LUBBOCK, Texas — Raspberry ketones, saffron spice extract and dandelion tincture may read like a carnival barker’s list of magic elixirs, but the once-obscure supplements are flying off shelves thanks to on-air endorsements from wellness guru Dr. Mehmet Oz.
The practicing cardiologist skyrocketed to fame at the start of his tenure as health expert on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Today, he doles out advice for preventive foods and natural remedies to the millions of viewers of his own program, “The Dr. Oz Show.”
United Supermarkets makes the most of the so-called “Oz Effect” by dedicating “As Seen on Dr. Oz” displays to featured vitamins and supplements in the Living Well sections of its Market Street stores.
“Anything [Dr. Oz] promotes we try to put on endcaps because his recommendations mean sales — it’s incredible,” Gantt Bumstead, co-president of United, told SN.
The displays act as conversation starters with consumers who’ve not seen the specific episode, as many inquire with Living Well managers who’ve been versed in the specific benefits of featured health aids, said United’s marketing director, Monica Schierbaum.
The retailer works with suppliers to ensure it will have enough product on hand, but preemptive actions aren’t always enough.
“If [Dr. Oz] recommends some type of bizarre esoteric thing, then you’re sold out of it like that,” Bumstead said. “It would be nice if he could give us a heads up and say, ‘By the way, we’ll be promoting this.’”
Raspberry ketones, referred to by Dr. Oz as “the No. 1 miracle in a vial,” was one such product that made an especially big splash. The compound of red raspberries that regulates the adiponectin protein used by the body to regulate metabolism, is purported to help the body burn fat faster. But without advanced notice that the supplement would be vouched for on the show, retailers quickly ran out.
“We have a small stock of what he recommends, we sell out and often can’t get any further stock because it’s backordered,” said Matt Ryan, operations manager for Harvest Moon, a Long Lake, Minn., cooperative.
Things ran more smoothly when Beanitos bean chips were recommended on the May 16 episode as a low-sugar alternative to protein bars. This time Harvest Moon was prepared since Beanitos tipped its distributors off to the news soon after it learned the products would be featured on a healthy habits segment of the show.
“I found out about it at six o’clock in the evening before the day of the taping,” said Doug Foreman, chief executive officer, Beanitos, of the episode that aired about a week later. Once distributors caught wind, sales literally doubled overnight, he said.
Though it had not previously carried Beanitos, Ryan decided to source the chips after hearing from a distributor that the snack would be on the show.
“I was considering Beanitos in the past, but Dr. Oz tipped the scales for us,” said Ryan, who set up a case stack display with 6-ounce bags of the chips, sold on promotion for $2.99.
When the segment aired, Beanitos’ web traffic increased 310% and Facebook visits jumped 410%.
Harvest Moon also noticed an uptick.
“Sales indicate that people are enjoying them,” he said. “Before this, the Dr. Oz effect meant you sold out of product and didn’t get it back until the next thing was all the rage.”
Wheatsfield Cooperative was already planning to literally stack cases of Beanitos to the ceiling when it got word of the show.
“They have a lot of good product traits that match well with our customers like gluten-free and high-fiber,” grocery manager Colin Meginnis told SN.
Having experience with Dr. Oz-backed fare turned best sellers — like green coffee bean extract for weight loss and Numi’s Pu-erh tea with fat-burning enzymes — Meginnis knew he was on the right track.
“Beanitos were popular even before the show, but two days after, it was obvious that they were selling even faster,” he said.
Meginnis credits Dr. Oz not just with building excitement amongst existing clientele but with bringing new shoppers to its store.
“I’m not sure if it has to do with his prior affiliation with Oprah or the fact that he’s easy for people to talk to. I don’t know what the magic formula is but [Dr. Oz] sure has figured it out,” Meginnis said.