Newly named Twinlab CEO Anthony Zolezzi says his mission at the legacy supplement brand isn’t too different from the mission he sees for the entire supplement industry.
That mission, he says, is to step it up on all fronts.
Both the brand and the industry need to embrace digital sales and digital experience while they also work with retailers to improve consumer engagement in brick-and-mortar stores.
Twinlab and other supplement companies need to better communicate the benefits of supplementation to create a health-focused value proposition for their products.
And they need to leapfrog mainstream medicine to interface with health insurance companies to insert supplements into emerging value-based health systems that make money off keeping people well instead of treating them when they are sick.
But first, he says, he needs to look under the hood and all the way through the system at Twinlab to see what he has to work with. “I’m early into a total analysis,” Zolezzi says.
Working with retail is an immediate concern, Zolezzi says, explaining that the industry cannot afford to lose partners like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe.
“The retailer’s challenge is our challenge,” he says. Creating an engaging experience, one that might blur the lines between digital content and in-the-aisles experience, is extremely important, says the serial entrepreneur whose resume includes launching a natural pet food company, creating a private-label supplement brand for Wild Oats, co-founding the Bubba Gump restaurant chain, introducing organic food to Wal-mart, and evaluating supplement and other healthy brands as a managing partner at Pegasus Capital Advisors. “Today’s world is so different,” he says. “You’ve got to follow the customer everywhere and be available everywhere.”
The right digital and in-store experience could help the mission of better explaining the advantage of supplements he says. Admitting he is “allergic to regulation,” Zolezzi says he thinks companies could do a better job of explaining the science and presenting the benefits. “I’m a big believer in nutrigenomics and I know nutrigenomics works. And I know these supplements will impact people in positive ways,” Zolezzi says. “But does the industry do a good job with that? I don’t think so.”
Establishing where the science of supplements is and where it needs to go will help the industry create relationships with health insurance companies that are moving past fee-for-service models into value-based health plans, Zolezzi says. The values-based system is based on the economics of keeping people healthy and supplements are a perfect fit when the science is strong, he explains.
“You have to have that to be part of the value-based health system.” That move into establishment health care is a necessity to achieve the goal of helping people get healthier. “We have to be part of the industry. We can’t be sitting outside and pointing fingers. We have to engage.”
Zolezzi admits his goals are ambitious for whole industries, much less a single brand, but he speaks confidently.
“I don’t know how yet, but I know I’m determined,” he says, adding that his new position is the right spot from which to take the initiative. “Twinlab is a company that is 50 years old in the supplement space. You don’t find many of those,” he says. “Now we just have to get the products and the people pointed in the right direction.”