While the body has an inherent, natural ability to detoxify, and physical activity enhances this process, due to the overuse of processed food, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and overwhelming exposure to environmental pollutants, the need and market for detoxification and cleansing products that gently optimize that natural ability has grown.
Brenda Watson, the founder of ReNew Life (Palm Harbor, FL) and the author of The Detox Strategy: Vibrant Health in 5 Easy Steps, offered statistics on the magnitude of the toxins we are exposed to daily. “In the U.S. alone there are between 75,000 and 100,000 chemicals in use, with an additional 1,000 introduced into the environment each year. Less than 10 percent of these chemicals have been tested for their long-term health effects,” she said. “Some experts believe that even though our bodies are equipped with an internal detoxification system and seven channels of elimination, the overwhelming toxic burden we see today is more than our bodies can handle, which in turn is leading to more disease associated with toxic build-up.”
“A gradual build-up of waste in the body can cause a strain on the normal functioning of our organs. The liver, kidneys, intestines, bowel and even our skin normally eliminate a surprising amount of waste, but can become overwhelmed due to diet and lifestyle,” concurred Eileen Sheets, managing director of Bioforce USA (Ghent, NY). “Digestion, circulation and metabolism can be thrown off balance and may result in constipation, bloating, poor digestion, lack of energy, skin breakouts and mental fog,” she said, explaining that there are two main sources of toxins inside the body. “Waste produced in the body as a by-product of metabolism— the cells absorb nutrients and excrete wastes, like little microcosms of our bodies themselves. Then there are environmental toxins absorbed in food, drink and through the lungs and skin. These toxins have to be removed from the body, and the correct procedure is that they leave via one of three main exit routes: the bowel, the urinary tract and the lungs. These exit routes then are of prime importance. If any of them are not working properly, the toxic burden in the body will rise.”
As consumers are becoming more aware of the toxins surrounding them, this category, which was once shrouded in embarrassment and doubt, has opened up to an increasingly interested customer base. And as manufacturers continue to advance their formulations, retailers have a detox answer to fit just about every consumer lifestyle.
Beyond a Seasonal Market
A SPINS Snapshot Supplemental Analysis—Natural Channel—52 weeks ending June 11, 2011, shows that Cleanses/Supplement Herbal Formulas are a $15.9MM business, but lost more than -$0.5MM in sales volume over the last year (representing a -3.3 percent decline). However, sales for Cleanses saw an uptick in growth across more recent time periods (four weeks ending June 11, 2011 showed positive growth—up 2.9 percent).
This timing makes absolute sense to Julie Dennis, national science educator with Source Naturals® (Scotts Valley, CA). “Spring is the classic season to embark upon a cleansing program: spring cleaning. Traditions all over the world tout the benefits of shaking off the heavy indulgences of winter with a renewed focus on fruits and vegetables as they naturally begin to reappear,” she said, adding that while the timing is sound, it should not be encouraged. “But the myth is that you can do a cleanse once a year and be done with it. Our bodies are burdened with pollutants daily, therefore regular support for our natural cleansing ability is optimal. Because we’re exposed to such a consistent onslaught of environmental pollutants, assisting our natural ability to detoxify is a year-round job.”
“In order for the body to function most effectively, it’s important to regularly clear toxins on a regular basis,” said Gunny Sodhi, operations and marketing manager with Ayush Herbs, R-U-Ved Inc. (Seattle, WA).
“Once the organs such as the liver and colon are cleansed through detox, benefits include a better functioning body and mind, more energy, better digestion and better sleep, to name a few.
“Along with taking detox supplements or herbs, the consumer needs to change their lifestyle, including the food they eat to whole, unprocessed foods, not just during the detox period, but as an ongoing lifestyle choice,” Sodhi continued. “This is the best way to keep the body clean, especially during the change of seasons, when the body is most in need of a detox to prepare for the next season, according to ayurveda.”
As good health begins and ends with digestion, Ayush and R-U-Ved detox formulas include Triphala and Livtone. “The herbal combination in Triphala (amalaki, bahera and haritaki) has been considered the secret to longevity and robust health in ayurveda for centuries,” said Sodhi. “Because of the significant role the liver plays in maintaining health, we must do all we can to keep it functioning properly. Livtone consists of sixteen herbs known for liver-supporting and detoxifying properties.”
Also addressing the need to support the liver’s role as the body’s organ of detoxification, Source Naturals offers LIVER GUARD™. According to Dennis, this formula’s array of 28 ingredients is designed to aid the liver’s main functions: the detoxification of the byproducts of digestion and fat metabolism and support for the creation of bile, which flushes toxins from the body. “LIVER GUARD also promotes overall liver health with antioxidants and nutrients that supply energy for all of the liver’s metabolism and synthesis tasks, such as maintaining a normal blood glucose concentration, forming cholesterol and phospholipids, and synthesizing amino acids, plasma proteins and other important compounds,” she said.
Growing Consumer Base
Not only are retailers noticing more shoppers making detox and cleanse purchases, they’ve also observed a noticeable difference. Take Pure Health Foods (Las Vegas, NV), for example. While the majority of the single-store’s customers are female, when it comes to the cleansing and detox category, Owner Sean Smith has noted the core shoppers are males aged 40 to 60 years.
It’s a similar situation at Stay Healthy!, a single store that’s been serving the Las Vegas, NV community for just under 28 years.
“Where the primary shopper used to be women, we’ve noticed the biggest group of shoppers—and growing—is men. There’s a real movement toward men taking better care of themselves. Ten years ago, most had never heard about andropause or male changes. Now, it’s more in the media, and it’s changed the way men think about their health and that they have to do something about it,” said Marge Roman, the store’s manager, adding that consumer awareness has also helped eliminate a stigma that once shrouded the category. “Consumers are much more aware of the toxins they’re exposed to and I think everyone nowadays feels a need more than ever to do something about it. With that, it seems like the embarrassment around this topic is gone.”
One of the primary drivers and tools of the Stay Healthy!’s detox and cleansing category is its very popular radio show, “The Staying Healthy Radio Show,” featuring Naturopath Jeffrey Burke. Two of the store’s primary suppliers—Nature’s Secret and ReNew Life—are frequent guests and the show, and two shows a month are devoted to answering cleansing and detox questions.
“We’re very lucky to have Brenda Watson, who literally wrote the book on cleansing, on our show. We have people listen every day and they’re very active in asking questions,” said Roman.
The Education Equation
But even as consumer awareness grows and the publicity around detox and cleansing products intensifies, retailers now more than ever have to take an active role as educators.
“The No. 1 question we hear is ‘What can I expect?’ It’s that little fear hanging on where they worry it will be too intense,” said Roman, adding that her store provides shoppers ample literature from her suppliers as well as having an educated staff who have personal experience using the cleanses.
“Some have a basic understanding, but most people need to be walked through the cleansing process and be asked questions to fully understand what their cleansing needs are, and what product(s) might suit them best,” said Smith, adding that the store utilizes posters and flyers to help promote cleansing, and the products are merchandised in their own section as well as in high-traffic areas throughout the store. “Cleansing products are recommended to any customer looking to increase their general health or are having assimilation problems or toxic issues.
“It is very important to educate customer on the danger of long-term use of laxative-containing cleansing products, and to instead steer those with long-term constipation to safe alternatives that don’t cause dependency or smoothing of the intestinal wall,” he added. “Plus, the long-term products provide you with a constant stream of return customers who can safely use the products daily.”
“The category has become a lot more consumer friendly—there is everything from an anybody- can-do-it-type cleanse to more sophisticated, intense formulas,” Roman offered, adding that the trend she’s observed is shoppers looking for shorter cleanses that can be completed in seven days as opposed to a month or more. “The range of products on the market is really made to fit the consumer’s lifestyle, whether they’re looking for something mild or something heavy duty.”
A top-selling product in Stay Healthy! Is Nature’s Secret’s Ultimate Cleanse, due to its flexibility, according to Roman, but she’s noticed lately that ReNew Life’s First Cleanse has been extremely popular. “With so many customers trying a cleanse for the first time, I think it’s a comfort to see the name and to see it’s meant for first-time cleansers. It gives them confidence it won’t throw them for a loop.”
“Many people are now discovering that seasonal cleansing has far-reaching health benefits and can be easily incorporated into even the busiest lifestyle. But it’s important to remember that consumers will only choose a cleanse that is convenient and compatible with their lifestyle,” said Watson. “An ideal detoxification program is one that suits their needs and requires just two to three daily doses so they can continue on with their routine without getting bogged down with multiple pills or steps.”
Keeping consumer convenience in mind, Bioforce has introduced the senna extract fruit in tablet form. According to Sheets, the acceptance and market for natural laxatives is very large. “Customers shopping in health food stores respond to the natural vegetable laxatives, as they are much gentler to the body than their pharmaceutical counterparts,” she said. “For instance the leaves and pods of the senna have been in known use for 1,200 years and are seen as safe and gentle to use. The tea has been very popular, since it is simply senna and water. However, the tablets are definitely gaining ground because of the convenience factor.”
Get Healthy Earns a Healthy Sales Lift
Laura DeWitt, a native of England, came to the Tampa Bay, FL area on vacation and transplanted here to America to acquire an existing health food store with her business partner. Twenty years later, the pair operates three Get Healthy stores and is preparing to open a fourth.
While Get Healthy offers organic groceries as well as a café, it emphasizes wellness education and supplement usage, with digestive care at its core. “All our staff are trained as digestive health experts. We compensate them for attending online trainings, and we owe a lot to our vendors, like ReNew Life, for providing great programs,” said DeWitt. “We realized that digestive care is fundamental to building health, and we emphasize that with our staff through these trainings. From probiotics and enzymes to cleanses, everyone can benefit from digestive health support. For us, detox and cleanses have become foundation products for wellness building, and we encourage customers to cleanse a minimum of two times a year.”
Even though the three current stores are located in a county wrestling with a 15 percent unemployment rate, the Get Healthy team works hard to promote offerings, and has managed to grow sales every year. This is done with the help of a radio program featuring top vendors, but most importantly by getting out in the community and sponsoring events.
One such event is a two-day bike race that Get Healthy runs with ReNew Life as a main sponsor (DeWitt is a triathlete). The event gave the store a chance to connect with a cycling team and literally take its message to the road.
“We attended various events and took the product with us so we could explain the benefits to the cyclists, like how balancing their digestive health could help them stay healthy all through a season,” DeWitt explained. “Our staff became very good at sharing that message with the customers, and when the customer gets good results, they tell their friends. It’s been a real win-win for us and a great marketing experience.”
Indeed, as Get Healthy saw sales of ReNew Life’s CleanseSmart, a 30-day advanced total-body internal cleanse, increase 78 percent in sales this year.
“As the Digestive Care Company, ReNew Life understands how important it is to maintain healthy digestion as the foundation of total body health,” said ReNew Life’s Watson. “Perhaps a better way to think of this natural process is as a real tool to start someone down the pathway of health by clearing the channels of elimination and supporting their peak function.”
DeWitt has seen the consumer base for cleanses grow while the level of thorough understanding hasn’t. “We get asked a lot of questions because consumers are confused by cleanses and the marketing. A lot think it’s just about elimination and weight loss,” she said. “We talk more about the restorative aspects of cleanses. Yes, elimination and weight loss is a part of it, but they have to understand there’s much more to it. If you explain that to customers, you’re doing them a great service.”
And beyond giving customers the best possible service, education also makes selling the detox and cleanse product easier. “If a customer doesn’t understand what cleansing is, it’s a pretty hard sell. Why spend $30 on a cleanse when you can purchase a natural laxative like senna for $7.99?” explained DeWitt. “Our approach is to find the right solution for our customers, not just the cheapest or the quickest. We put a high emphasis on education and it’s a standard we hold our vendors to— I won’t deal with companies that don’t support us with staff training or public lectures, or that don’t offer a money back guarantee.
“To a certain extent the overflow of information on the web and the engine of network marketing can be a good and bad thing,” she concluded. “Yes, it’s good people are more aware, and it’s our job to help them sort through misinformation and direct them to well-researched, evidence-based products we carry.”