Cognis Nutrition & Health is sponsoring a VendorWorks session (Friday May 7, 2004, 10-10:50 am) at this week's SupplySide East in Baltimore, Maryland. Consistent with the company expanding its role as a top tier supplier, category builder and industry leader, Cognis is taking this VendorWorks to a completely new level.
We spoke with Kathleen Moran, Global Market Segment Manager, Dietary Supplements and Laura Brennan, Marketing Manager, Dietary Supplements from Cognis Nutrition & Health, about the presentation and its objectives.
The presentation is entitled
Condition-Specific Focus: Cholesterol "Healthy Formulations to Meet the Growing Demand for Cholesterol-Lowering Products"
and is described as:
Cognis' spotlight on key health concerns begins with an in-depth look at cholesterol reducing ingredients. This information-packed session highlights major factors impacting formulations designed to lower cholesterol including research news, regulatory updates and new marketing data. Those in R&D, marketing and product management will learn from the review of over 10 cholesterol-lowering ingredients focusing on efficacy, allowable claims and cost per dose.
NPI: What is the objective of the presentation?
KM/LB: Traditionally, presentations have tended to be specific ingredient focused which has served attendees well, but now we're looking at our expertise and realizing that we're in a position, as a company, to add value by diving deeply into 3 health conditions: heart health, body composition and eye health.
Taking this approach lets us help our clients by adding even more value to the relationship. Here, in this presentation, we're presenting a marketing perspective, information on leading ingredients in the category, science, claims status, mechanisms of action, cost per dose data, summarizing the state of this health condition and measuring the available information against Cognis' exacting standards.
NPI: What's Cognis purpose and role in this?
KM/LB: The first step is to position Cognis as the category leader for heart health. From this position, we're actively seeking worthy ingredients to add to our portfolio. So in the longer term, we're looking for blends we can patent to create scientifically proven 'home run' products, working with R & D or ingredient companies to bring these products to market.
As it also turns out, as we prepared for this presentation, we were excited to discover that our Vegapure® is leading the pack, based on claims and evidence, but there are other ingredients that are strong as well.
We want to talk about our Vegapure criteria and point out that the science behind some ingredients is really not all it's cracked up to be. It's actually surprising - IRI says the products might be selling briskly, but there's sometimes little science behind them or it may be both 'pro' with some 'con'. Our intent is to raise the bar for setting standards and evaluating these products. Just because a product is selling doesn't mean it's supported or that the evidence is compelling, yet that's how it's presented and marketed. Clients need to be aware of these factors and not just jump on the bandwagon with the most 'popular' product.
This presentation is more than just about science, it's intended as an entire category review. What we've discovered is that there are a handful of products with good science, many with questionable data. And Cognis is in a position to help understand the category and its issues - we've done some homework, we understand the market and the importance of product positioning, the science, and we're willing to share the work we've done including consumer research.
NPI: Leading suppliers do seem to be taking a more active role and assuming responsibility for category education and growth - all the way up the value chain.
KM/LB: This is another example of the evolving role of the supplier providing more than just B2B information or product in drums, now the role is expanding - it's deeper into product positioning, marketing, claims, technical support including blending and product formulation, it's science support, it's a body of information and support that helps customers get to market faster and in the right position.
As an ingredient supplier, we sometimes have to respond to the request for exclusivity as part of the relationship, and that's an important decision to evaluate and in order to commit. If we were to go that route, we've got to make sure our decision is sound – we’re looking for customers who mirror our culture, strategy, not 'me-too' positioning, we want innovators with high standards and in this type of relationship, we've got to be watching each other's back. There has to be soundness and trust from a regulatory standpoint, the organization we work with in this type of relationship will have the right distribution, good marketing capabilities etc.
Our support and capabilities ultimately lets our customers get to market faster with the positioning they need to be successful.
NPI: Kathleen, Laura, what are your backgrounds?
Kathleen has a Chemical Engineering degree, and more recently, has followed this up with an MBA. She has been involved in the vitamin manufacturing sector for over five years, and most recently has spent 5-6 years in marketing on a global scale.
Laura has a health administration degree, with a focus on business and science and has been with Cognis for 10 years in a customer related capacity including sales and marketing. She has been with the Nutrition & Health Group itself for 3 years and now is focusing extensively on the heart health category.
NPI: How would you describe the (technical) level of the presentation?
KM/LB: It covers marketing, health claims, a bit about the drug world too, so it's not deep, rather it's a surface snapshot of technical information. We will offer back-up information for those that are interested, or need it. Of course our scientists are also available with additional information and resources.
NPI: If you were successful in your objectives what would it mean?
KM/LB: The biggest desired impact is to have Cognis identified as the category leader, and bringing people to the door to develop the market. As we mentioned earlier, this includes potential relationships with other ingredient suppliers and R & D companies. Ultimately we want to raise the bar and drive up standards. We want to present the fabulous efficacy of Vegapure. We realize that there are newer companies with interesting products, but recognize too that Cognis is the largest in the world for supply capacity.
NPI: We are increasingly seeing category targeted approaches from ingredient manufacturers. Why do you think this is?
KM/LB: We see a huge growth opportunity compared to letter vitamins. Consumers are busy, they want a package, a product, we can't expect them to be experts and know everything there is to know.
NPI: What is the future for this category and Cognis' role?
KM/LB: The recent shift in the guidelines for cholesterol measurement means that the number of people who need to manage cholesterol for instance, is expected to triple. The research suggests that those that are borderline can get the same type of effect for intervention as for drug treatment so that means for many that exercise, diet, sterols etc. can all help. With this in mind, there is an opportunity for everyone to benefit - supplementation will not be squashed.
Our role is expanding and it's really whatever is required to blend, add depth and produce sophisticated formulations. We realize that the FTC will continue cracking down on things like combination products making synergistic claims, so technical support and proof is needed and we've got the capabilities and expertise to provide the level of proof they'll require.
NPI: Whatare the challenges faced by ingredient suppliers? manufacturers? retailers?
KM/LB: We must all take an active role to promote category growth. From our own standpoint, it's meant we've had to become expert in marketing, positioning, and other elements maybe our customers have provided in the past, so it's a challenge, but if we can do this successfully, it's a huge opportunity for both ourselves and our clients.
It's also important to realize that consumers are increasingly taking a 'what ails' approach, so you've got to talk health condition, so there's a big transition occurring, and as a result, we've become comfortable talking about health challenges to reach our market. Data also shows that those consumers who are the most in need are not taking or doing anything - drugs, diet or supplements. So our main challenge is that at some point, the education is not there. It's also really about product efficacy, and on this subject, we need to educate our customers about how important our health claim is.
NPI: What message would you relay to those not able to attend?
KM/LB: Contact Laura Brennan for information at [email protected] All presentation materials are available.
NPI: There is a lot going on. Why is this a 'can't miss' presentation?
KM/LB: This category is certainly one of the biggest health problems we face, and there are some good products available. Every finished product marketer should have this category covered in their product mix, and they also need to make sure they're on track - for ingredients, positioning,marketing message, opportunities; they need to check what they have against the industry, and this session will let them do just that.
Our intention has been to gather the information in a digestible, understandable, manageable format without overwhelming our audience, to give them a good part of what they need.