The best performances have come from garlic and single supplements ­ B vitamins, vitamin C and antioxidant vitamin E ­ as customers more judiciously buy into supplements seen as building blocks of nutrition. Phil Brand, corporate communications manager for Intercal, manufacturer of the Ester-C supplement, explains: "People are becoming much more aware of their particular dietary deficiencies and supplement accordingly."
For grocers, however, herbal medicines have been a much harder nut to crack.
Although sales over the past year increased by an impressive 39%, grocers still only account for 20% of total herbal supplement sales, and there is much hope pinned on the fact that the forthcoming European directive on traditional use products will pave the way for a much simpler and, therefore, more lucrative marketplace.
The sector's potential has been hampered by a lack of product licensing and, therefore, the products' ability to make specific health claims. Around 80% of herbal remedies on sale in the UK are unlicensed, giving the public very little in the way of guaranteed effectiveness. As Tony Hampson, md of supplier Potter says: "The good products will spend the money and make a claim, and the others will simply vanish."
Tesco has linked up with complementary therapy retailer and information centre The Nutri Centre to develop customer information and advice lines, and training for staff. Asda does what it can to boost sales by providing PoS and information but admits more product licences and pharmacists to give out advice will do much to improve grocery's hand.