Avon enters VMS category

As this week’s OTC DASHBOARD infographic shows, the percentage of Americans that consume dietary supplements continues to grow, hitting an all-time high of 76% in 2017. This has helped create a vast US vitamins, minerals & supplements category, which in turn continues to attract the interest of companies not traditionally associated with the OTC market. For example, Amazon launched several supplements as part of its Amazon Elements line in spring 2017, including vitamin D, turmeric and calcium products, all of which have a strong emphasis on ingredient traceability.

Another new entrant in 2018 is Avon, a company that is undergoing a rapid transformation to become the “leading social selling company in North America”, according to CEO Scott White. Part of the company’s strategy is a return to the health & wellness market, including the launch of a new Espira line of 11 dietary supplements.

Launched in January 2018, and available at a retail price of US$12-35 through Avon Representatives or http://www.avon.com, Espira for Avon is categorised into three principles of wellness:

  • Restore contains 2 sedatives & sleep aids and 2 multivitamins, with ingredients that help to reduce occasional stress and enhance restful sleep, including Sensoril, L-theanine, vitamin B, magnesium, fish oil + antioxidants from fruits & vegetables
  • Boost is subdivided into Metabolism Boost and Natural Energy products, with ingredients such as protein, probiotic, fibre, green tea, cacao + whole coffee fruit to help maintain a healthy metabolism, clear out the system and control hunger
  • Glow contains 3 health & beauty supplements formulated with antioxidants, biotin, vitamin C + collagen peptides to help hair, skin and nails look their best by protecting from daily damage and restoring cells while you sleep

As with the Amazon Elements range, Avon’s new products will be sold via the e-commerce channel, while the company will also be looking to steal share from multilevel and direct marketers such as Herbalife and Amway.

Self-care in Canada: Meandering Path to New Regulations

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Mathematically, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However, in public policy it is rare to chart such a clear direction. Reading through the “What was Heard” report from Health Canada’s public consultation on self-care regulation, which was conducted online in late 2016, there does not appear to be any real consensus over new proposals for an overhaul of all the regulations for non-prescription medicines, Natural Health Products (NHPs) and cosmetics.

Although the report was completed months ago, it was only released in late March this year, as a backgrounder to a series of town hall style discussions on a more detailed set of changes starting 4th April. While the government has developed a more detailed set of proposals that address some of the concerns set out in the report from last year’s consultation, it would appear that those attending the provincial feedback forums will not have the opportunity to digest these details prior to giving their advice. In fact, one of the key findings of the report was that all stakeholders felt that the original outline lacks enough specificity to make cogent comment.

Reading the report, it is interesting how what was heard may not actually be fully representative of what was said. For example, the report concludes that “many participants in the consultation see considerable value in the clarity that would be provided by a single regulatory approach to all three affected areas” (i.e. cosmetics, NHPs and OTCs). What the data show is that in virtually all stakeholder categories, the support across several key measures was only around 30%. Taken another way, roughly 70% or more of the stakeholders would not be more confident in these proposals.

The report notes that most of the concerns came from the NHP segment. This should not be a surprise since all previous consultations were only about moving OTCs out of the prescription drug regulations. For non-prescription medicines, this was round two of the discussions but for the NHP and cosmetics sectors this was novel territory. The visceral reaction was clear given that the NHP community spent years developing a set of regulations independent from drug classification and achieved it through a parliamentary process. They perceived that rolling all OTCs and NHPs into one single regulation was a step back in time, especially given the tone of the documents about claims-based barriers to market access.

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There weren’t many points where all stakeholders agreed. However, it seems there was a strong consensus that self-care products (OTCs, NHPs and cosmetics) “should not be regulated in the same manner as prescription drugs”. Far from an epiphany, this was the basis for the idea that OTCs should be granted their own regulations outside the prescription regulations, just as NHPs were granted such regulatory status. Cosmetics have never been in the prescription drug framework.

There was no consensus on the specific elements of the new framework. The risk-based approach was supported to the degree that most agreed that “products which pose a greater risk of harm should receive greater scrutiny and be subject to significant requirements”. Where the consensus fell into disarray was around the confusion between evaluating products for their individual risk and categorising products broadly into risk levels. The proposal seemed to set out a lower-risk category where claims would be limited and as such the government would not review and license them for sale. This type of product would be supported by pre-cleared information such as monographs.

The logic suffered in some stakeholders’ view since the model would seem to require lower-risk products to move into higher risk categorisation when clinical data would be provided to create greater confidence in the claims. The report notes that “there is no consensus that the proposed risk-based approach would create more confidence when purchasing self-care products”. In fact, 82% of consumers and healthcare professionals and 93% of cosmetics manufacturers said it would not give them more confidence.

The thought of requiring only “scientific” proof to justify health claims met with resistance from most stakeholders (except the five OTC drug companies). Only 30% of all respondents agreed with this notion and that was not highly differentiated across several segments. The support for stricter reliance on “science” (not defined but often assumed to be clinical trial data) was low with consumers (30%), healthcare professionals (33%), NHP companies (21%) and cosmetics manufacturers (30%). On the other side of the argument, academics and researchers were more supportive (60%).

A concept floated by government was that they would not evaluate and license certain types of products based on the types of claims being made. This was suggested to be accompanied by a disclaimer that Health Canada did not assess the claim. While cosmetics already enjoy a similar notification system, most stakeholders didn’t appear to support adopting a cosmetic-like system for OTCs and NHPs. The report notes that “participants are somewhat divided on the use of a disclaimer on products whose efficacy would not be reviewed”.

Despite the lack of consensus on a disclaimer, there would appear to be acceptance that changes could be made that would “facilitate informed consumer choice”. Some stakeholders have proposed adding labelling statements that would make it clearer when traditional evidence was used to support the claim. This, they feel, would add information that enhances consumer choice.

This consultation elicited a very strong response relative to most government consultations. Perhaps this was influenced by the fact that during the consultation period, Health Canada put out a very strong social media campaign and used traditional media stories to “clarify” some aspects of their proposals. With the communications efforts to ensure that the consultation garnered significant and reasoned responses, it should give some confidence in the results.

Perhaps one of the most telling observations related to the confidence stakeholders would have in the newly designed system. Consumers (78%), healthcare professionals (75%), NHP companies (80%) and cosmetics firms (63%) did not feel more confident with the new proposals. In a similar vein, 82% of consumers didn’t feel that the proposals adequately addressed their needs. The numbers were similar for healthcare professionals (78%), NHP companies (81%) and cosmetics businesses (74%). Only two OTC companies felt that their concerns were addressed.

The report concludes that “there is clearly a need for further detail on the proposed approach so that stakeholders may provide more specific feedback to Health Canada as the framework continues to be developed”. No doubt this is true and, as the government heads into the next phase of face-to face discussions, it would have been helpful to have that kind of detail available before asking stakeholders to respond.

Bion 3 Senior launched in Chile

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Last month, Merck KGaA rolled out Bion 3 Senior in Chile. The product – which contains vitamins B, C + D plus minerals, probiotics and ginseng – is a blend specifically tailored to the needs of people aged over 50 years.

The product has previously been advertised on TV using the slogan, “¡Activa tu vitalidad!” (Activate your vitality!), and has also featured in advertorials explaining how the body’s immune function tends to weaken with age.

The latest ad, which came out earlier this month, features a man restoring a motorbike for his mother, who had to give up doing so herself once her son was born. The ad then says “Los soñadores nunca envejecen. Encuentra tu fuerza interior en bion3.cl/senior”, which translates to, “Dreamers never age. Find your inner strength at bion3.cl/senior”. Followed by “Siempre hay tiempo para tus sueños“, meaning “There’s always time for your dreams”.

Nicholas Hall’s report on Healthy Ageing: The Expanding OTC Market for 50+ Consumers explores the existing market for Healthy Ageing OTCs, as well as identifying opportunities for future growth. Taking a detailed look at OTC offerings for 50+ consumers in 12 key markets across the globe, reviewing key brands, sales and strategies, this exclusive report could be groundbreaking for your OTC marketing scheme. For more details, contact ian.crook@NicholasHall.com or CLICK HERE!

New advice says eat 10 fruit & veg per day

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A study by Imperial College London has suggested we should eat 10 portions of fruit & vegetables a day. The study said that such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year. The study also identified particular fruit & vegetables that reduced the risk of cancer and heart disease.

A portion counts as 80g (3oz) of fruit or vegetables, which is equal to a small banana, a pear, or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas. The findings were based on pooled data on 95 separate studies, involving the eating habits of two million people.

Lower risk of cancer was linked to eating green vegetables such as spinach and kale, yellow vegetables and cauliflower. Lower risk of heart disease and strokes was linked to eating apples, pears, citrus fruits and leafy greens.

The results, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also assessed the risk of dying before your time. Compared with eating no fruit or veg a day, it showed:

  • 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%
  • 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
  • 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%

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The researchers do not know if eating even more fruit & vegetables than the newly suggested 10 portions would have even greater health benefits, as there is little evidence out there to review.

Dr Dagfinn Aune, one of the researchers, said: “Fruit & vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.” He continued: “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold, including many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

However the study also said that the benefits of this would be hard to integrate as many people struggle to even eat the five a day (400g) which is recommended by the World Health Organization. In the UK, only about one in three people eat this recommended portion, showing the huge potential for VMS marketers in terms of targeting their supplements at people that don’t eat their 10 fruit & veg a day.

Vit D may prevent cold & flu

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“The sunshine vitamin”, also known as vitamin D, is vital for healthy bones and a strong immune system, says an analysis published in the British Medical Journal. This study also suggests that foods should be fortified with the vitamin.

Public Health England (PHE), however, argues that the infections data is not conclusive, although it does recommend the supplements to improve bone and muscle health.

According to the research, the immune system uses vitamin D to make antimicrobial weapons that puncture holes in bacteria and viruses. As vitamin D is made in the skin while out in the sun, many people, particularly in the UK, have low levels during colder seasons.

Trials on using supplements to prevent infections have so far given varied results, so researchers pooled data on 11,321 people from 25 separate trials to try to gain a more conclusive result. The team at Queen Mary University of London looked at respiratory tract infections, which covers a wide range of illnesses from a runny nose to flu to pneumonia.

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The study overall said one person would be spared infection for every 33 taking vitamin D supplements. That is more effective than a flu vaccination, which needs to treat 40 to prevent one case, although flu is far more serious than the common cold.

There were more beneficial results for those taking pills daily or weekly, rather than in monthly super-doses and in people who were lacking vitamin D in the first place. The main purpose of vitamin D supplements is to normalise the level of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are crucial for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

In extreme cases, low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children, where the bones become soft and weak and, in some cases, misshapen as they continue to grow. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which leads to severe bone pain and muscle aches.

One of the researchers taking party in the study, Professor Adrian Martineau, commented: “Assuming a UK population of 65 million, and that 70% have at least one acute respiratory infection each year, then daily or weekly vitamin D supplements will mean 3.25 million fewer people would get at least one acute respiratory infection a year.”

For more vitamin D developments, please follow this link.

Cognitive Boost For Children Whose Mothers Take Supplements In Pregnancy

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Maternal multi-micronutrient (MMN) supplementation during pregnancy could drastically improve cognitive ability in children, reports a study published on 17th January in The Lancet Global Health. This may be apparent in children between the ages of 9 to 12 years.

The Summit Institute of Development research team led a follow-up study involving 2,879 schoolchildren in Indonesia whose mothers were supplemented with MMN or iron + folic acid (IFA) in the Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients Intervention Trial (2001-2004).

SID’s initial research was conducted with 31,290 pregnant women on Lombok Island. The women were selected randomly to receive multi-micronutrient supplements.

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The CEO of SID, Mandri Apriatni, commented: “Results of our initial research showed there had been an 18 percent decrease in infant mortality rates each year among mothers who had taken multi-micronutrient supplements during their pregnancy, much lower compared to those who only received iron and folate acid supplementation.”

In the follow up-study that saw children complete cognitive tests over a two-year period, researchers observed better procedural memory in MMN children vs IFA children. The difference between the two corresponded with the increase associated with an additional half-year of schooling.

Children of anaemic mothers in the MMN group scored considerably higher in general intellectual competence, equivalent to the increase associated with an additional full year of schooling. Overall, there was a positive coefficient of MMN vs IFA in 18 / 21 tests.

Vit D shows metabolic syndrome benefits

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It is well known to some that a diet high in fat can trigger a metabolic syndrome; a group of symptoms that pose as risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Scientists have now discovered that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for this syndrome in mice, with primary disturbances in gut bacteria.

If these findings can be validated in humans, sunbathing and vitamin D supplements may be affordable approaches to improve or even prevent metabolic syndrome.

“Based on this study, we believe that keeping vitamin D levels high, either through sun exposure, diet or supplementation, is beneficial for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome,” says Professor Stephen Pandol, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA, who collaborated with Yuan-Ping Han’s research group at Sichuan University, China in the study.

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Metabolic syndrome affects nearly one-fourth of the world’s adult population. Characteristic symptoms include obesity around the waistline and at least two of the following: high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure or high cholesterol; sufferers also typically have excess fat in their liver.

Vitamin D deficiency decreases the production of defensins, which are antimicrobial molecules essential to maintain healthy gut flora. As expected, an oral supply of a synthetic defensin recovers gut bacteria balance, decreases blood sugar levels and improves fatty liver.

In summary, a high fat diet alone is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome but ultimately it is needed in combination with vitamin D deficiency.

Natural products tipping into mainstream

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A lollapalooza of healthy food, home care, beauty and health & wellness brands were promoted by 2,000 exhibitors at last week’s Natural Products Expo East, held in Baltimore, MD.

But which products are most relevant to mainstream consumers? Eric Pierce, Director, Strategy & Insights, New Hope Network, presented data from the NEXT Trend Concept Lab that used data to predict which natural product innovations are tipping into the mainstream consumer channel:

  • “Mission-based” brands
  • Pre/probiotics
  • Local sourcing
  • Paleo
  • “Hidden veggies”
  • Brain health
  • Compostable packaging
  • Grass-fed dairy

The partnership between Vitamin Angels, which supplies vitamins to undernourished people worldwide, and Walgreens, which donates vitamins based on consumer brand selection, is a great example of the tip towards “mission-based” brands. Walgreens is also donating immunisation to underserved communities when people get their flu shots in the pharmacy. Another trend that has tipped is probiotics, already a mainstream OTC category, and every week more scientific proof of their benefits is published.

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But what about “hidden veggies” for parents trying to appease picky eaters? Can mainstream OTCs provide the nutritional benefits of greens? There were many drinks, sachets and capsules offering several servings of vegetables at the show.

Brain health has proven a challenging claim, in terms of demonstrable and clinical efficacy. Which consumer healthcare player (or start-up) will meet the brain claim challenge?

Compostable packaging may be the gold standard, but without a doubt mainstream marketers can adopt more eco-friendly attire for their brands. This will increasingly appeal to all consumers.

Local sourcing, grass-fed dairy and Paleo (based on the diet regimen) are of course trends in food, but the “clean” philosophy that underpins these trends is being adopted by consumers in all lifestyle segments, including supplements.

These trends are tipping to the mainstream now … will your brand meet consumer demand for healthy and sustainable healthcare products?

Military Potential of Omega-3

A new study will determine if omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive processes in high-performing soldiers.

Military interest in omega-3 is not new; a 2014 edition of Military Medicine focused on the fatty acids as “nutritional armour”. The interest surrounding military use of omega-3 is mainly related to its reported indication of mood improvement, and possibly reducing suicide rates among serving and ex-military personnel. It is also believed that a faster recovery from traumatic brain injury and the improved reaction times of fighter pilots could also be other benefits found from consistent omega-3 use.

Furthering ongoing studies, a new study is set to officially determine whether omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive processes in high-performing soldiers. The Ranger Resilience and improved performance on Phospholipid bound Omega-3s (RRIPP-3) study will be conducted by the medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and will include second lieutenants entering the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course (IBOLC) and subsequent Ranger Training at Fort Benning.

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The purpose of the study is to investigate whether supplementation with krill oil concentrate can improve specific cognitive processes that underpin key elements of soldier performance, which may have a measurable impact on performance and mental health under psychophysiological stress of military officer training.

This will be an extension of a study recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders which outlined that omega-3 could potentially help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is known to produce psychophysiological symptoms such as a pounding heart.

The study will overall seek to answer three questions:

  • Will treatment with krill oil concentrate containing the omega-3 HUFAs improve cognitive and psychiatric functioning during US Army Infantry Basic Office Leadership Course?
  • Will treatment with krill oil concentrate containing the omega-3 HUFAs improve the performance of officers during portions of the U.S Army Infantry Basic Office Leadership Course and Ranger Training?
  • Do the effects of the supplements continue once a person stops taking them? Are there any group differences in functioning observed two months after treatment is discontinued (i.e. after Ranger Training?)

Vit D recommended for all

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A report by a committee of independent nutrition experts has recommended that everyone in the UK should take vitamin D supplements. This has been advised despite the initial thought that only certain groups of the population should take the supplement.

The new guidance advice, which applies to England and Wales, suggests that everyone over the age of four should take 10mcg of vitamin D everyday. The guidance advice also suggests that during the chillier seasons this is particularly advised.

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The report strongly suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women, people from ethnic minority groups with dark skin, elderly people in care homes and those who wear clothing that covers a majority of the skin, should take 10mcg of vitamin D everyday all year round.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) looked at the issue and decided that, to ensure a majority of the population has enough vitamin D in their blood all year round, daily intake is advisable.

For pregnant women and some children up to and including the age of four, the supplements will be free under the government’s ‘Healthy Start’ scheme. The Department of Health will now have to decide whether to fund free supplements for other groups of the population.

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels of the vitamin in their bodies.