Natural Foods Merchandiser

Industry Innovator Award: Michael Bylinkin of Hero Nutritionals

A few years after the launch of its Yummi Bears children’s gummy line, Hero Nutritionals discovered parents everywhere had a secret—they were eating their kids’ vitamins. In 2008, the company introduced Slice of Life gummy vitamins for adults. Hero’s director of marketing, Michael Bylinkin, spoke with NFM about Tivo, hockey and how Hero revolutionized the supplements category by encouraging adult gummy lovers to come out of the pantry.

Unlocking nature’s secrets is part of the innovation process. Then apply those discoveries to products that meet a consumer need.

By chewing your vitamins versus swallowing pills, each adult saves about 23 gallons of water a year.

Having direct communication with store managers and category buyers at Natural Products Expo adds one more layer in the overall product development process because we know exactly what consumers are asking for.

Jennifer Hodges, Hero’s CEO and founder, has put together an incredible environment in this company that encourages people to look beyond conventional wisdom, to never accept no for an answer and to always think of how to be creative.

When I’m on the road, I live on Naked Juice’s Protein Zone. Some people think they’re chalky, but I love them. Be sure to shake yours up before you drink it.

I think the good manufacturing practices are really excellent progress in the natural products industry. We welcome it, and we feel that it only benefits consumers because they know that any of the dietary supplements that they’re going to be buying are manufactured to GMPs.

While I understand about the current economic climate, retailers should focus more on quality than on price. Some lower-priced brands become category
killers. Retailers may have gotten a sale today, but they sacrifice repeat purchases and building a category for the future.

Display solutions. Have a morning end cap of healthy, nutritious things that a typical mother and father need to get their kids out the door in the morning.

My father taught me there is never, ‘it can’t be done,’ there is only, ‘we haven’t figured it out yet.’

Have you ever seen the show How William Shatner Changed the World? It takes visionary ideas that may not come to fruition for years, but the very idea energizes people to think of creative inventions and ways to improve things.

McDonald’s wouldn’t have introduced salads or other healthy alternatives if they didn’t think it was what the consumer wanted.

My favorite thing in the world is Tivo and my favorite activity is playing hockey. I grew up in Southern California, but one day I saw hockey on TV and said, ‘Gosh that looks like fun.’

I can’t tell you that—I’d get fired.

Do you want to discuss tools of innovation? Without giving away too many of my trade secrets, I’d say knowing the right market research to use. For the last 20 years, I’ve used Brandlife methodology. It uses imagery to get consumers to nonverbally tell you what they can’t articulate in words.

–Interview by Cara Hopkins

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.