The desire for natural approaches for heart health is beginning to catch on with a younger audience.
The market for natural products pertaining to heart health is as strong as ever, as is consumer demand. The increase in the market correlates with the consumer’s own concerns about maintaining cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular wellness is something to which most consumers strive, regardless of age, gender or previous heart issues.
“Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart health obviously remains a top priority for many consumers,” said Dan Chapman, founder and chief executive officer of Redd Remedies, a manufacturer headquartered in Illinois.
“The major concerns for consumers related to heart and cardiovascular health include balancing their blood lipids, maintaining healthy weight and blood sugar, strengthening the heart, and supporting adequate circulation to the brain and extremities,” added Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA, senior nutrition education manager for NOW Foods, a manufacturer based in Illinois.
The medical community has long recommended that people achieve that through a healthy diet and regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices, and caution against high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, as well as other factors that can increase the risk for heart disease.
“Even with the most nutritious diet, most people today have gaps in their diets, and are consequently missing out on essential vitamins and minerals daily,” said Erin Stokes, ND, medical director at the manufacturing company MegaFood based in New Hampshire.
Because so many things can contribute to poor cardiovascular health, there are a growing number of ingredients and formulas that target these various risk factors. For example, the market features supplements that focus on healthy blood pressure levels, ideal cholesterol numbers and/or those that aim to reduce stress levels.
Heart health becomes more of a concern as the population ages, but even younger people are paying attention to their cardiovascular wellness.
Still, the demographic for these products is not limited to consumers who already have experienced cardiac difficulties but rather those seeking to prevent it, such as those who have a family history of cardiac disease. “I think you’ll see people in their 40s become more aware of what kind of nutrients and habits can lead to a healthy heart, and that’s good. They have a chance to start earlier than we’ve typically seen in Baby Boomers, who often change habits after their doctor tells them they have borderline high blood pressure, an imbalance of cholesterol levels, or what have you,” observed Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at EuroPharma, a manufacturer headquartered in Wisconsin.
At Peach Vitamins in Georgia, President and Owner Mike Tolani said, “The trend has been shifting from weight loss to well-being,” he said.
Based on their own sales data of the products that they manufacture, Nordic Naturals in California reported that marine-based products are far outpacing chia and flax, and krill is slowing down remarkably. “What this data tells us is that the potential is greatest for higher-potency SKUs like fish oil concentrates. Algae is strong, but its growth is a tiny piece of the pie,” said Marci van der Meulen, director of sales-retail division. Plant sterols and fish oils have been frontrunners in the heart supplements market for many years.
For example, Tolani said that at his store, consumers are demanding CoQ10, fish oil, vitamin D and magnesium.
The Illinois-based manufacturing company, Carlson Laboratories, has been supplying heart health supplements to the natural products industry for more than 50 years, beginning with vitamin E and expanding to cod liver oil, salmon oil, and the first concentrated omega-3 supplement, Super Omega 3. The company also introduced coenzyme Q-10 to its line in the 1980s.
According to Senior Nutritionist and Educator Jolie Root, Carlson Lab’s best-selling heart health supplement is the company’s Very Finest Fish Oil (VFFO). “It supplies 1,600 mg omega-3 in each teaspoon dose. A low Omega-3 Index has recently emerged as an independent risk factor for heart health issues,” she said.
The company also makes multivitamin formulas that supply ingredients that support heart health, such as vitamins D and E, lysine and proline, among others.
Like Carlson Labs, NOW Foods has been selling heart healthy supplements for 50 years, also beginning with vitamin E and fish oil soft gels. Ingredients in their current heart support category include celery seed extract, hawthorn leaf, plant sterols with fish oil, and krill oil with CoQ10. Top sellers in this segment include Omega-3 1,000 mg soft gels and CoQ10 100 mg soft gels. “Omega-3 products have a high degree of awareness in the market, driving sales,” said Levin, adding that this is attributed in part to media coverage.
Omega-3 fish oils remain Nordic Naturals’ core passion and competency, said van der Meulen. The company’s best-selling formulation is its Ultimate Omega line, alone or in combination with other ingredients. One product, Nordic Omega LDL, blends omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10 and red yeast rice. The latter ingredient is “… a family of natural compounds safely used for centuries in Asian diets,” said Dr. Scott Minton, scientific advisor for the company.
Vitamin B products have also been associated with cardiovascular wellness. Superior Source’s products are vitamin B12 alone and in combination with B6 and folic acid. “These three B vitamins are known to lower homocysteine levels in the body; elevated homocysteine is known as a risk for heart disease,” said Matthew Supkoff, director of sales and marketing at the California-based manufacturing company.
MegaFood has a line of whole food supplements called FoodState Nutrients, including the company’s popular FoodState Magnesium, which contains organic spinach. “We’re dedicated to improving people’s lives by delivering authentic nourishment in our entire line of supplements. We aim to support overall health and wellness, which includes heart health,” explained Stokes.
EuroPharma manufactures a number of products designed to boost cardiovascular wellness. Two of the company’s most popular are Clinical OPC and Clinical OPC Extra Strength, both of which feature their French Grape Seed VX1 extract. The grape seed extract in these products is tannin-free and made from seeds of grapes grown in France. “It is a highly-specialized nutrient, which provides only tannin-free absorbable OPCs that are small enough to guarantee absorption, with a high level of polyphenols,” said Myers.
New Advancements and Products
Of late, manufacturers are beginning to look at heart health holistically by combining formulations to target more than one facet of heart-related health.
That is the philosophy at Redd Remedies, which produces Cardio Suite, products aimed to support the whole body and balance organ systems with the cardiovascular system and target stress. “We understand that the solution our customers need is to provide support for the whole body while specifically addressing stress, which we know is the main cause of all cardiovascular disease,” said Chapman.
The company recently reformulated its Circulation VA (veins and arteries) product to include MenaQ7 vitamin K2, which Chapman said has been studied to improve arterial elasticity. “Emerging research on vitamin K2 is demonstrating its importance to cardiovascular health,” he added.
Other companies are reformulating products as well, combining traditional and up-and-coming ingredients.
For example, NOW Foods has launched Krill & CoQ10 Heart Support soft gels, which combine two popular ingredients in one capsule, reducing the amount of pills one takes as well as the cost of buying two separate bottles. Another recent introduction at the company is a higher strength Hawthorn Extract 600.
“There are other existing ingredients that are starting to gain attention as having heart health attributes, like vitamin D, calcium and magnesium,” said Levin.
Another recent advancement is Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, which is an ingredient incorporated into Essential Formula’s best-selling product, Reg’Active CardioWellness. Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN, director of Science and research at the Texas-based manufacturing company, said that this probiotic product has been tested to increase glutathione.
“Glutathione is the body’s most prevalent and important antioxidant. Boosting glutathione levels provides powerful antioxidant protection for the heart and vascular system,” said Pelton. The formula also combines other, established cardiovascular support such as coenzyme Q10 to help lower elevated blood pressure and several B-vitamins, all of which is intended to work in conjunction to support the production of glutathione.
According to Myers, one of the most significant changes in the heart health segment is the recognition of the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease. That has prompted EuroPharma’s CuraMed family of supplements, which provides BCM-95 Curcumin and has been enhanced with turmeric essential oil. “While curcumin is immensely popular, it might not yet be the first ingredient that springs to mind for heart health, but I think it will probably be a ‘go to’ compound for anyone with heart concerns in the near future,” she said.
Though tried-and-true products still dominate the market, recent additions to shelves include Pterostilbene, an essential antioxidant found in blueberries, which Root said has been linked to supporting healthy circulation and a healthy inflammatory response. She also pointed to ceylon cinnamon as a newer product that is being used to support healthy blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol.
Another newer ingredient that has come to light in the cardiovascular wellness arena is methylfolate, the activated form of folate, as some people cannot convert folic acid to its activated form. For this reason, Superior Source manufactures products that combine B12, B6 and methylfolate, including MicroLingual Instant Dissolve Tablets.
Supplements for heart health come in a variety of delivery methods, though capsules and soft gels are very common. Nonetheless, liquids and other methods are available.
For example, Carlson Laboratories makes a liquid fish oil product that eliminates the fishy taste that can be present in other formats.
Carlson Labs’ also manufactures Olive Your Heart, which Root refers to as “… the Mediterranean Diet in a bottle,” as it contains a combination of extra virgin olive oil and Norwegian fish oil liquid. “Being able to serve it at the table makes it very easy to get a daily dose of the most heart healthy fats. Each serving provides 1,480 mg of omega-3s along with 6 grams of olive oil,” said Root.
And Superior Source manufactures the MicroLingual Instant Dissolve Tablets, an instant release B-12 formulation. “Our proprietary methods utilize Low Pressure Hydromolecular (LPH) technology to create tablets that dissolve immediately under the tongue, resulting in quick and direct absorption,” explained Supkoff.
For those who prefer to chew vitamins, Nordic Naturals offers CoQ10 Gummies in a strawberry flavor. “We’ve definitely seen a rise in the variety of forms for supplements. As more folks like the convenience of gummies and chewables, establishing tasty but also effective gummies is a top priority,” said van der Meulen.
And EuroPharma’s CuraMed is available in a variety of forms, including a fizzing tablet that dissolves in water.
Because heart disease is so prevalent in this country, research studies are ongoing, and that includes research into the efficacy of ingredients for supplements.
“I think supplement companies are always interested in any studies that point toward heart benefits from previously overlooked herbal compounds or in research that pulls together the connections between various disease states that intersect with cardiovascular health, like metabolic syndrome, for example,” said Myers.
And the many studies concerning omega-3 fish oils are of particular interest to Nordic Naturals and Carlson Laboratories.
“We are primarily interested in studies confirming that certain natural ingredients will have beneficial effects on healthy subjects. The ability to maintain good health as people age is a key area that allows us to make appropriate structure-function claims, since we can’t claim to remedy disease regardless of the evidence,” said Levin.
Marketing Heart Health Products
Education is the core of marketing; a knowledgeable staff is a key factor in increasing sales. “One of the best things that retailers can do is to stay current on the latest heart-related nutrient research and continue to be a resource for their clients in that arena,” said Myers.
Retailers and manufacturers can work in tandem to market and merchandise heart-related supplements; this can be accomplished in person and online.
Carlson maintains an online learning site called Carlson College, offering retailers education about their products. They also provide displays and help with in-store promotions. “Be sure to set a heart section planogram to display the many heart health-promoting ingredients our industry offers, and be sure to include omega-3s in that area,” advised Root.
Another online platform for “higher education” is MegaFood University. “We know that our sales force effectively transfers their passion and knowledge to retail partners, who then are able to educate consumers,” said Stokes.
Redd Remedies also has a program to help educate the end consumer called REDD ED, an online training program. The company also offers monthly webinars, aisle trainings by their network of reps, in-store trainings, and scheduled national trainer visits. To help the retailer sell its products, Redd Remedies makes product literature available, along with special promotions and floor displays.
NOW offers a cardiovascular health brochure and offers information about their products on its website that retailers can access. Similarly, Essential Formulas, Inc., is dedicated to education about their products and offers seminars, training, literature and published studies, while EuroPharma does much of the same.
At the retail store Peach Vitamins, Tolani said that his staff interacts with customers to help them ascertain their heart health needs and make recommendations as needed, making sure to ask customers about any medications they are taking. Tolani dedicates a full 16-foot section to heart health with about 10 different brands of related products.
One other idea suggested by Myers is for retailers to host guest speakers who are experts on heart health along with providing a buffet of heart-smart foods, which can build excitement around the topic while starting a conversation.
Perhaps one of the most effective marketing tools is the ability of consumers to try a product before buying. That is why Superior Source supplies samples of their Microlingual Instant Dissolve Tablets. “This enables our retailers to really show the difference to the consumer right on the aisle when they’re interested in purchasing one of these products,” said Supkoff.
And although it is a limited timeframe, some manufacturers, like Nordic Naturals, have heart health campaigns in February to commemorate American Heart Month and suggest that retailers promote heart product specials, including creating a cardiovascular section to drive sales. VR
For More Information:
Carlson Labs, www.carlsonlabs.com
Essential Formulas, www.essentialformulas.com
Nordic Naturals, www.nordicnaturals.com/consumers
NOW Foods, www.nowfoods.com
Redd Remedies, www.reddremedies.com
Superior Source, www.superiorsourcevitamins.com