Editorial: It's About Relationships

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

Over the past several years, we've observed new types of alliances, partnerships and relationships emerge in the nutritional products industry, made more opportunistic by sector convergence which brings together companies with discrete networks, contacts and relationships as well as complementary core competencies. We've seen technology-based companies in flavor systems ally with food or supplement companies to penetrate the marketplace with innovative flavor profiles. We've watched licensing arrangements emerge that have attached individual names as well as recognized and established brand names to supplement products, with more likely to occur in the evolving 'functional food and beverage' market. The worst relationships magnify the deficiencies of each partner, producing a befuddled mess; the best relationships open up worlds of new opportunities.

Several weeks ago, Bumble Bee branded seafood company, announced a marketing agreement and joint sales effort with Leiner Health Products to produce and market fish oil supplements under the popular seafood brand. This announcement created considerable stir in the supplements market, and perhaps even more significantly, caused many in the food sector to take note, whether or not they supported the move Bumble Bee had made. This type of enhanced awareness is really all positive, made possible by the speed of communication, and is part of the dynamic that is drawing the natural health products sector into enhanced contact with all sorts of other sectors, namely food, beverage, personal care, genomics etc.

The power of convenience, superimposed on the power of association, is driving many new relationships. Those that are recognizing these opportunities have leveraged brands effectively, taken their products into new modes of distribution, and when done well, have begun interacting with a completely new population of consumers, a critical consideration, if the natural health and dietary supplements industry is to continue to grow. To reach those 'new worlds' and consumers, creative thinking is required, and more than merely trend analysis - it requires a complete picture of the target audience and its behaviors (current and future) and almost a core competency map of any group, company, brand or belief interacting or impacting upon them.

This past week's example of a realized opportunity is the announced relationship between contact lens distributor Imperial Optical, Inc. and supplement company DaVinci Laboratories under which DaVinci will provide access to an exclusive line of eye health supplements to Imperial Optical’s subscribers. While not evaluating or judging specifically the merits of this particular move and arrangement, the objective behind this announcement is sound.

Sure, it’s a competitive marketplace and your gain is your competitor’s loss. Fundamentally and collectively, though, it's all about building a bigger pie and creative relationships help to do this.

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