When it comes to cleansing and detox products, retailers should approach the needs of their stores—and customers—with care.
The ideal customer for a detox supplement or natural cleanser could be just about anybody. Really. Toxins are literally everywhere—in our food, in water, and ominously suspending in the air. Thankfully, awareness about the harmful effects of toxins is increasing, resulting in growing demand for products that can help combat these health threats.
With the increased use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture, “over the past decade many people have become aware of the dramatic increase in exposure” to toxic substances, noted Ross Pelton, science director of Texas-based Essential Formulas, manufacturer of the Reg’Activ Detox & Liver Health lactobacillus supplement.
That is not all. “Consumers operate under the belief that the cells of their bodies have become contaminated with environmental pollutants and metabolic waste products,” stated Mark Timon, founder and formulator at supplement maker Vibrant Health in Connecticut. “Research shows that these concepts are somewhat correct in regard to man-made environmental pollutants, drug residues, and synthetic food additives that are part and parcel of processed foods that are now widely consumed to the detriment of our health.”
Marge Roberts, president and CEO of homeopathic remedy maker Newton Laboratories in Georgia, believes people are “simply sick of being sick.” Coupled with that fatigue is a marketplace full of people eager to take back their health, she said.
“Today’s consumer is getting smarter and more involved in their health,” remarked Natalie Morse, marketing director at California-based Chosen Foods, manufacturer of Chia Detox. “Gone are the days when people blindly eat what their doctor tells them to without asking good questions and doing their own research. Detoxing and cleansing help consumers take an active role in their health.”
“There’s a huge opportunity in this market,” according to Elyse N. Lovett, marketing manager for ingredient manufacturer Kyowa Hakko USA in New York, whose Setria glutathione is said to help protect cells from the damaging effects of toxins, among other benefits.
Lovett sees an increased interest in “traditional detox and a new niche marketing for detoxification products.” That makes sense. Noted naturopathic doctor Holly Lucille, who practices
out of West Hollywood, CA, added that people “keep putting crap into themselves.”
But before retailers push to make a quick sale of a cleansing or detox product, they need to hold up—it’s not as if there are just one or two options for natural detoxification and cleansing available.
“There are products for the intestinal tract, the liver, specific to heavy metals, and others,” said Neil E. Levin, CCN, nutrition education manager for supplement manufacturer NOW Foods in Illinois. Among NOW Foods, most recent offerings in this area is its new Probiotic-10 Restorative Care supplement featuring 100 billion organisms from 10 probiotic strains that play a critical role in detoxification, according to the company.
Cleansing and detox, as practiced by the responsible retailer, means going beyond recommending whatever pill or plan a celebrity cheerily endorsed that day. “It instead involves making changes in one’s lifestyle and diet to allow our bodies to facilitate its own detoxification process and ‘take a break’ from whatever might be causing the issue allowing the body to repair itself,” said Marci Clow, RD, CN a member of California-based Rainbow Light’s research, formulation and quality team. That means practicing patience over easy sales and providing counsel that does not cross the line into dispensing medical advice.
The retailer’s role is more important, perhaps more than manufacturers care to admit. Vibrant Health’s Timon said the detox and cleansing market has expanded in the last 10 years despite “few dramatic advances in formulation.” So what is the cause? “The intensifying competition among retailers that leads them to demand deep discounts,” he noted. “Deeper discounts mean there is less room for innovation, because innovation usually leads to increased cost of the finished product.”
Retailers, Timon said, must be willing “to accept quality products.” Thankfully, in the detox and cleansing market, there is an abundance that meets that standard. It’s a good thing, too. “The public at large is frequently told that dietary supplements in general are useless and a waste of money,” he said. “But the scientific research shows otherwise if the right formulations are constructed and the right potencies utilized.”
Rainbow Light’s Clow believes many consumers desire products that “really get to the root of the problem”—sans side effects—over ones “that simply mask what is going on in the body.” Customers seek out natural products stores, she added, because of the variety of choices available.
For example, Candida Cleanse from Rainbow Light “is a naturally effective integrative health therapy designed to promote healthy flora and balance while strengthening immune response,” Clow explained. The product has a “cleansing blend” of black walnut, pau d’arco, berberine, and garlic to inhibit candida overgrowth. Candida Cleanse also includes targeted enzymes, herbs and probiotics.
“Normally, Candida albicans lives harmoniously in the inner warm creases and crevices of the digestive tract—and vaginal tract in women,” Clow noted. “However, during times of imbalance and/or when immune mechanisms are depleted—especially concomitant with the taking of antibiotics—overgrowth or ‘dysbiosis’ can occur resulting in significant disruption of many body processes. Candida Cleanse is designed to support eradication of Candida albicans, strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses, and restore healthy gut flora through the use of botanicals, superfoods, probiotics and digestive enzymes.”
Versatility—as well as ease of use—is also a part of Chosen Foods’ Chia Detox, which is available in stickpacks.
“We know health food is complicated and nutrition can be complicated, so Chia Detox needed to be something easy-to-use and easy-to-understand,” the company’s Morse said. “It can be used as a cleansing product during a short-term fast, but it can also be used as a functional beverage. It’s low in sugar, contains fiber and omegas from the chia, and the lemon and cayenne produce the metabolic and liver cleansing effect that people are looking for in a detox product.”
Oregon-based Yerba Prima released its old reliable, Great Plains Bentonite, in capsule form (kind of) at this year’s Natural Products Expo East. CEO Peter Finkle says bentonite is more effective in liquid form, but Bentonite + Herbal Detox is not without its strengths.
“This is not just a straight bentonite capsule,” Finkle clarified. “It combines the bentonite with other nutrients like broccoli sprout powder, DIM, calcium-D-glucorate, chlorella, and four herbal extracts. The chlorella sort of works with the bentonite in terms of grabbing heavy metals. The herbal extracts with the broccoli sprout powder and calcium-D-glucorate and DIM stimulate the phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways in the liver to help the liver more efficiently process toxins.”
The product’s biggest feature and the one that most impresses retailers, Finkle noted, is that the “heavy metal detoxifying properties” are complemented by its ability to “reduce the harmful estrogen in the body.” That helps sexual health for men and women, he said.
Thanks to a clamoring public, Vibrant Health recently released its Master Cleanse in what Timon called “a convenient, powdered form.” Timon added he is also excited about new delivery forms that are just entering the market.
“As a major producer of sophisticated dietary supplements in powder form, we are intrigued by any process that can convert essential fatty acids into stable powders,” Timon commented. “A new gelatin enrobing process has recently come to our attention. It joins variations on the more conventional carbohydrate matrix technologies originally presented to us from Germany. New variations on the carbohydrate matrix in Germany and elsewhere have improved its ability to block oxidation of the fatty acids and extend shelf life.”
The company’s Vibrant Cleanse, an update of the classic master cleanse diet, is “a simple, fat-free, short-term dietary regimen that forces the body to catabolize adipose tissue (body fat) in order to liberate fatty acids that must be used by every cell to generate energy,” Timon said.
Manufacturers, observed Kyowa Hakko USA’s Lovett, are focusing on niche markets in this category, such as Millennials “looking for a quick and easy detox with beneficial health benefits.” However, ease of use means little without valid science.
“We are always intrigued by good science that inspires us to meet a need in a new way,” said NOW Foods’ Levin. Such was the case with NOW’s Kidney Cleanse. The concept, Levin explained, came from one of the company’s international distributors plus interest in NOW’s science team over clinical data showing the value of parsley seeds in supporting normal kidney function. Levin noted the kidneys, along with the liver, are the headlining organs when it comes to cleansing and detoxifying.
“Finding a good quality parsley seed source turned out to be quite a challenge over many months—parsley leaves are easy to source, but parsley seeds were a different story,” he said. “Ultimately we were able to get a good quality parsley seed and combined it with other kidney-supporting herbs such as uva ursi leaf, rosemary leaf, fennel seed, nettle root, olive leaf and horsetail herb. This final formula met the science team’s goal of a scientifically supported product and met the international distributor’s need for a kidney cleanse product that could be sold in several international markets.”
Glutathione is among the most essential nutrients for the liver and kidneys, pointed out Pelton of Essential Formulas. He went on to say it is “the most important detoxification agent in the body. It is required in every cell of the body for antioxidant protection and detoxification.” There’s just one issue, said Pelton: “Glutathione is not effective when taken orally.” The natural products industry is doing its part to ensure customers get it.
Kyowa Hakko’s Setria glutathione is a tripeptide of glutamine, cysteine and glycine. It is a “reduced form of glutathione which has been clinically studied to increase blood glutathione levels,” Lovett said. The ingredient is now in Intox Detox, which also features traditional Chinese medicine, including Japanese raisin. That, according to Levitt, breaks down acetaldehyde, a metabolite that leads to the “painful after-effects” of imbibing.
Reg’Activ Detox & Liver Health from Essential Formulas features Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. “Testing revealed that ME-3 can boost glutathione via three different mechanisms in humans,” Pelton said. “In addition to synthesizing glutathione, the bacteria can extract it from the surrounding environment and also recycle oxidized glutathione back to its reduced/active form.” According to Pelton, each daily dose of Reg’Activ delivers six billion glutathione-producing bacteria to the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.
And there’s this statistic from a human clinical trial, said Pelton: “Volunteers taking ME-3 achieved an astounding 49 percent increase in the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione.”
The gut protrudes prominently in this category. As Yerba Prima’s website explains, bentonite’s “colloidal structure and charged particles of sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium ions” is behind its ability “to bind with toxins in the stomach, small intestine, and colon.”
One problem, said Dr. Zach Wheat, co-founder and CEO of Virginia-based Biomic Sciences, the manufacturer of Restore, is that nobody can agree on what having a “healthy gut” means. Ideally, he said, a healthy gut is a barrier—the tight junctions in the gut wall should keep toxins and other bad actors out of the blood stream. He added that Restore supports tight junction cells, strengthening that barrier. “It’s about creating a communication network,” Wheat explained. “It’s about creating a new barrier system so that the immune system is not inundated.”
By doing that, Restore reportedly helps to reduce the general absorption and accumulation of toxins. “That’s done first by putting up a healthy barrier system and second, by creating a healthy clearance system,” Wheat stated. “Kidney tubules, it turns out, are giant blood vessels, basically. And the giant blood vessel networks in the kidney are again held together by tight junction. With the use of Restore, you see a much more intelligent membrane happening in the kidney.”
Detox and cleansing mean different things to different people, Clow said, but who cannot take these products is universally recognized: those suffering from diabetes, low blood sugar or eating disorders; people on certain medications; growing children, teens, and pregnant women.
Newton’s Laboratories’ Detoxifier, a homeopathic formula originally developed by company founder Dr. Luc Chaltin in the 1960s, opens the doors for some of these excluded individuals—as well as others.
“A real bonus with homeopathics is that they will not interact with other medications or supplements,” Roberts explained. “Many people in need of a detoxifier are also on medications; a homeopathic is an ideal detoxifier for these consumers.” The Newton Detoxifier is packaged in glass, hand succussed and preserved with certified organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), gluten-free alcohol, she noted. “The pellet version is alcohol-free and made with certified organic beet sugar and therefore also lactose-free,” Roberts added.
As Timon implored earlier, it is up to the retailers to stock their stores with these kinds of high-quality products. And what is just as important is to make sure their customers get the right product, or even one at all.
The Many Roles of the Retailer
Wait, what do you mean not putting a product in the customer’s hands? Isn’t that the first rule of sales?
Yes—but not when that product could make a customer sick. “The best place to start is to encourage customers to have an open dialogue with their health care practitioner about any cleansing or detox supplements they take or have heard about,” said Rainbow Light’s Clow. “This is especially important for those being treated for a medical condition or when taking any Rx or OTC medications.”
Or if “healthy lifestyle” ranks between “making the bed” and “cleaning the dryer’s lint trap” on a customer’s list of priorities. Translation: First, the customer should “clean the diet up and take in plenty of liquids,” said Lucille.
“It is important to help consumers understand that the best detox possible is to eat a diet full of organic fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, healthy fat, and limited animal protein from responsible sources,” said Chosen Foods’ Morse. “But when that’s not possible, your body could benefit from a short-term detox to reset and encourage elimination of toxins.”
Clow agreed. The best detox, she believes, remains “nutrition education surrounding an overall healthy eating plan” with good hydration and a personalized plan to remove toxins, such as quitting smoking or avoiding processed foods. Supplements can also fill in a diet’s nutritional gaps and to enhance the detoxification process, she added.
Retailers should know the science—legitimate companies are happy to provide educational materials relevant to their products—and stick to that. Clow said retailers would be wise to focus on brands that “integrate science and traditional use and have a demonstrated safety record.”
That sober approach applies elsewhere. “They should avoid glorious claims and talk sensibly about the true functions of the formulas,” Timon explained. “I believe consumers appreciate factual explanations of a product’s benefits delivered without hyperbole.” Even better, that display of competence will keep customers coming back, Timon added.
How is that done? “Refer to the Materia medica so it’s not perceived as just a person’s opinion,” offered Newton Laboratories’ Roberts. “Learn about the functions of the liver and kidneys so one can speak from a position of authority and knowledge.” Actually use the recommended product, she added, so you can share your experience—though it might be wise to not go into too much detail.
Regarding when one should do their, ahem, housecleaning, Lucille recommends once a season, or at least spring and fall. NOW Foods’ Levin, who previously worked at legendary Chicago, IL health food store Sherwyn’s, said that schedule is a promotional opportunity. “In seasons that people traditionally think of cleansing, like after the holidays and the spring, highlighting this section of the store makes sense,” he said, “as well as making sure staff are up to date on features and benefits of the store’s product offerings.” Otherwise, Levin added, merchandising by condition is a good way to go.
The best way to go might be Timon’s desire for a different kind of cleansing. “We must ask ourselves if we are truly committed to the well-being of our consumers,” he asked, “or whether we are only committed to the well-being of our wallets.” VR
For More Information:
Biomic Sciences, www.restore4life.com
Chosen Foods, (877) 674-2244
Essential Formulas, (972) 255-3918
Kyowa Hakko USA, (800) 596-9252
Newton Laboratories, (800) 448-7256
NOW Foods, (888) 669-3663
Rainbow Light, (866) 972-6879
Vibrant Health, (860) 842-4040
Yerba Prima, (800) 488-4339