Health Foods Business, October 1985
The health food stories are perfectly positioned to deliver the future promise of nutritional supplements to those in need. But…it is mandatory that the industry build bridges with the medical community…
The first phase of the American health food revolution surprised many, including myself. Armed with the conviction that what we eat is important, a handful of pioneers in this field soon discovered the public agreed with this belief. As a result, a new industry was born, characterized by a breathtakingly rapid growth. Yet the major portion of the medical and scientific communities remained aloof-showing not only little interest, but oftentimes, disdain. The reasons for this phenomenon are complex and will be- discussed in future columns.
Recently, however, a “pause” in the growth of this industry became evident despite the fact that drug and food chains were entering the field, which normally would have significantly increased health food consumption. This plateau, according to certain experts, signifies “market saturation.” One wise veteran of the business stated, “This is it! Now it is a question of who markets best to get the bigger pieces of the fixed pie.” I do not agree!
Few realize that we have already entered the second phase of the health food revolution. Within three to five years, this phase will be- quite evident; and within a decade, it will dominate the industry. According to one’s mentality, this can present either a threat or an opportunity. From a personal point of view, I believe it could be the beginning of one of the most exciting periods in American medicine. Why? It’s simple: Because of new technology.
There is little doubt that natural substances, both so-called “nutritional” substances such as vitamins and minerals and so-called “drug” substances such as insulin and digitalis, hold the keys to everyone’s survival. The problem has been we could never isolate most of them in sufficient quantities to give us a biological boost. The diet can only provide what the stomach can hold. Because of the recognized limitations of diets, we turned to nutritional supplements in order to deliver more vitamin C or vitamin A to achieve a beneficial result. But we were not, and still are not, able to produce most of nature’s dietary substances in large amounts.
But this will change rapidly. Recent technology, ranging from genetic engineering to increased fermentation know-how, will begin to provide us with large amounts of a wide variety of natural substances, nutrients and others, the results of which will, in my opinion, surprise us all. In addition, because of the sheer magnitude of the promise of these nutrients, the government will dramatically diminish the regulations which prohibit labeling on these substances. Recent unfettered promotion of calcium for the treatment of osteoporosis and fiber for the prevention of colonic cancer are exemplary harbingers of this change.
These harbingers also are signals that the health food industry must prepare itself to join this revolution. The health food stores are perfectly positioned to deliver the future promise of nutritional supplements to those in need. But let there be no doubt that it is mandatory that the industry build bridges with the medical community in order to effectively enter and properly deliver the promise of the second phase of the health food revolution.
With proper understanding and planning, it can be done. It will be a challenging period for all involved.