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In the natural channel, elderberry has grown in sales to surpass other well-known immune-support ingredients such as echinacea and vitamin C.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a rising star in the natural retail channel. In the natural channel, elderberry has grown in sales to surpass other well-known immune-support ingredients such as echinacea and vitamin C. According to SPINS, during the 52 weeks ending November 4, 2018, sales of elderberry in the U.S. natural channel grew by 82.2% to reach $20,215,212. In the U.S. conventional multioutlet channel, however, elderberry sales still did not yet surpass echinacea, horehound, or vitamin C-but elderberry sales did show the biggest growth in that channel, growing 103.9% to reach $30,875,960. The American Botanical Council’s latest HerbalGram Herb Market Report published in September of 2018 attributed increases in sales of elderberry in 2017 to the higher-than-average number of flu-like illnesses in the U.S. from December 2016 to March 2017. Leslie J. Gallo, vice president of operations and sales for elderberry supplier Artemis International (Fort Wayne, IN), says that the higher frequency of flu-like illnesses continues to have a positive correlation with elderberry sales.
“While elderberry has had a strong following in the complementary and alternative medicine and naturopathic community for many years, it was the 2018 flu season-or as many termed it, an epidemic-that helped to propel elderberry onto the global radar and raised consumer awareness,” explains Gallo. She posits: “A surge in media coverage of the flu coupled with a significant shortage of [flu medication] Tamiflu brought elderberry to the forefront of products recommended during flu season. So far this flu season, manufacturers and retailers are adjusting from the lessons learned in 2018 with increases in both internal and retailer inventory.”
Renewed awareness of elderberry is encouraging brands to revisit their elderberry product lines and even develop new elderberry products in anticipation of the upcoming winter season. “Leading brands have, in some cases, enhanced their product line and expanded and promoted elderberry much more aggressively,” continues Gallo. “Even the big box stores are jumping on the elderberry bandwagon and developing elderberry-based immune/flu syrups and gummies for their brand.”
While best known for its immune-supporting properties, elderberry is a versatile ingredient whose use is not limited to cold syrups. Renewed interest in the ingredient may in fact open doors to a wide gamut of elderberry products. “For a lot of our customers, they’re looking for something novel and different than just capsules and tablets,” explains Melanie Bush, science director of Artemis International. “Those products will always have a home base, but really innovation and creativity seem the way that we’re going right now. We’re incorporating elderberry, for example, in chocolates, in lollipops, in different types of deliveries that are crossing over into the functional food realm, because we see that’s where the demand of the consumer is. They want to have the health benefits of these ingredients but in a more fun, palatable way.”
Novel elderberry product formulations also open the ingredient up to a larger consumer base, which is clamoring for immune-health support. According to SPINS, “cold and flu” was the number-one health focus in the multioutlet retail channel and the number-two focus in the natural channel. Consumers are always looking for ways to fortify their immune system, and by offering elderberry in functional foods and beverages, elderberry can act as a preventative product rather than a cold syrup-including for children.
“Different ways to deliver healthy functionality is something we’re getting daily questions about from our customers,” says Bush. “We’re just encouraging our customers to be creative, to embrace where possible in their product line and their mission different ways to reach consumers so that everyone can benefit from these ingredients.” For example, she says, children and seniors often have trouble swallowing capsules, and thus gummy manufacturers may also find opportunities in elderberry. “The more diverse the applications, the deliveries, the better,” Bush advises.
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