Three industry experts gave their observations regarding the matter during the recently concluded Natural Products Expo West show in California.
For Mark Blumenthal, the founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, the current growth follows an upward trend in the botanicals industry for the past two decades. "Consistently we’ve had 7.5% to 7.7% growth hitting the $7 billion mark around 2015, exceeding $7 billion in 2016," he added. "And that’s just looking at the retail sales for herbal supplements. It does not include the herbal tea market, it does not include herbals that are used in cosmetics and other consumer products."
In the group's latest market report, published in HerbalGram, sales for turmeric- and curcumin-based products led the charge with a total market growth of over 85 percent and $22 million in retail sales. The report also revealed that search engine queries for "turmeric" had spiked by as much as 300 percent.
His opinion was echoed by Pierce Sioussat, president of Bioforce USA. Looking at the growth rate of the herbal industry, Sioussat noted a "substantial increase" in usage in the last 20 years.
The increased interest in herbal products in the U.S., according to Graham Rigby, chief innovation officer at Organic India, is the result of increased consumer awareness, which allowed the industry to break through the market with ease. Millennials, in particular, have driven the growth of the industry for the last year, with purchases exceeding other age generations. "We certainly see Americans starting to look for other ways to support their health and in different forms, not just pills but in teas, beverages, and powders—and people are looking at herbs to support their health and wellness," he added. (Related: Herbal medicine saves lives, lifts villages out of poverty.)
However, this increase comes with a caveat, according to Sioussat, as the market can be blindsided with the "latest, hottest, newest, and most interesting thing." He added that for certain products, especially those that have clinical substantiation for efficacy and safety, it's important that these are properly communicated. If this isn't done well, "all these hot, new, interesting products with not much substantiation may eat into sales of [established products]."
According to a separate report from the Market Research Reports Search Engine (MRRSE), the global market for herbal medicinal products is looking at sustained increases as well, thanks to increasing awareness and a growing target market. This change in perception can be attributed to a global health and wellness trend, which has seen significant traction in many herbal and organic products. Herbal medicines, in particular, have long been thought of as "alternative medicine," but with cases of adverse reactions to conventional medication, it has seen increased demand in recent years.
Interestingly, the report also cited lifestyle disorders as another factor for the uptick in global demand. In particular, those that treat conditions that come from sedentary work as those that have gained momentum; some examples include herbal treatments for pain, arthritis, stress, and anxiety. Skin-based herbal treatments have also been affected by this trend. Access to these products has also become much easier, with online channels offering a wide range of products.
This windfall is especially beneficial to traditional Ayurvedic products, the study revealed, as recent years have shown increased acceptance of traditional practices such as mindfulness and meditation in Western countries.