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Amidst Economic Woes, Natural Business Sustains Blows

Natural health supplements Cuts in Insurance, Healthcare, Propel Consumers Toward Natural Health Alternatives 

You’d have to be living under a rock or locked away in a Wal-Mart or McDonalds – two of the select few companies unaffected by the recession – to not know the economy is in rough shape these days. Everything appears to be down and out, with workers receiving severe cuts in pay and hours, cuts aplenty in health benefits and insurance coverage and

businesses reporting significant losses after years of gains (like Sony, which is likely to report its first loss in operation profits since 1995). 

One company particularly close to my heart that’s suffered something of a hit is Whole Foods Market. While there haven’t been any sudden shutdowns in any of the 39 states that have a Whole Foods Market – at least none that I know of – their rate of sales has sustained a pretty significant hit, earning about half a percent less compared to last year’s fourth quarter earnings. That may not sound like much, but last year’s fourth quarter earnings increased 6 percent compared to fourth quarter earnings in 2006.But in a world mired in bad economic news, there is some good news to report: Whole Foods Market stock price increased about 23 percent recently after word that Los Angeles-based billionaire Ronald Burkle purchased an almost 10 percent stake in Whole Foods Markets. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, number 307 on Forbes’ Magazine’s Top 400 Billionaires said he believed Whole Foods Markets stock prices was undervalued.

His belief is right on target, because while some Whole Foods Markets stores may be struggling, their herbal market is in great shape. A spokesperson for Whole Foods Markets told MSNBC.com that sales for herbal supplements have been quite brisk over the past few weeks, despite the downturn in the economy and the dour unemployment numbers released for the month of December. An Associated Press review of the healthful numbers illustrate what I mean, as their research indicates Whole Markets’ revenue for vitamins and supplements has increased 10 percent compared to the same period last year (ending Dec. 28 2008), and there’s been a 5 percent increase in botanical supplement sales in 2007 compared to the same period in 2006. This is noteworthy because the current recession began in late 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

What explains Whole Food Markets’ growth in sales? Ironically enough, the inexpensive cost of Whole Foods Markets’ products.

I say “ironically” because natural foods and supplements have gained the reputation of being overpriced – some going so far as to refer to Whole Foods Markets as “Whole Pay Check.” But more and more consumers are opting for natural health alternatives in place of pharmaceuticals because they’re at bargain basement prices compared to the arm and leg pharmaceutical drugs cost…even with insurance!

Another reason for herbal supplements increasing popularity is they simply work just as well as pharmaceuticals do, minus the side effects. The National Institute of Health doesn’t think so, saying “their effectiveness is often lacking” and that they don’t undergo the same kind of “rigorous testing” that pharmaceuticals go through.

Really? Tell that to all the people that took the “rigorously tested” Vioxx, or the “rigorously tested” Prempro, or the “rigorously tested” Celebrex, or the “rigorously tested” Zelnorm. I’m guessing they’ll have a different take on just how “rigorously” those drugs were tested.

The fact is people would not be going to alternative health sources if they didn’t work. Yes, there are some alternative health business charlatans – quacks, if you will – that fill their products with junk and label them “alternative” or “natural” so they can fill their coffers. But ask anyone who regularly takes quality natural health supplements – many of which can be found here –and they’ll tell you what a rip off the pharmaceutical industry is and how they’ll never again pay the ridiculous prices they charge.

The economy will get better – it always does. This isn’t the first time the country’s gone through a recession and it won’t be the last (unfortunately).

In the meantime, it’s good to know that the natural food business isn’t taking too serious a blow. In fact, relative to other businesses, it’s thriving! Let’s keep it that way.

Sources:
Los Angeles Times
msnbc

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