When it comes to successfully bringing its products to market, Proprietary Nutritionals Inc (PNI) relies heavily on a core strategy: the products must have good science behind them.
"We don't ever expect to have 100 items in our roster, and our ingredients are not the cheapest, by any means," says Dean Mosca, president of the Brantford, Ontario-based company. "What is important is that the ingredient be proprietary — our partners must own the intellectual property — and that there be at least several successful human trials to prove its efficacy."
Presently, PNI handles just seven branded products, though Mosca says they're very close to taking on another, one in the diabetic category that affects insulin response. "It's a very exciting product," Mosca says, "with two good studies behind it."
PNI owns exclusive global marketing and distribution rights for its branded ingredients, and Mosca says the company uses a push-pull strategy to reach success with each ingredient. "On the pull side, we do a lot to generate interest in the trade. We work hard with marketers to pick up the product; we provide or find credible spokespeople, set up sales training and contests; and we will even do some presentations to retailers like WalMart.
"On the pull side, we work promotional angles, and reach out through TV, print and radio. We'll sometimes run full-page ads." As an example of this strategy, Mosca points to Phase2 by Pharmachem, the company that bought part of PNI some five years ago. Phase2, an extract of the white kidney bean, inhibits the absorption of carbohydrates and basically introduced starch blockers to the weight-loss segment of the market, Mosca says. "We went out and got it into good distribution, and then we were able to create a media-relations campaign that garnered some 600 million consumer impressions — interviews on TV, in print and on radio."
On occasion, the company also pays for new clinical research on the products, though that proved unnecessary recently for another of its ingredients, Cran-Max. "It was a University of Scotland study, strictly academic (we didn't pay for it), that compared a 500mg dose of Cran-Max against an antibiotic for dealing with urinary-tract-infection (UTI). Cran-Max was just as effective."
The cranberry extract has achieved a large portion of the cranberry UTI market, Mosca says. In January, Nutrition Business Journal awarded Cran-Max its prestigious Scientific Achievement Award.
An important part of the PNI strategy is to find powerful products that fall in strong and growing market categories — weight loss, diabetes, joint, heart health, and so on — categories with sizeable consumer demand. "We want to have products within those categories that are some of the best," Mosca says.
One good example of a recent addition is chia. Though it is not a proprietary product, the market potential is huge, Mosca says. "It's a superfood. It impacts the nutritional value of any food. Aside from having a very high omega-3 content, it has more antioxidants per gram than blueberries. Its amino-acid profile is great. It has the full spectrum, which is good for vegetarians. On top of that, it is gluten free. It can be added to yoghurts and cereal, baked into breads — in fact chia seed even improves the mouthfeel of baked products."
PNI just acquired global rights to the product from the largest chia grower in the world, Mosca says, and is working on numerous value-added applications, such as pure protein powder, which could be a replacement for whey or soy protein. Also, it is playing with sprouted chia. "Sprouting changes the chemistry," Mosca says. "The phytic-acid content within the seed drops. Phytic acid protects the seed from digestion, so reducing it makes the nutrients even more bioavailable. The antioxidant content more than doubles."
Absolutely essential to its long-term success, Mosca says, is PNI's ability to build a strong reputation and good partnerships with its source companies. "When you have a good track record, people start coming to you with new opportunities," he says. "And it's our job to help them make money.
"This is what will allow us to be in this market 30 years from now."