Body aches, fever, chills, runny nose, scratchy throat. These are few of our least favorite things! There are few things that can take a person down faster than a cold or the flu. Although, no matter how badly someone might want to take pill and be back on their feet – spoiler alert – there is really no magic bullet to treat the common cold or influenza. That is not to say there is nothing you can do. In recent years, natural remedies that help strengthen the immune system to easing symptoms of a cold or flu have swarmed the U.S. market. Consumers want a natural immunity system boost as they connect the dots between hectic stressful lifestyles, poor diet, aging and antibiotic use. According to IRI/SPINS data, better-for-you cold and flu remedies in the natural retail channel were up nearly 6 percent in 2018. This is at least double the growth rate of cold and flu treatments in other channels, outpacing the conventional segment. The market’s temperature for kids’ herbal formulas, single herb products for colds and flu, homeopathic remedies, and prebiotics and probiotics is rising with more than 20 percent growth over the 2018-19 flu season. As consumers embrace natural wellness, retailers have a solid opportunity to help them take a preventive and strategic stand against colds and flu all year long. This can include helping families build a strong immune system as well as preparing for the inevitability of that sore throat or the first sign of body aches, using products across a multitude of categories. Go with the gut The best approach is to build a strong immune system is a diet with ample vitamins and nutrients, supplementation, regular exercise, and adequate rest. Research now points to a balanced gut, or microbiome, with adequate probiotics and prebiotics, is central to good health and proper immune function. When the gut is not functioning properly, it can lead to inflammation which hinders the body’s ability to fight the bacterial trespassers that cause colds and flu. Seven to nine servings of healthy green vegetables and fruits, is a great first step. Those leafy greens mom always said to eat provide important fiber to help healthy gut bacteria thrive. Since most people don’t get enough of these foods, a daily boost of probiotics and prebiotics in supplements or powder form can make a big difference. Powdered drink mixes with added protein, probiotics and prebiotics in a smoothie with added fruits and leafy greens is a great way to get those daily servings and give the microbiome a real boost. A natural medicine cabinet Beyond an overall wellness plan, it is also not a bad idea to have a specific cold and flu season strategy that includes taking vitamins and minerals and keeping other immune boosters on hand for the first signs of the sniffles. Alternative practitioners tend to agree that in addition to a healthy, nutrient-filled diet, certain botanicals, vitamins and minerals can help reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu, but many are most effective in the early stages.  It is now easier than ever to incorporate these into a diet with so many brands finding ways to innovate age-old remedies. Consumers can turn to anything from immune support teas to vitamin packed chocolates for an added dose of cold or flu prevention. Supporting sinuses And then, if the nose needs some help, a saltwater rinse or saline spray can help thin out the congestion to ease breathing and relieve sinus headache and pressure. Over the counter washes are the easiest way to go, but purists may want to make their own contaminant-free version using distilled or boiled water, non-iodized salt and baking soda. A bulb syringe or neti pot, a small container with a long spout, can be used with this solution to flush out sinus passages gently. Ultimately, preventing and treating colds and flu naturally does take some work and a little patience too. Helping customers embrace a healthy lifestyle that leads to fewer colds and less flu as well as be prepared for when cold or flu does strike, not only makes for happier, healthier customers, it makes good business sense. Beyond Pills Consumers are now looking for novel ways to boost their immunity and retailers have a great opportunity to promote the immune boosting power of products beyond pills and capsules to sachets and even ice pops. Here are some ways to merchandise new products for cold and flu season support:
  • Call out high-omega-3 containing cold water fish in the seafood case as great for support of healthy immune function.
  • Showcase shots featuring juice, herbs and spices for immune health in the refrigerated section.
  • Highlight the immune defending power of probiotics in the yogurt case.
  • Host a lecture with local alternative practitioners to explain the benefits of herbs and nutrients in food and supplements for prevention or go digital and take the discussion online to social media!