Unless you happen to have a crystal ball, predicting consumer sentiment or what your competition might have in the works will be as frustrating as shooting an arrow at a disappearing target. So perhaps one reason that Stratum Nutrition has found so much success is that they take a slightly different tack. We spoke with Jeremy Moore, President of Novus Nutrition Brands and Stratum Nutrition, about his strategy in a crowded and ever-changing market.
Fi: Stratum really stepped outside of the probiotic box with BLIS K12 and BLIS M18. How have these products been received?
Jeremy Moore: They’ve been received really well. Having oral probiotics as a first line of defense makes sense especially to those marketers who have been in the probiotics space for some time. There’s been a lot of work done to educate consumers on the benefits of probiotics—to immune health and gut health and the importance of colonization. It’s really just a natural extension since the mouth is an important part of the overall GI tract.
For manufacturers it’s something new to talk about—a new angle and a point of differentiation. Simply having different strains of probiotics that all have essentially the same structure-function claims relating to digestive health makes it difficult to justify why you’d replace one thing with another thing. So having a totally new place to go with probiotics is really attractive for innovators.
Fi: Stratum plays in some of the biggest condition-driven markets. Across these categories, where do you see the most growth currently?
JM: We think immunity, as a category, has a lot of opportunity, but you have to be very specific. We talk about ear, nose and throat health and how BlisK12 can support that, especially in children. Then we have the BlisM18 probiotic for dental and gum health. So you can really go either way and both are good applications depending on what the marketer is trying to achieve. We know that consumers are very concerned with both of these.
We’ve also seen really good growth in the joint health category. I think if you look at just joint health and you throw in glucosamine and chondroitin and everything else it looks pretty flat. But that isn’t the whole story. If you look at the average selling price of products that are glucosamine/chondroitin–based, the average selling price has been declining for a number of years. Yet the market still remains flat. So what’s happening is that a number of new ingredients that are faster acting and more consumer friendly from a dosing size standpoint are starting to gain more and more market in the joint health category.
We see something similar with the bone health category. Our sales of eggshell calcium have tripled over the last six months. We know as we’re looking out there that things are shifting. For example we saw an explosion in the natural space last year on the bone health side of things and that’s of significant concern. Women know that as they age they’re going to lose bone mineral density and not all bone health supplements are created equal. You need to take a more holistic approach rather than just loading yourself up with limestone—calcium carbonate.
Fi: You also bridge the divide between supplement and food applications. Where do you see the most growth in terms of ingredient application?
JM: We’re looking at using not only the probiotics, but also many of our other ingredients in nontraditional forms. If we look at where the real opportunity for growth is in these traditional categories in the supplement space it’s in going into these alternate forms. Pills are tried and true, but I think people are very open to having something new, that is maybe more enjoyable to consume than just a pill. For probiotics right now we’re focused mainly on gums, some ready to consume sachets—so you can make a drink out of it or consume it directly. We’re also doing some work in dairy, which is kind of a no-brainer with probiotics.
For some of our other ingredients, liquid applications are always interesting—can we get it into a shot, can we get it into an RTD beverage or do we have to go with a powder for smoothies? As we get into ingredients that are really better suited to food, our emphasis these days is on baked goods—so 100-calorie snack packs, gluten-free options as well as cereals. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out where these things will work from a consumer perspective. What would be good? Can they actually work in those matrices? Because at the end of the day it has to be pleasurable to consume in these alternate dose forms or there’s no point in making them.
Fi: How important is research to your business?
JM: We consider it to be vital to support all of our products. We’re dealing in a lot of new to the world type of ingredients and so the first thing is from a responsibility standpoint we need to make sure that we understand our products and show that they actually work. The second thing is that the finished goods companies need to have the solid scientific foundation to build the claims off of in the products they’re going to market.
It also gives us an idea of some of the other things the product does or some of the specific things the product does in order to refine how to position the product or where to target the product to have the most success.
Fi: Looking forward to 2013, where are you concentrating your research and upcoming studies? Do you have any human clinical trials in the works or any recently released data to share?
JM: We have a number of things up on the board. We’re finalizing things for next fiscal year, but we’re continuing to invest dollars in those products where we see that there’s going to be good growth as long as we have more and better scientific support. So we’re looking at more investment into NEM in the joint health space and thinking about the sports angle on that. We’re going to be investing in digestive health. We’re going to be investing more on the cardiovascular side of things. And certainly we’ll be investing more into the Blis probiotics world for dental health as well as immunity.