effectiveness estimates show that flu vaccine has reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor due to flu by 36% overall through Feb. 3, 2018. Effectiveness against H3N2 viruses this season was 25%. Effectiveness against H1N1 was 67% and against B viruses it was 42%.

The FDA is presently exploring the development of a universal vaccine, though a marketable univeral vaccine is still years off, Gottlieb suggested. The FDA is also investigating efficacy studies between cell-based vaccines and egg-based vaccines.

For the current season, the overall hospitalization rate and all age-specific hospitalization rates are now higher than the end-of-season hospitalization rates for 2014-2015; a high severity, H3N2-predominant season. CDC also reported an additional 5 flu-related pediatric deaths during week 9, bringing the total number of flu-related pediatric deaths reported this season to 119.

According to the CDC, flu activity is likely to remain elevated for several more weeks.

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Homeopathic and natural solutions claim their shelf space

BY Michael Johnsen

Natural is now the name of the game. A lot of center store buyers have been seeing this trend play out across the food aisles, but it’s a consumer trend that’s impacting the over-the-counter medicine space, as well.

That’s why officials at companies offering homeopathic remedies and other natural solutions have said their products continue to resonate with consumers — they represent an alternative to traditional medicines.

But rather than creating a natural remedy destination set, suppliers said that retailers looking to best capitalize on that natural trend should merchandise these homeopathic solutions within their respective categories. “The wellness industry is exploding across categories,” John Ende, general manager, Americas, at natural remedy manufacturer Nelsons, said. “[But] consumers want what they want where they shop, regardless of drug class or category.”

Similasan director of marketing Yann Pigeaire echoed Ende, noting that the time has come for homeopathic products to get a share of shelf space alongside traditional OTCs.

“Homeopathy is a category that continues to grow, which means there is more and more consumer demand for it,” Pigeaire said. “I would recommend for retailers to look for those [homeopathic] solutions and give them proper place inside the planogram. Try to avoid merchandising it in its own natural section outside [of the category]. That’s not how people shop.”

But shop they do — for the calendar year 2017, homeopathic remedies generated $400.9 million in sales on growth of 1.2% across total food, drug and mass multi-outlet centers, SPINS reported. The lion’s share of that growth is coming out of cough-cold solutions. The cough-cold category represented 36.4% of the total homeopathic market and was growing at a double-digit rate even before this past season’s virulent flu season created a run on all cough-cold products. However, homeopathic and other natural solutions cut across many categories, including sleep, eye care and pain relief.

Nelsons, for example, has developed a strong natural solution set across stress relief and sleep. “We work closely with our retail partners to select the best products for each of their retail sets. That may mean we have full distribution of limited SKUs, and limited distribution of others. When the product assortment and distribution plan is co-created with our retail partners, both sides win,” Ende said, adding that it’s important to get merchandising right. “We work with key retail partners to develop merchandising units and materials that work for the product assortment, the consumer and the retailer.”

In eye care, Similasan has created a natural solution set that cuts across age-related conditions, as well as allergy. “The factor that’s unique about eye care generally is it tends to get worse with age,” Pigeaire said. “But conditions like allergy continue to impact consumers at a younger age.”

And the homeopathic pain-relieving ingredient arnica has developed a strong following in mass markets, judging by the success of Boiron’s Arnicare, a perennial top-10 external analgesic best seller across food, drug and mass channels.

“Retailers should increase their offerings in [all of these] categories,” Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national sales at Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron USA, said. “Clearly, the consumer has spoken in looking for these types of products. A retailer would be wise to beef up their entire natural offering.”

 

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