Vitamin Retailer March 2014 : Page 40

Seasonal Allergies: A Nothing-to-Sneeze-at Category With more consumers seeking natural alternatives for their seasonal sensitivities, retailers armed with the right products are solidifying themselves as go-to destinations. By Kate Quackenbush important; in fact, quite the contrary. “Every year, even during the winter, people suffer from allergy conditions. Our SKU count for seasonal allergy products may be small (about 20), but the category represents consistent dol-lars for our stores.” The four-store chain, of which League S is the general manager, appreciates the repeat customers of the category, but has also noticed a wave of new shop-pers. “We have local chiropractors and naturopaths sending their patients to our stores; we get those customers who are looking for an alternative approach to their condition.” But the one thing the seasonal allergy category demands is attention; accord-ing to League, more than any other, it is a category where customers are seeking additional help. “While some customers come in with a general idea of what they’re looking for, shoppers predomi-nantly want assistance in some way, so we spend time with them in the aisles.” Whether it’s long-time customers or 40 VITAMIN RETAILER cott League describes the sea-sonal allergy category of Spokane, WA-based Mothers Cupboard as “consistent,” which is not to say it’s not health store rookies, retailers have their work cut out making sure everyone’s needs are met. The good news is that they’re armed with natural products that offer the relief that so many are seeking, and the manufacturer support to assure understanding and satisfaction. The Anatomy of Seasonal Allergies In their most basic form, seasonal aller-gies are actually the body just doing its job … just overdoing it, according to Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, director of research and development/ national educator with Texas-based Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, a supplement manufacturer dedicated to the natural channel. “Allergy symptoms are evidence of your body’s defense mechanism against foreign invaders,” she said, explaining that our immune system is a well-trained defense mecha-nism that protects against threats from the outside to support our bodies. “Each antibody our body makes is specifically formed to target a certain threat—whether that is bacteria, germs and/or disease/infection. Unfortunately, sometimes our immune systems can be overzealous, creating false alarms. Celebrating 20 Years of Excellence 1994-2014 “In many cases, our bodies are not often affected by a little pollen, but in a certain percentage of the population, it's an all-out war,” she continued. “If consumers are affected this way, their antibodies recruit the immune system, telling it that ‘the world is ending’ and with that, you get an excess production of histamine. Histamines cause all the symptoms of seasonal allergies (i.e., hay fever)—itching, swelling, drippy eyes, headaches and a runny nose.” A Growing Market Seasonal allergies irritate millions of people every spring and summer. In fact, allergies are the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages and with repeated exposure to allergens, many individuals can devel-op allergic asthma, said MacDonald, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that approximately 50 million Americans (one in five) suffer from allergies and allergic asthma today, and the prevalence has continued to increase since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups. Further, children in the U.S. that reported sea-sonal allergies numbered 8.3 million, WWW.VITAMINRETAILER.COM ■ MARCH 2014

Seasonal Allergies: A Nothing-To-Sneeze-At Category

Kate Quackenbush

With more consumers seeking natural alternatives for their seasonal sensitivities, retailers armed with the right products are solidifying themselves as go-to destinations.<br /> <br /> Scott League describes the seasonal allergy category of Spokane, WA-based Mothers Cupboard as “consistent,” which is not to say it’s not important; in fact, quite the contrary. “Every year, even during the winter, people suffer from allergy conditions. Our SKU count for seasonal allergy products may be small (about 20), but the category represents consistent dollars for our stores.” <br /> <br /> The four-store chain, of which League is the general manager, appreciates the repeat customers of the category, but has also noticed a wave of new shoppers. “We have local chiropractors and naturopaths sending their patients to our stores; we get those customers who are looking for an alternative approach to their condition.” <br /> <br /> But the one thing the seasonal allergy category demands is attention; according to League, more than any other, it is a category where customers are seeking additional help. “While some customers come in with a general idea of what they’re looking for, shoppers predominantly want assistance in some way, so we spend time with them in the aisles.” <br /> <br /> Whether it’s long-time customers or health store rookies, retailers have their work cut out making sure everyone’s needs are met. The good news is that they’re armed with natural products that offer the relief that so many are seeking, and the manufacturer support to assure understanding and satisfaction.<br /> <br /> The Anatomy of Seasonal Allergies <br /> <br /> In their most basic form, seasonal allergies are actually the body just doing its job … just overdoing it, according to Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, director of research and development/ national educator with Texas-based Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, a supplement manufacturer dedicated to the natural channel. “Allergy symptoms are evidence of your body’s defense mechanism against foreign invaders,” she said, explaining that our immune system is a well-trained defense mechanism that protects against threats from the outside to support our bodies. “Each antibody our body makes is specifically formed to target a certain threat—whether that is bacteria, germs and/or disease/infection. Unfortunately, sometimes our immune systems can be overzealous, creating false alarms.<br /> <br /> “In many cases, our bodies are not often affected by a little pollen, but in a certain percentage of the population, it's an all-out war,” she continued. “If consumers are affected this way, their antibodies recruit the immune system, telling it that ‘the world is ending’ and with that, you get an excess production of histamine. Histamines cause all the symptoms of seasonal allergies (i.e., hay fever)—itching, swelling, drippy eyes, headaches and a runny nose.” <br /> <br /> A Growing Market <br /> <br /> Seasonal allergies irritate millions of people every spring and summer. In fact, allergies are the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages and with repeated exposure to allergens, many individuals can develop allergic asthma, said MacDonald, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that approximately 50 million Americans (one in five) suffer from allergies and allergic asthma today, and the prevalence has continued to increase since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups. Further, children in the U.S. that reported seasonal allergies numbered 8.3 million, roughly 11.1 percent, according to a CDC national health survey.<br /> <br /> While the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI) claims the number of allergy sufferers has been rising, Simar Singh, CEO and founder of Ohio-based Rootology, thinks another relevant point is that Americans’ allergic reactions have become more severe. “More Americans are looking into allergy medications and alternatives due to pollen counts across the country setting new records every year,” he said. “For example, a very high cedar pollen count in Austin, TX is about 2,000 grains per cubic meter. This past January, it was in excess of 16,000. As counts rise, so does the misery index. And where some would have just sucked up minor symptoms in the past, the rise in pollen counts triggers increased intensity of the body's reaction and severity of those symptoms, and customers seek out anything that will help. Suddenly they're counted as allergy sufferers.” <br /> <br /> This has led the allergy category to grow at a 12 percent rate, equating to approximately $3 million, according to SPINS figures.<br /> <br /> A Natural Push <br /> <br /> So beyond increased pollen counts, why are so many consumers falling prey to seasonal allergies?<br /> <br /> According to Jolie Root, nutritionist and educator for Carlson Laboratories in Illinois, a current theory that may explain the rise in allergy cases is the Hygeine Hypothesis, which suggests that excessive sanitization has weakened our tolerance. “Overuse of antibiotics, medically and in topical products like lotions and hand soaps, have reduced our exposure to microbes and reduced our development of dynamic immune response,” she said. “This may lead to a hyper-response in later childhood or in adulthood.” <br /> <br /> Dr. Lon Jones, researcher for nasal use of xylitol and patent holder for Xlear Nasal Spray from Utah-based Xlear Inc., offered another explanation: “Our health care system defines illness by a balance of symptoms, so most of our treatments are aimed at this idea—that health is enhanced when systems are in balance. The problem is that many of these symptoms actually represent defenses,” he said, noting a fever, for example, is a defense that helps us better survive an infection, “but we have a plethora of fever-reducing drugs that are promoted to reduce this symptom.” <br /> <br /> Jones explained that, in the 1940s, when it was discovered that histamine was responsible for a runny nose, antihistamines were developed to sanitize the nose. And in the 1960s, they were made available over the counter (OTC) and were heavily advertised. “This was about the same time period when we experienced the rapid increases in allergies, asthma, sinus and ear infections— all problems that originate in the nose,” he said.<br /> <br /> Since that time there has been no shortage of OTC or prescription-based medications, yet consumers continue to seek true relief. This is what leads them to the natural channel.<br /> <br /> “Allergy supplements offer consumers an alternative to manage their seasonal conflicts with fewer side effects,” said Bluebonnet’s MacDonald. “In fact, surveys show that almost half of all people with allergies try a natural allergy remedy at some point.” <br /> <br /> An Alternative Response <br /> <br /> As has been stated, allergies are caused by the body responding to something invading it. According to Xlear’s Jones, this response is the attempt to wash out the invader. “Our normal nasal defenses come from the combination of our nasal mucus, which holds on to all of the pollutants, and the microscopic hairs, called cilia, which sweep out the mucus. When the air is dry, this process doesn’t work well, so the pollutants stick around in the nose to cause all of the problems,” he said, explaining that symptom-treating drugs, in particular, dry the nose.<br /> <br /> As people sought alternatives, saline sprays were the first option; they entered the market to compensate for antihistamine-caused dry nose. Neti pots have also been studied in clinical settings and are more helpful than the cold and sinus medications that remain the most used. But in Jones’ experience, the most useful new addition is a nasal spray containing xylitol, such as Xlear Nasal Spray. “We argue the need to honor and support the body’s defense rather, than hobble it. Hobbling the defense gives infectious agents time to hold on and grow,” he said. “Besides unhooking infectioncausing bacteria, xylitol pulls fluid into the airway compensating for the dry air that we breathe, optimizing the defense provided by the mucus and cilia. This second element is why it is so successful at helping people with allergies.”<br /> <br /> Xlear, which is a combination of saline and xylitol, is sold in a pump bottle, squeeze bottle, for kids and for neti pots. According to Mothers Cupboard’s League, Xlear is a strong seller for his stores, particularly because the company provides accessible information about xylitol and its antibacterial properties that he and his staff can share with customers. “Some companies do a better job than others providing materials, yet the materials make a difference— the more training and literature companies can provide, the more it helps us sell their products.” <br /> <br /> Another nasal spray worthy of consideration is ClearLife Nasal Spray, part of New Mexico-based Heel USA’s recently launched ClearLife line. Previously sold as Luffeel, ClearLife Nasal Spray is a non-drowsy, homeopathic medicine formulated with four active ingredients for the temporary relief of minor allergy symptoms including: runny nose and sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and nasal congestion.<br /> <br /> “ClearLife Nasal Spray works on multiple allergy symptoms and does not contain ingredients known to cause drowsiness and rebound effect,” said Jessly Raj, senior product brand marketing manger with Heel, noting that the ClearLife line of products, which also includes ClearLife Tablets (previously sold as Adrisin) and ClearLife Eye Drops (previously sold as Oculoheel), offer new consumer- and retail-friendly packaging. “Heel products stand apart from others on the market because they provide an excellent safety profile.” <br /> <br /> Stress’ Role <br /> <br /> Seasonal allergies are an important part of what Carole Childers, CN, LDN, a licensed nutritionist and founder of All Ways Healthy in Lake Zurich, IL, and her team does. She finds it interesting that some customers come in asking about a specific allergy-related problem, while others don’t realize that it’s a seasonal issue that is affecting them.<br /> <br /> “We are very careful not to prescribe or diagnose—we’re not doctors—but we are here to help and to educate, so we spend time getting to the root of what they need,” said Childers, explaining that customers will come in in the winter asking about recurring colds. “I’ll ask them when do they get those colds the most, and they’ll say typically in the spring and fall. To that I tell them that it sounds like it’s a seasonal issue, and then explain about the trees pollinating, mold count and the like. As they begin to understand what the cause could be, they see how they can be proactive and it makes a huge difference.” <br /> <br /> Beyond helping her customers find the best solution for their circumstances, Childers is also interested in looking at the big picture of someone’s health to get them there. For instance, she often asks customers who are showing seasonal allergy symptoms about their stress levels. “If stress is high, their bodies are likely reacting to allergens more,” she said.<br /> <br /> Indeed, as Jack Grogan, CN, chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition in Michigan, explained: “Immune system imbalances can generate excessive inflammation, which has a clearly defined function in allergies, sinusitis, hay fever, hives and an increasing number of auto-immune health challenges. This can be an indication of a decrease in the ability to manage environmental stresses, or an increased amount of internal stress, resulting in abnormal responses of the immune system causing the body to react to a normally harmless substance in the environment, such as dust or pollen,” he said.<br /> <br /> Support in the form of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, glandulars and enzymes can help balance the immune system enough to support and maintain a healthy immune allergic response, said Grogan. “Using a formula combining these key natural ingredients can be safely used to support a normal balance in the immune system function and the body’s ability to combat every day environmental stresses that may cause allergies,” Grogan added, noting that Uckele offers Immuno-Comp, a balanced blend of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, glandulars and enzymes to fortify, strengthen and balance immune function. “This formula may be taken during acute immune system challenges or as a preventive to maintain an optimally functioning, healthy immune system.” <br /> <br /> The company also recently introduced Auradagex, a premier goldenrod extract from a unique and potent native species of the plant with unsurpassed potency for antioxidant, joint and gastrointestinal (GI) support, said Grogan.<br /> <br /> While Bluebonnet offers several products for seasonal wellness, the one that stands out is its Super Quercetin Vcaps, which are specially designed to stimulate the body’s natural response to seasonal health challenges posed by the environment. “The capsules contain a potent combination of antioxidants and allergy-supporting natural ingredients, including 500 mg of quercetin, 500 mg of vitamin C from pure ascorbic acid, rose hips, acerola, rutin, citrus bioflavonoids (such as hesperidin) and pine-apple bromelain,” said MacDonald, noting it’s available in easy-to-swallow vegetable capsules for maximum assimilation and absorption.<br /> <br /> Not only were the ingredients for Super Quercetin Vcaps specifically selected—the vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, bioflavonoids work synergistically with antioxidants, and bromelain stimulates the production and release of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs), while simultaneously reducing the production and release of proinflammatory Pgs—but the product was formulated with the concerns of food allergy sufferers in mind.<br /> <br /> “Bluebonnet’s Super Quercetin Vcaps are not only 100 percent vegan and kosher-certified, but they are also free of the top eight allergens that affect many Americans, as well as gluten, yeast, barley, rice and sugar,” said MacDonald. “Because this product is hypoallergenic, it makes it very consumer-friendly and a great option for those that have food allergies.” <br /> <br /> Then there’s Carlson Laboratories, which began as a vitamin E company, and vitamin E supplementation has been linked to relief of hay fever symptoms. Root cited a double-blind, placebo- controlled, randomized study1 where 112 patients with documented hay fever received either vitamin E (800 mg or 1,200 IU/d) or placebo in addition to their regular anti-allergic treatment during the pollen season. “Nasal symptom scores were lower in patients who received vitamin E supplementation during the hay fever season, so this supplementation may be a valuable addition to the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis,” she said.<br /> <br /> More recently, the company announced the results of a study2 that utilized Carlson E Gems. In the study, which was published in the online journal Allergy, 33 nonsmoking mild atopic asthmatics had positive allergy skin tests, methacholine challenges and inhaled allergen challenges.<br /> <br /> “For at least 16 weeks, volunteers took 1,500 IU of natural-source d-atocopheryl acetate (Carlson E Gems) daily with meals to ensure optimal absorption,” said Root. “The results showed that longterm supplementation of the antioxidant natural-source d-a-tocopheryl acetate 1,500 IU inhibits airway oxidant stress, modulates allergic inflammation and improves airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine in mild allergic asthmatics.” <br /> <br /> Store Tips <br /> <br /> Having the right products is half of the challenge. From League’s perspective, seasonal allergy is a category where you want to continue to bring in new items. “Of course we need to make sure we’re bringing products in from established companies with good reputations,” he said, but noted that, as an industry, we’re in this together. “I talk to other retailers about what they’re carrying and what works for them. A lot of those opportunities come when I attend trade shows and take advantage of their educational meetings and retailer functions. It’s really to our benefit to be involved with the industry.” <br /> <br /> But beyond stocking a store, what makes a truly successful retailer is being of great service.<br /> <br /> “You also have to know what you have that can help a customer beyond just an allergy-specific product. There is lots of great research out there on other products—be it colloidal silver, vitamin D or individual supplements like bromelain, quercetin and nettle—not only for their allergy benefits, but for overall health,” said League. “You have to know how to go to those items to bring a customer relief.” <br /> <br /> One of Childers’ go-to products for allergy customers is a homeopathic option offered by King Bio. Rather than have her customers take her word for it, it’s not uncommon for Childers to open a bottle in the store and let them give it a try.<br /> <br /> “Homeopathy is great because it works so quickly—people can feel a difference almost immediately,” she said. “I’ll let them try it and then have them continue their shopping. I walk up a few minutes later and ask how they feel. When they think about it, they’re often amazed at how much better they feel.” <br /> <br /> In the end, it’s the service that sticks with customers, and then has them helping to spread the word. “If I’m able to help, by really listening and being knowledgeable, customers will send their friends to us,” Childers added.<br /> “They know we’re here to help.”<br /> <br /> * These statements have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. They are supported by traditional homeopathic principles.<br /> <br /> References: <br /> <br /> 1 Shahar, E., Hassoun, G., and Pollack, S. (2004). Effect of vitamin E supplementation on the regular treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Ann. Allergy Asthma Immunol.<br /> 92, 654–658.<br /> <br /> 2 Hoskins A, Roberts JL, II, Milne G, Choi L, Dworski R. Natural-source d-a-tocopheryl acetate inhibits oxidant stress and modulates atopic asthma in humans in vivo. Allergy. 2012; 67: 676–682.<br /> <br /> Sampling:Trying is Believing<br /> <br /> Allergy season is pretty much 365 days a year in Idaho, according to Kris Wear, owner of World of Nutrition in Nampa, ID, so allergy products are extremely important to the single store’s bottom line. Not only are customers wrestling with allergy issues, but most of World of Nutrition’s staff is as well, so when advising shoppers, they usually recommend what works for them.<br /> <br /> While Wear reports that most of the homeopathic remedies have literature or great information on their packages, a recent introduction has struck a chord with both staff and shoppers alike.<br /> <br /> “We brought in Rootology’s Breathe Free last summer and it has fast become a fast seller. With the samples the company provides, our customers see quick results, but the product is also the favorite of a couple of staff, so that helps with the sales,” said Wear.<br /> <br /> Offered by Ohio-based Rootology, Breathe Free is a formula for nasal, sinus and eye health, relieving symptoms associated with allergies, cold/flu or chronic conditions. According to Simar Singh, CEO and founder, one way to think of it as a natural, gentler and more effective version of Sudafed.<br /> <br /> “A combination of 13 concentrated herbal extracts, Breathe Free starts working within about 20 minutes, and feeling its full potency within an hour. It's non-drowsy, all natural and knocks out almost all symptoms related to environmental allergies,” he said. “The Sudafed analogy is apt because it is working on the same biological system (the andrenergic system). But rather than being the blunt force object that is pseudoephedrine, its 13 ingredients individually target different receptors in different areas of the body. Thus, it is just as, if not more, effective, gentler and has few, if any, side-effects (which may include feeling a little pep).” <br /> <br /> Based on Chinese herbology, the two most prevalent ingredients are magnolia and xanthium, which open the nasal passages and airways within minutes of ingesting and halt runny nose. “The formula is based in part on ancient formulations and combinations, but our Rootology herbalist tweaked it to meet our specific needs and requirements to serve American customers best.” <br /> <br /> While the product is technically two SKUs—a 40- capsule bottle and a two-capsule packet—it's really just one product. For every bottle to retailers, Rootology provides at least one sample packet.<br /> <br /> The seasonal allergy category is one where retailers need to carry a wide variety of products, but samples are an integral piece of finding success, according to Wear. “If the customer gets some relief, they will certainly be back to buy, if not buy a product while they are in the store. The suppliers providing samples really seem to help with sales.”

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