Britain's leading supermarket group Tesco last week opened a store in London geared solely to health and natural alternative products.
The retailer opened a branch of the renowned Nutri Centre, in which it has a majority share, alongside one of its supermarkets in Kensington, West London. The new store is the first outside the original store in the Hale Clinic near Harley Street, which is a world-renowned complementary therapy centre.
Tesco said that demand for many complementary healthcare products at its stores has more than doubled in the last year, as thousands of British people seek alternatives to conventional medicines. The boom led Tesco to bring forward the planned opening dates for the Nutri Centre in Kensington.
Tesco acquired a majority share in Nutri Centre for £2.9 million (€4.6m) in August last year and has since been selling the herbal products and supplements through its instore pharmacies and shopping website.
Since then, the company has seen growing sales of the products, with the biggest surge in demand for natural products to boost sexual performance, rising steadily at 140 per cent. Sales of Echinacea - an ancient herbal immune system booster which fights colds and flu - have grown by 72 per cent and there are also record numbers of people turning to natural remedies to combat stress and promote restful sleep.
Commenting on Tesco's expansion into the healthcare sector, Non-Food director Richard Brasher said an extensive complementary healthcare offer is essential to cater for the needs of modern consumers.
"Record numbers of customers are telling us they want to take more responsibility for their own healthcare. As the demand for complementary healthcare grows, we've joined forces with the world's experts to ensure customers can get everything they need at Tesco."
"Combining this with our 200 pharmacies around the UK, customers can now choose from a huge range of healthcare products at Tesco," he added.
The new Nutri Centre has qualified nutritionists and full time health advisers on site to help customers. It also has a learning zone with access to the latest news and research. The shop will offer health and wellbeing products as well as Tesco ranges of Organic, Free From and Food Doctor products.
The Nutri Centre's founder Rohit Mehta, who still runs the pharmacy, believes the rapid growth of complementary healthcare in the UK will continue. He said: "The increased use of complementary healthcare represents a change in attitudes, resulting in consumers looking outside the traditional realm of pharmaceuticals to products such as vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies.
"The increasing use is also a sign of social change, showing how people prefer to be more responsible for their own health and wellbeing, and want a choice of treatments. And with ever increasing pressures of time, they are consulting more pharmacists and complementary therapists who are more accessible."
He added: "What we are doing here is offering the best environment for our customers to shop complementary healthcare by providing advice and information so that they can make an informed choice. The ultimate vision would be to open centres of excellence for complementary health throughout the UK."
Tesco reported group sales of £12.7 billion (€20.2bn) for the first half of 2002 and pre-tax profit of £545 million. The retailer became volume market leader in vitamins, minerals and supplements in April 2002.