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Weighing Options


Consumers actively seek retailers’ help to find safe, natural ways to deal with their weight issues.

The end of each year causes people to reflect on the things they have accomplished (or failed to) and what they plan to complete in the coming year. And for those who choose to make a New Year’s resolution, getting healthy is at the top of the list. According to study data published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in December 2012, researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that among the top 10 resolutions, losing weight and staying fit and healthy ranked at No. 1 and No. 5 on the list, respectively. And while all who make these resolutions have good intentions at the time, the study also reported that only 46 percent maintain their resolutions beyond six months, and a mere eight percent are successful in achieving their resolution.

While the desire to be at a healthy weight and live an active lifestyle is at the top of many Americans’ wishlists, the reality is that not enough are following through. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of American adults are overweight while another third are obese. Combined, approximately 68. 8 percent of adults in the U. S. are overweight or obese. And the numbers for children are downright startling: The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that among children 2- to 19-yearsold, one in three are overweight, while one in six are obese.

The standard American diet—one of processed foods and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables—and sedentary lifestyles—sitting in front of the computer or television instead of getting a proper amount of exercise—are at the heart of the American obesity epidemic. In fact, according to the AHA, less than one percent of adults in the U.S. meet the definition for an “ideal healthy diet.” Further, just 21 percent of adults meet the federal guidelines for physical activity, while only 28 percent of ninth and twelfth graders meet the recommendations.

In addition, the CDC reports that obesity is a contributing factor in five of the top 10 contributing factors of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. And it is reported that losing as little as five to seven percent of a person’s total weight can lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar levels and lower diabetes by almost 60 percent in people with prediabetes.

“The marketplace has been very strong for weight management supplements for some time, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Most people, when asked about what they would want to change about themselves, will mention ‘lose weight,’” said Cheryl Myers, head of education and scientific affairs at EuroPharma, Inc. in Wisconsin. “When you also consider the current and projected statistics for average weight, I think the potential for weight management products is very high.”

The Great & Powerful Oz

As Americans are making the effort to get healthy, they often look to someone who “has the answers.” Today, that person is Dr. Mehmet Oz. A cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Oz first appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 and launched The Dr. Oz Show in 2009. One of Dr. Oz’s top topics on his show is weight management. And many of his viewers are so dedicated that if he mentions an ingredient on air, they are in search of products containing said ingredient the moment the show is over.

“Weight management is one of our most asked about categories of customer concern,” said Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager for Betsy’s Health Foods in Houston, TX. “Since the popularity of The Dr. Oz Show, we have noticed a marked increase of people coming in looking for the weight management products he talks about. Often these ‘Ozzies’ are customers who are entirely new to the health foods market, which is an exciting opportunity for us.” Billingslea also noted that when Dr. Oz mentions ingredients for other areas of concern, the staff doesn’t see nearly the same response from customers.

And while a mention from Dr. Oz can get new shoppers into stores, Mark Stayton, sales manager at Martindale’s Natural Market in Springfield, PA, said he noticed that it also prompts customers to ask questions. “Many customers come in looking for a product that has been suggested by Dr. Oz or some other popular person or publication like Women’s World magazine,” he said. “Since they still need help to find the product, this provides us an opportunity to get more details for what kind of support they are looking for, such as appetite control, something for blood sugar issues or a healthy meal replacement.”

Last year, Dr. Oz introduced his viewers to green coffee bean extract and raspberry ketones for weight loss. Green coffee bean extract contains chlorogenic acid, which stimulates the body’s metabolism and instructs the body to start converting fat reserves into energy. It also reduces the absorption of glucose, preventing the liver from absorbing fat. Raspberry ketone is the primary aroma compound of red raspberries. According to Dr. Oz, the compound regulates adiponectin (a protein used by the body to regulate metabolism) and causes the fat within the cells to be broken up more effectively, helping the body burn fat faster.

EuroPharma’s Myers explained that the company recently added Svetol® Green Coffee Bean Extract to its line because it shows “some of the most impressive clinical data available.” “One of the interesting things about this extract is that it is caffeinefree, so people don’t have to worry about the jitteriness they might expect when they hear ‘coffee bean extract,’” she said.

Michiganbased InBalance Health Corporation’s InSupport Weight Management is a blend of plant-based, standardized herbal extracts known to work synergistically and support natural biochemical pathways to get people to and keep them at their desired weight, according to Dr. Don Verhulst, the company’s chief science officer. “InSupport Weight Management supplies nutrients at the cellular level that can help the body efficiently metabolize fat, a process called lipolysis,” he said. “The goal is to have calories burned for energy as opposed to stored as excess fat. We included a unique combination of well-researched ingredients such as green tea extract, raspberry ketones and citrus aurantium as they are known to support healthy metabolism without the fatigue normally experienced with calorie restricting diets. These work especially well with fuccoxanthin, a belly fat-targeting ingredient that can increase thermogenesis (the burning of calories by heat production), especially along with pomegranate extract also found in the formulation.”

In addition to InSupport Weight Management, InBalance offers The INBar and InBalance Glucose Support. Both products contain MoruCel, the patent-pending standardized extract of the mulberry leaf well known for glucose management benefits.

While Dr. Oz does a great service by introducing consumers to natural alternatives, he doesn’t endorse any products by name, which may send interested shoppers to the internet, tragically resulting in a low-quality product purchases.

For instance, last year Florida-based The Click booth affiliate network agreed to pay $2 million to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that its affiliate marketers deceived consumers through bogus weight-loss claims on fake news sites about açai berry supplements, “colon cleansers” and other products by using allegedly fraudulent free trial offers and phony endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray.

“Some of the Dr. Oz-recommended products like green coffee bean extract and raspberry ketones have sold very well recently,” said Stayton. “It’s important to know the companies you are buying these supplements from because you want to know you are getting high-quality ingredients.”

Magic Bullet Challenge

While consumers look to experts like Dr. Oz to provide them with a product that can transform their bodies without changing their diets, unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. “There is no ‘magic bullet,’ but every customer is expecting you to have one so they can eat anything, not exercise and still lose weight,” said Billingslea.

The truth is that eating a healthy diet of lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables in conjunction with a fitness plan is the best way to reach a healthy weight. And going organic may take it a step further. “The advances in organic agriculture and organic certification are leading the natural weight management foods and supplements niche into a new era,” explained Rafael Avila, manager of research and development for New York-based Natural Organics Inc., maker of Nature’s Plus products. “The realization that removal of synthetic chemicals and pesticides from our diet equals better results is clearly dawning on the weight management consumer,” said Avila. “Organic weight management products have the potential to promote healthy metabolism, and effect significant and healthful cleansing, without the inadvertent contribution of chemicals and pesticides that plague other products.”

Nature’s Plus Pre-Diet Cleanse is certified organic and helps cleanse the body, priming for rapid, effective weight loss. According to the company, consumers take it before beginning any diet program to facilitate their weight-loss efforts to promote healthier, more sustainable weight loss. “With a cleansed body, the toxins that often exacerbate discomfort and derail a diet are eliminated before they can have an impact,” said Avila.

Manufacturers are also looking at ingredients that have been used for centuries to combat hunger pains. Launched in the U.S. market in February, Swisse Ultiboost Appetite Control, the No. 1-selling weight-loss product in Australia, according to Illinois-based manufacturer Swisse Wellness Inc., contains Slimaluma®, a naturally derived extract of the cactus plant that has been used for centuries in India.

“Slimaluma is a premium-quality ingredient to help reduce hunger levels,” said Lauren Armstrong, business manager for Swisse Wellness Inc. “Slimaluma is a naturally derived extract of the cactus plant that has been used for centuries in India for its appetite suppressant qualities when food was scarce. Swisse Ultiboost Appetite Control can be used to help control hunger levels and is best when combined with healthy eating and as part of a regular exercise regime.”

Handling Confusion

With a wealth of weight management information readily available to consumers, they may become puzzled by conflicting ideas or reports. It is up to product manufacturers to give retailers what they need to clear up any confusion. “Television seems to have a large impact on the market. Consumers look to television figures, such as Dr. Oz, for answers. His opinions have impacted the market and increased sales for several products; however, we still have very confused consumers,” said Doug Grindstaff, CEO of Tennessee-based NuSirt Sciences. “The category has be inundated with information, and a lot of it is false information. Consumers don’t know what to believe anymore.”

In addition, Grind staff stressed the importance of strong science to back up ingredient and product claims. “While there are many new ingredients and formulations available (seemingly too many to count), few are supported by sound, peer-reviewed science and clinical trials using the actual formulations marketed,” he said.

NuShape from NuSirt is an all natural supplement containing the amino acid leucine and vitamin B6 formulated at precise levels demonstrated to burn an additional 300 calories of fat per day. Both the mechanism of action and clinical efficacy in weight management have been demonstrated and published in peer reviewed scientific articles, according to the company. “When combined with small, sustainable changes in lifestyle, such as adding 15 minutes of modest physical activity to your daily routine and reducing the portion size of just one food each day, the level of fat burning provided by NuShape results in sustainable weight loss and fat loss,” said Grind staff.

Retailers and manufacturers must work together to educate the consumer. Billingslea noted that the staff at Betsy’s Health Foods gives customers one-on-one support by asking questions. “We begin by finding out what the customer’s exact weight-management goals are—managing appetite, blood sugar concerns, metabolism, workout energy, blocking carbs, etc.,” she said. “We also find out about the customer’s lifestyle— What do they crave? Do they work out? What do they eat?—and what prescribed medications the person may be on to avoid contraindications.”

In addition, Betsy’s store educator, Lisa Ryan, serves as its “Dr. Oz expert.” According to Billingslea, Ryan follows what Dr. Oz is talking about and does research to be able to tell customers “the rest of the story”—the information about the ingredients Dr. Oz discusses on his show (and doesn’t have the time to explain to the audience in the span of one hour). “In this way, we feel that we serve our customers by getting them the right product for their real needs—the first time,” she said.

To assist retailers, Nature’s Plus offers a range of promotional materials (i.e., flyers and sample packs) as well as staff training and seminars. NuSirt, meanwhile, offers product information sheets, counter displays as well as a large online community featuring Facebook, Twitter and a NuCoach blog. In addition, NuSirt is willing to work with its retailers to provide the tools that make sense for their customers, whether it is through an in store magazine, promotions, e-mail campaigns, etc., according to the company.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on at EuroPharma is being able to provide valuable education to our retailer partners in the form of product webinars for store staff, ingredient information to share with customers and even in-store presentations,” said Myers. “We want people to be healthy. After all, our shared goal in this field— researchers, practitioners, manufacturers and retailers—is to help create a more aware and healthier country.”

“I think a challenge has been to communicate to a customer the importance of a balanced, sensible yet comprehensive approach to weight management,” concluded Martindale’s Stayton. “People still want that magic bullet pill that is going to do it all, but unfortunately, it doesn’t exist.”