The choice for suppliers marketing ingredients is whether to choose an 'ingredient-based' strategy or a 'condition-specific' one. Increasingly, the trend is toward individual health conditions — reflected both in manufacturers' product mix as well as the store-shelf layout in retail outlets.
From weightloss, heart health and joint care down to sexual health and insomnia, the top 14 health conditions represent 84 per cent of US supplements sales, according to an analysis by Nutrition Business Journal.
"Condition-specific formulas are a gold mine for dietary supplements," says Matt Phillips, president and COO of Cyvex Nutrition. "They easily translate the combination of nutraceuticals for a specific health concern and area — and consumers instantly understand and are drawn to those they feel they need or their doctors may recommend."
They also help manufacturers sift through the range of ingredients available for a potential formulation. "It does help formulators understand what specific ingredients are targeted to, especially when they don't recognize the ingredient," says Larry Kolb, president of US operations for TSI Health Sciences.
Four strategies encompass the business strategies of companies playing in this field.
Same ingredient, different conditions: Norwegian fish-oil supplier EPAX tweaks the ratio of EPA to DHA and directs each equation at seven different health conditions. "Science has shown that EPA and DHA have different roles in the body," says sales manager Baldur Hjaltason. "EPA has anti-inflammatory effects while DHA is more like a building block that plays an important role in early stages of life. Therefore, our product range was basically based on science, although production technology plays some part. It can make it difficult to explain that the same product can have so many different biological actions."
A clever marketing tagline helped PL Thomas with its multi-functional (bone and cardio) MenaQ7 ingredient, which "helps keep calcium in your bones and out of your arteries."
Multi-condition ingredient: When a product has a wide variety of uses but no real focus, it often makes it difficult to target a certain group of consumers. "In general, people like to think of an ingredient as being helpful for one condition or thing," says Frank Assumma, marketing director for Natural Health Science, exclusive North American supplier of Pycnogenol, the French maritime pine-bark extract, for which published studies have demonstrated efficacy in such seemingly diverse areas as cardiovascular, cognitive, dermatology, diabetes, joint, fertility, menstrual and vein health. In many of these cases, the common denominator is inflammation and circulation. "While this can be challenging to communicate to consumers, it can reap great benefits in the future by better explaining the way in which a powerful ingredient like Pycnogenol works."
Go deep or go home: Source One Global Partners is an example of a company going all out in one sector, in this case, cardio health. The company offers omega-3s, sterols, vitamin E, co-Q10 and the patented Sytrinol for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Naming rights: What colour do you think a bluebird is? Is the Grand Canyon a big hole, or what? Guess what health concern an ingredient like horny goat weed is used for? How about feverfew? When generic names don't fit, branded-ingredient names come into play. Terry Labs has an ingredient called Glysync — how hard is it to figure out that it addresses glycaemic management?
Finally, it's important to note that having a condition-specific ingredient is not an end all and be all. "Having a product designed for a specific condition is easy for consumers to understand," says Scott Daniel, marketing manager at National Enzyme. "But having a product designed for a specific condition that is backed by a marketing campaign and research — that is a hard-to-beat combination."