The U.S. is not facing a depression today, but the feeling of fear is just as palpable. And many are exploiting that fear to motivate consumers, write scary news teasers, sell products, or worse, send people to war.
So what are people worried about today? A short list would probably include terrorism, finances, identity theft, global warming, the food supply and health. Yet while fear prompts people to hold back on some purchases, it also motivates them to spend money too. (Consider the money spent on supplements because consumers fear treating/preventing ailments with expensive drugs that have undesirable side effects.)
If you think about it, most of the marketing and promotion of products geared toward health play on some element of fear. Over the years pharmaceutical companies have had to change their tactics due to the finite "sick" population by marketing products to the "worried well." Consider the "death marketing" of pharmaceutical companies and you know what I mean-pharmaceutical companies have literally scared millions of consumers into buying drugs for diseases they just named yesterday.
What about dietary supplement and functional food companies? Are they innocent in this respect? In most cases, dietary supplements and functional foods are based on the very tenet that taking them can reduce the risk of illness or disease-it is a fear-based approach. Some companies even go as far as to publicly exploit the shortcomings of pharmaceutical products (i.e., they have too many side effects, they only treat the symptoms rather than the cause, they cause death, etc.)
Wikipedia defines fear as a powerful, unpleasant feeling of risk or danger, either real or imagined; fear serves as motivation to escape to safety. For the nutraceuticals industry, fear has worked both for and against it. Fear continues to motivate consumers to buy these products-it is their "escape to safety" from pharmaceutical drugs and the grips of disease. Yet fear also keeps them away from our products-because there are too many risks, either real or imagined.
So what's my point? Whether or not there is any truth to the fear-mongering plaguing society today is not the issue. I think the nutraceuticals industry needs to take a long, hard look at its tactics. Motivation by threat is a dead-end strategy and all it accomplishes is making consumers resentful. It won't be long before they become sick of being scared.
Speaking of worry, this issue features a column and story on stress and anxiety. Our "Japan Insider" columnist, Ron Bailey, says stress has become such a major issue in Japan that it has prompted the government to act. As a result, efforts are under way to formalize a health claim category for stress under the FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Uses) regulatory umbrella. Our feature article on stress and anxiety (page 76) covers the gamut of issues facing this market, the disappearance of kava, as well as the options consumers continue to seek out for stress and anxiety relief.