UNPA’s Israelsen: ‘We’ve had a good six weeks, but consumers have used some of their last spending power to buy supplements’

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags coronavirus Dietary supplements DSHEA Cbd UNPA

While dietary supplement sales have surged in recent months, the extent of the economic damage caused by the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 could lead to some very tough quarters as families and businesses start to run out of money.

So said Loren Israelsen during a video interview with NutraIngredients-USA.

“What’s on everyone’s mind is that we’re working through the first phase of the coronavirus – something that none of us have been through before – when and how bad is the economic damage?” ​asked Israelsen.

“We’ve had a good six weeks, ten weeks. The problem is that a whole lot of businesses are running out of money, as are families and individuals. They’re burning off their last reserves and unless the Federal Government is able to provide any lifeline money.

“I’m very concerned that a lot of the players in our industry that are suffering on the edge, can they survive?

“What about our consumer base? I think they’ve used some of their last spending power to buy our products. People are running out of money, and so we could hit some very, very tough quarters.”


UNPA has been working with other trade organizations​ in the space to allow consumers to use tax advantaged medical savings accounts to be used for the purchase of dietary supplements.

“It seems pretty obvious that if you ask the average consumer who has an HAS card, “how would you like to spend some of that money?” Given what we’ve seen and the strong demand for supplements, people would vote overwhelmingly to use some of that money to buy supplements of their choice,” ​said Israelsen.

UNPA, along with the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Health Products Association, and the Council for Responsible Nutrition, have written to the IRS asking for a change of policy.

“This does not require legislation, this is really an IRS-base decision and we think that the public would very much want some of that right of choice. We hope that the IRS will take this seriously and engage in the conversation.

“We’re not expecting that we’re going to get to the top of the list, but this will be one of those things that we’ll want to add to the post-coronavirus DSHEA 2.0 conversation, which I think will evolve and this will be exactly the kind of issues that would arise.”


Speaking of DSHEA 2.0, we asked Israelsen, who was a key architect of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, if the current crisis and the emerging data that shows the importance of nutritional status in coronavirus outcomes (and the increasing acceptance of this by the medical community) could influence any future DSHEA 2.0 conversations.

“We’re in the middle of the fight of our lives. Part of me says that the evidence is strong that a strong immune system, which is a function of good nutrition, all of the lifestyle choices and habits that people make, all of that is self-evident, but to me it feels to me that the national and global priority is a vaccine as well as pharmaceutical interventions,”​ said Israelsen.

“We need to find a way to add our voice. The front end of all of this is that we need a healthy population that is more resistant to the ravages of something like coronavirus. I’m a little concerned that if so many voices jump in that there would be some accusation of charlatanism, claims that are clearly over the top don’t help us, but we need to make a case. That’s obvious.”

CBD & China

Israelsen also shared his thoughts on where the CBD conversation is currently, how the crisis is refining UNPA’s China strategy.

Watch the full video above for all of Loren Israelsen’s comments.

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