From the editor's desk

Finding gratitude in the midst of crisis

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19

In this time of doubt there is much to be grateful for in the dietary supplement industry, and much to be personally thankful for as well.

There hasn’t been much good news in the current crisis. The federal response to this crisis seems unfocused to say the least, which has left states scrambling to secure their own medical supplies and organize their own responses to the pandemic.  And the there has been a welter of conflicting information from health authorities and social media influencers.  Is six feet enough social distance?  Or, if you’re out running in the park, is twelve better?  Are masks really effective, or merely a psychological balm?  It’s an unsettling scenario for many Americans. Is anyone really in charge?

No treatment beyond trying to stay healthy

This leaves citizens grasping at any aid that can bolster their family’s health and well being during this period.  One response, I’m sorry to say, has been surging sales of guns and ammo.

But on a more positive note, recent data shows that Americans are more focused than ever before on self care.  Most consumers seem to have gotten the message by now that there is no specific treatment for this disease.  That would include in the natural products arena, whatever some passionate advocates (Charlatans? You decide) might have to say about their particular ingredient.

So the message is that consumers will have to do whatever they can to be as healthy as they can so that their own bodies can form a strong line of defense against an ultimate infection. This has led to unprecedented rises in demand for any sort of dietary supplement ingredient that has an immunity tie in, such as Vitamin C, elderberry, mushroom ingredients, general multivitamins, astragalus, echinacea, etc. 

Lots of new buyers

And early data returns indicate many of the people buying up these supplements are new buyers. So the industry has a really unprecedented opportunity to influence an entire new cadre of consumers all at once.  Think of it as a Dr Oz effect on steroids.

But unlike the Dr Oz bubbles from back in the day, this one appears to have legs. In recent days reports have circulated form some health experts that a ‘new normal’ might not be seen until 2022.  It’s likely that rather than being a ‘bubble,’ this growth surge will look more like the shoulder of a long rise on the sales growth chart. 

Assuming the products that are flying off the shelves are well made and are making responsible claims, we find ourselves then in an industry that is in high demand and has chance to support the health of millions of Americans.  Supplement use had already been trending up before this crisis, and it will be an even more firmly entrenched part of American life after it.  

Considering the cataclysms that have decimated other industries (airliners grounded; cruise ships rusting in port; gyms, bars, restaurants and music venues shuttered) the dietary supplement industry is a very good place to be at the moment.

I don’t mean to sound smug, nor to make light of the truly grave spot many business owners, individuals and families find themselves in. I have many friends scattered among the industries mentioned above, and I grieve for their distress. But I have made many friends in the dietary supplement industry, too, and I’m grateful that they all have good near term prospects.

New start in new industry

I’m personally grateful, too, that I have landed in this industry.  As I have mentioned before in this space, I came to the media end of the dietary supplements and natural products industry a decade ago from the daily newspaper business.​  That industry took a body blow in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and the developing pandemic depression phase we’re entering now will probably be the coup de grace for many struggling publications. 

So I know what it’s like to be in an industry that is failing, one that no longer seems to fit the market.  To be on a ship that’s sinking where no one knows how to plug the leak. 

I’m grateful not just to be employed, but to be working in an industry that is actively trying to support consumers’ health.  In this era when consumers are seeking reassurance, it feels pretty good to be in an industry that’s providing some of that.  Now the trick will be to try to make sure we stay on the right side of the messaging line, and don’t become one of the sources of misinformation that is contributing to people’s unease and fear.

Related topics: People

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