Uncovering strategic business opportunities for Natural Products

Figure 2: Global naturals market broken down by category – MAT Q2 2023 (Source: IQVIA Global OTC Insights)

This is being reflected in how consumer health brands are innovating, with manufacturers increasingly embracing science-based natural solutions to drive growth. This strategy is crucial in providing consumers with effective options for both the prevention and maintenance of their health. Leading brands are adopting this approach by:

  • Investing in new brands with natural offerings (e.g., GaviNatura™, Reckitt Benckiser) or identifying natural alternatives to drug products (e.g., VoltaNatura™, Haleon) and thus maintaining brands medicated heritage.
  • Reinvigorating well stablished herbal brands (e.g., Iberogast™, Bayer) or focusing on specific new ingredients such as CBD (e.g., RubaXX™, PharmaSGP GmbH) by levering natural brand assets to stretch into new indications and/or ingredient play.
  • Complementing offerings with food supplement products with natural/herbal ingredients (e.g., AllerLife™, Chattem – A Sanofi Company) to answer consumer needs and long-term solutions to support health.

Unlocking the Power of Nature: Scientific Validation and Expert Insights for Innovating Herbal Health Products

To develop a robust product offering in the naturals space it is paramount that the selected natural ingredients are supported by scientific evidence. So, conducting scientific review of natural ingredients and having it validated by subject matter experts is key.

Unlike most synthetic APIs which usually consist of single substances with a well-known mechanism of action, natural ingredients of which herbal extracts play a key role, are a complex mixture of multiple substances and constituents which may have a synergetic effect on physiological systems. Therefore, herbal products may have a broader range of effects and interactions than synthetic APIs which may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context and dosage.

When dealing with natural ingredients, specifically herbal extracts, it is important to have in mind that the evidence available is usually for non-standardize extracts which brings another level of complexity when scientifically evaluating such ingredients.

Herbal extracts are influenced by a range of factors such as plant source material, collection locations and time of the year, extraction method, purification, and standardization of the herbal material. All these components have an impact on the final herbal extract composition, its quality and efficacy. Nevertheless, herbals have a long history of traditional use which may provide some evidence on their safety and efficacy, especially for traditional or well-established herbal medicinal products.

Pressing need for more robust evidence

The existing body of scientific research on natural products is, at present, basic. There is a pressing need for more robust and comprehensive evidence development, particularly for well-defined natural products. Enhancing the scientific substantiation of these products will not only reinforce their credibility but also offer consumer health brands a significant competitive advantage and a unique point of differentiation in the market.

Another critical point to consider is the regulatory landscape. In general, regulatory scrutiny is increasing globally so having claims that are supported by science is a must. Consumer health products encompass many regulatory categories (e.g., herbal drugs, food supplements, medical devices) with evolving guidelines for each, often varying by country or region. So, having a clear understanding of the regulatory environment and having claims supported by evidence is a must.

Uncover and understand consumer needs

In the realm of herbal and natural consumer health products, aligning product development with consumer needs is of crucial importance. This approach extends beyond the traditional boundaries of product formulation, packaging, and marketing, venturing into the territory of scientific research and evidence gathering.

The consumer experience, their preferences, and expectations play a pivotal role in shaping the scientific inquiry and validation of new product claims and benefits. When it comes to herbal products, consumers are increasingly discerning, seeking transparency, authenticity, and evidence of efficacy. They value products derived from natural sources and are keenly aware of the health and environmental implications of their choices, thus, in developing new scientific evidence for these products, it is essential to consider these consumer priorities – such as:

  • Source of the herbal ingredients – their origin, the methods of cultivation, and the sustainability of these practices. They are also concerned about the purity and potency of these ingredients, preferring products that are free from unnecessary additives and preservatives.
  • Cultural and historical context of herbal remedies – This often resonates with consumers, providing a narrative that goes beyond the physical product. Therefore, when developing scientific evidence for herbal products, it is not just about proving efficacy in a clinical sense. It is about weaving the consumer’s values and expectations into the research process. This means conducting studies that not only validate the health benefits but also address consumer concerns about sustainability, sourcing, and ethical practices. By doing so, consumer health brands can create products that are not only scientifically sound but also deeply aligned with what is important to their consumers, thereby fostering a stronger connection and trust with their market.

Understanding the herbals and naturals landscape

The final, yet equally vital, component in orchestrating a successful product launch in the herbal and natural products space, lies in comprehensively understanding the competitive landscape. This understanding is not merely about recognizing current competitors; it involves a strategic analysis of the market size, potential areas for competitive differentiation, and a clear identification of both success and risk factors associated with entering or expanding in this space.

An accurate estimation of the market size, often referred to as ‘the size of the prize’, is essential. It involves analyzing current market trends, consumer behaviors, and future projections to gauge the potential revenue and growth opportunities in the herbal product sector. This analysis must be deep and broad, considering not just the immediate market but also potential shifts and emerging trends that could influence market dynamics in the future.

In addition to market size, identifying avenues for competitive differentiation is crucial. In a market saturated with myriad health products, what makes a particular brand or product stand out? This could involve unique formulations, innovative delivery systems, superior efficacy, or alignment with consumer values such as sustainability and ethical sourcing. Differentiation also extends to branding and marketing strategies that resonate with target audiences.

Understanding success factors is also key. What has worked for successful brands in this space? This could include effective supply chain management, strong retailer relationships, aggressive and savvy marketing tactics, or a robust online presence. Conversely, recognizing potential risks – such as regulatory challenges, shifts in consumer preferences, or supply chain disruptions – and developing strategies to mitigate these risks is equally important.

Therefore, a thorough grasp of these various elements – market size, differentiation opportunities, success factors, and potential risks – forms a foundational pillar in supporting a successful product launch. It enables brands to navigate the complex and competitive terrain of the herbal and natural health products market with greater confidence and strategic insight.

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