Sunday, March 8, 2015

Book Signings at Trade Shows: A Primer

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

As an author, it may seem self-serving for me to talk about book signings to suppliers, but there are good and realistic reasons to host book signings at your booth 
 and bad and unrealistic reasons.

I have had the opportunity to write six books, five niche health books starting in 1999 and one (the most recent) health politics book in 2013 (Health at Gunpoint: The FDA’s Silent War Against Health Freedom), and I have done book signings at natural products industry shows for a few of them, including Expo West 2013. I have also planned book signings for books by others when I was on the supply side.

One thing that companies sometimes think, and wrongly in those cases, is that sales of any given book will not only defray the cost of the book signing but will also create a separate revenue stream from sales of the book, especially if the book is on a topic that is generally or specifically supportive of the given company’s products, ingredients, or philosophy.

As Brian Jud wrote on his website, Book Marketing Works, “Although sales are important, you will rarely sell enough books at a show to defray all your expenses.” That’s an understatement, especially if you are giving the book away to retailers.

Hosting book signings can accomplish a few interrelated things: (1) generating buzz at a show; (2) generating booth traffic; and (3) getting the word out about a topic or nutrient that is important to your business.

I have seen book signings  — when properly promoted pre-event, in the show program, and at the event  — generate a good-to-massive amount of booth traffic, especially at retailer-focused shows. For finished product manufacturers, brokers and sales/marketing staff can easily pull aside book-signing-attending retailers afterward to see if they have any questions about their orders and to sell them on new (or other) products.

Books on topics that help raise “all boats” can be very helpful because they are written by outside experts and typically constitute third-party support.

That all being said, offering a book that is too supportive or specifically linked to what you are selling can lead to FDA warnings related to “extension of labeling” violations and FTC actions (if the book violates a consent decree), so it is probably best to do a book signing for a book that is generally supportive of your key category without being a “sleaze out” to your company, brand, or product.

Another excellent use of books is as giveaways via social media (such as your brand’s Facebook page) to encourage engagement or for radio shows that feature the author and/or topic you are supporting via show sponsorship.

To sum up, the best way to use books and book signings is as tools, specifically marketing and promotional tools that drive traffic, build followings, and reward engagement.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Following the Liter

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

Gatorade created the category of sports drinks, which it still leads today, dominating the overall FDM sports drink market by 77 percent, according to some estimates.

That being said, it has some powerful — and growing — competition, in the vitamin water and pre-and post-workout drink field, including Glaceau’s vitaminwater, which has a nearly 10 percent market share among bottled waters.

According to data provided to Natural Products INSIDER for this story from SPINS, as a category enhanced waters are up 10.8 percent over the last 52 weeks in the natural and multi-outlet channels. In the natural channel, enhanced waters are up 26 percent and refrigerated functional beverages are up 17.7 percent.

However, this commentary is not so much about the market — since they are all, at the end of the day, functional, good-for-you beverages  but about taste and innovation, two areas in which many of the most exciting things are happening. (Also, having a strong backstory doesn’t hurt.)

One of the coolest, innovative and best-tasting beverages I have ever come across is Karma® Wellness Water (drinkkarma.com).

“The driving force behind Karma is the fact that water-soluble vitamins lose their potency while sitting in water or when they are exposed to moisture,” according to the company. “Additionally, those vitamins suffer degradation when they are subjected to UV rays, oxygen, or heat. The loss of strength is greater when the vitamin contents are spread across the full contents of bottled beverages, causing premixed vitamin drinks to lose their potency over time. The supplemental information printed on most premixed vitamin drinks is based on the ingredients at the time of bottling, not at the time of consumption.”

The company ─ whose advisors include Dr. Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Dr. Melina B. Jampolis and Dr. Michael D. Maloney ─ uses its own proprietary KarmaCap Technology to “keep vitamins and other essential ingredients protected and separate from water until it’s time to drink.”  The theory is that by “introducing the vitamins only seconds or minutes from actual consumption, it optimizes the effectiveness of the nutrient-rich ingredients in Karma.” The cap uses opaque plastic and a UV blocker to reduce the vitamins’ exposure to the elements; the packaging has a hermetic seal between the cap and base, “ensuring freshness and delivering maximum vitamin potency.”

With 110 percent of the recommended levels of vitamins A, D, E, niacin, B6, B12 and pantothenic acid, along with electrolytes and 50 mg of caffeine, the water used is pure spring water from Vermont. The formulations fit into the categories of Mind (sharper thinking), Body (fitness accelerator), Spirit (mood elevator), Balance (immunity booster) and Vitality (healthy hydration).

Takeaway: I loved pressing the button on the cap to release the nutrients! After shaking and then pouring the chilled beverage into my steel drink bottle, along with some ice, I was ready to hit the gym. Great tasting, fun, innovative, and cool.

Next on the hit parade is WTRMLN WTR (http://wtrmlnwtr.com/). “Your post-exercise muscles just got a new, delicious remedy,” notes the company. “WTRMLN WTR has a rich source of an amino acid called L-citrulline, which helps boost blood flow, so that your muscles get the oxygen they need to repair faster. Adding nutrient-dense WTRMLN WTR to your pre-workout regime could help you bounce back from a tough workout and have you doing squats again in no time.”

“WTRMLN WTR has everything you need to refuel, plus performance-enhancing benefits that will improve your overall health and fitness in the long run,” according to the company. “It also tastes just as sweet as it sounds, without the added sugar of drinks like Gatorade.”

Takeaway: Rich in potassium, vitamins A and C, lycopene and magnesium, the product tastes delicious, very different from the super-potent, concentrated flavors of many other brands.

Next up? Youthtopia™ Beverages Alley Oop™ drinks (youthtopiabevs.com) are said, by the company, to “represent a new line of better-for-you hydration drinks designed for active youth, teens, and young adults (10 to 24 years old). Developed by a health- and fitness-inspired ophthalmologist, Alley Oop™ is low-calorie, low-sugar, caffeine-free, gluten-free, vitamin enhanced, and formulated to naturally hydrate and replenish electrolytes lost during regular and aggressive activities.”

With only 40 calories per 16-oz. serving, and 10 grams of sugar, the drink has calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, all natural flavors and no preservatives, Alley Oop™ is the first beverage introduced by Youthtopia™ Beverages and comes in three flavors: Citrus Grind, Slam Punch, and Strawberry Mango.

Takeaway: Although I may a few years away from 24, I enjoyed the samples very much, and so did my daughter, Natalia, who is in the target age group! It has an attractive price point of $1.99 SRP, to boot.

Next? Enter: FLUROwater (http://flurowater.com/), which, according to the company, is an “innovative nutrient‐infused bottled water company that targets health conscious consumers who value natural wellness products and beverages. FLUROwater provides consumers with a healthier alternative to sodas, juices, and other sweetened beverages.”

The company adds: “FLUROwater’s sugar-free, preservative-free, and naturally flavored formula is aimed to benefit an individual’s overall health, without the bitter taste of vitamins or sugars of competing brands.”

Developed by Todd O’Gara while studying at the University of Sydney, FLUROwater was initially designed to help aid those “in dire situations by providing proper nutrition and clean water.”

After completing dental residency in South America in 2010, Dr. O’Gara “credits saving the life of a six-year old girl as the driving force behind the evolution of FLUROwater into a nutrient-infused bottled water. In fact, Dr. O’Gara first distributed FLUROwater internationally and worked with foreign governments to supply clean nutrient-infused water to communities in need.”

“Due to the rising rates of obesity and diabetes in America, Dr. O’Gara decided to launch FLUROwater domestically for everyone to enjoy,” notes the company.

Takeaway: I enjoyed this product! The story behind the brand is really cool, as well.

Other popular offerings include Glaceau vitaminwater® and Powerade®. These CocaCola brands offer a wide variety of flavors with colors and messaging that appeal to young people, weekend athletes, and more.

In fact, vitaminwater is committed to Vitamin Angels, and has been a big supporter of that excellent organization and the people around the world who it helps, especially those in areas prone to drought and compromised water supplies.

So, what’s the overall takeaway?
I am very encouraged by the amazing innovation in enhanced waters and their sports drink brethren. While some brands may find a more welcoming home in the mass market (such as those with sucralose), the days of chemical-tasting, yucky enhanced waters are numbered, if the products I sampled are any example. My thanks to all of the brands mentioned above for providing samples for us to try.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Natural Products Industry Dot Edu

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

These days there is much discussion — as there should be — about standards, certifications, and what’s in a given bottle of supplements (such as superior quality ingredients) and what’s not in it (e.g., GMO-free and gluten-free).

But what can empower a company to confidently map out the life trajectory of a dietary supplement from sprout to shelf? Education.

It is fortunate, then, for producers and consumers that the Natural Products Association (NPA) and UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a “global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions” are now working together to offer “increased educational opportunities to NPA members,” according to a recent NPA announcement.

Having served on the NPA Education Committee some years ago, and having helped companies comply with regulatory requirements since then, I can confidently say that this educational boost will help participating member companies learn, brush up on, and master what is needed to navigate the oftentimes confusing seas of regulatory compliance.

From preparing for cGMP inspections, to cGMP quality control requirements, to production and process controls, to structure-function claims and labeling, to SOPs and more, the planned educational modules appear to address a whole range of critical areas important to the natural products industry.

The new partnership will combine NPA’s regulatory and compliance expertise with “top-notch training modules from EduNeering, the online regulatory training division of UL,” according to the NPA.

“Given the combined reputation and expertise of both NPA and UL, our collaborative efforts to bring elevated education to the natural products industry is the logical next step for both organizations,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., CEO of the NPA.

“NPA brings a level of regulatory expertise in Dr. Fabricant and Dr. Corey Hilmas that is unmatched in the dietary supplement industry, and UL is very pleased to be partnering with them in this new endeavor. Through this alliance, the industry and consumers will undoubtedly be better served,” said Mike O’Hara, general manager of global nutraceuticals for UL.

“Our combined vision is to see one program the industry can turn to for dietary supplement education, and we see this being that program,” Dr. Fabricant added. “We anticipate this to be the start of a lasting relationship between NPA and UL that will reflect this shared vision and impact our industry in a very profound and meaningful way.”

Given UL’s global recognition and universal adoption, I anticipate good things coming out of this collaboration, including a more savvy industry marketplace that is better equipped and stronger than ever before, which will benefit the industry and consumers. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

You Wanna Be in Pictures?

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

Having been a print magazine editor for various publications for many years, I am still happy to admit that there is nothing that matches the appeal of TV and radio for grabbing consumers, whether during breakfast TV news or drive-time radio.


Case in point: The year was 1999. I had been the editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition magazine for about four years when I had just come out with my first book, a mass-market consumer book about DHA and omega-3 fats.

Lo and behold, the biggest player in that space, at that time, contacted me to see if I would be willing to participate in a radio media tour to support my book and the DHA category.

With my OK, they put my mugshot and pitch about me and my book on the cover of the Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR), a publication widely read by radio and TV producers. I wound up doing nearly 100 radio interviews in 1999 as a result of that ad and the work of a show booker the company had hired promoting me to producers. Needless to say, the sales of DHA skyrocketed that year, not thanks to me, necessarily, but most assuredly thanks to the message and the work of the booker.

The same year, I was invited by show producers to do several segments on FOX-TV’s Good Day New York to talk about a variety of health topics. Why: thanks to the work of the ad in radio-TV producer publications. This, in turn, helped promote the magazine brand.

But what (or who) will promote your brand?

Ideally, you or your PR firm have identified a number of key influencers, experts or opinion leaders (KOLs), experts who are willing to make supportive statements that support your category (for sure) and your brand (possibly).

These experts can be included in a “Directory of Experts” you send out to media and can also be called upon to give category- (not brand-) supportive quotes and statements to media.

Before we get into suggested radio outlets, you may be asking: How much money do you need to push the sale of a certain product at a given price? According to Inc., a common formula is: If you spend $10 of the selling price of an item that cost $300 on advertising, then you should be willing to spend $3,000 in advertising to sell 300 units and generate $90,000 in sales.

“The other way is to set aside a flat percentage of your total projected sales revenues for advertising, “ notes Inc. “So if you plan to dedicate five percent of your revenues and you expect to bring in $100,000 in sales that year, you would spend $5,000 on advertising.”

Radio programs that are worth considering include:

Steve Lankford’s “Health Quest” Podcast
http://www.healthquestpodcast.com/

Dr. Ronald Hoffman’s “Intelligent Medicine” Podcast
http://drhoffman.com/podcast-2/

The Robert Scott Bell Show
http://radio.naturalnews.com/Archive-RobertScottBell.asp

Prescriptions for Health
Dr. Len Saputo and Nurse Vicki
http://radio.naturalnews.com/Archive-PrescriptionsforHealth.asp

Duke and the Doctor
http://dukeandthedoctor.com/

The Gary Null Show
http://www.wbai.org/program.php?program=29

Sister Jenna’s “America Meditating” Podcast
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americameditating

But wait, who can manage and produce the ads I need and secure the programs I want?

While there are many outfits out there, AdLab is one of the best. Headed up by Barry Cohen (author of 10 Ways To Screw Up An Ad Campaign: And How to Create Ones That Work), AdLab can help you navigate through the minefield of radio, TV and online advertising, and promotions.

Take-home? Find an expert and a service that will utilize your expert to promote your category (or brand, perhaps), but make sure you (and your expert) are in compliance with all applicable FDA guidance and regulations regarding, for example, testimonials. Check out the resources noted here to take your product or brand to the next level.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Trade Organization Overload?

By James J. Gormley
[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

The above headline comes from the provocative question I was asked for this article: Are there too many trade associations?


“The question is not whether we have too many trade associations, or not enough, but whether they are getting the job done,” notes Jarrow Rogovin, founder and president of Los Angeles, CA-based Jarrow Formulas.

Rogovin, who might be regarded as a one-man trade association himself, has a point. Every trade association has its strong suits and its specialties, and so, once again, the answer to the ultimate existential question, “Who am I?,” should serve as a signpost as to which organization might be best suited to your company’s needs.

If you are heavily involved in herbals, AHPA might be the right organization for you; if OTCs are your bailiwick, then CHPA is the right group for your firm.

On the other hand, if you make or sell a variety of products, CRN, NPA or UNPA might be well suited for you, and if you want to reach retailers as well, that’s where NPA comes in again.

There are also associations that specialize in certain categories, such as GOED and the IPA.

Keep in mind, however, that you can join more than one association, and probably should consider doing so if your company is able, since in that way you maximize your firm’s chances of being on the front lines of promoting and defending the natural products industry, whoever is leading the charge.

Also remember that the most strategically minded trade associations are able to forge powerful collaborations with credible consumer groups on important or watershed issues.

A perfect, recent, example of this was the coalition of all of the natural products trade groups, plus consumer organization Citizens for Health, which together successfully campaigned for the passage of the Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act (the AER Bill) in June 2006.

Another, more recent, example is Citizens for Health’s push in support of AHPA’s KeepSupplementsClean.org initiative.

There are other credible consumer organizations out there too, including, but not limited to, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), the National Health Federation (NHF), and Your Voice for Health (YVH).

Get these questions answered before you join any trade organization:

  1. Is this organization mainly focused on my channel of trade or type of business?
  2. Does the organization have a “1 member, 1 vote” policy for full members (it should)?
  3. Is the work the organization does focused on rubber-hits-the-road areas I want it to focus on?
  4. Is the organization more concerned about “having a seat at the table” than shaking up regulators and Congress?
  5. Does the organization provide ample opportunities for all voting members to serve on the board and committees?
  6. Is the organization respected and feared on Capitol Hill and in College Park, MD? (The first is great, but the latter is even better!)
  7. Does the organization plan to collaborate more with credible consumer organizations so that we, as an industry, can present a united front, one that cannot be dismissed as “industry only”?

And depending on how satisfied you are with the answers you get, along with recommendations from colleagues who are already members, you will be able to choose wisely.

A Trade Associations Primer

  • AHPA (American Herbal Products Association) is comprised of more than 300 domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers, and marketers of herbs and herbal products.
  • CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) represents more than 75 manufacturer member companies and 150 associate member companies. Manufacturer members manufacture or market OTC medicines and dietary supplements, including contract and private label manufacturers.
  • CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition): a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 100+ dietary supplement manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers.
  • GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) is a trade association whose goals are to increase consumption of omega-3s to adequate levels around the world and to ensure that the industry is producing quality omega-3 products that consumers can trust.
  • IPA (International Probiotics Association) is an international organization with members equally divided between industry and academia and its goal is to provide a unique forum for the exchange of research and the latest breakthroughs in probiotic technology and new product development.
  • NPA (Natural Products Association): NPA is the largest and oldest organization representing the entire natural products industry, with more than 2,000 members in all 50 states and internationally, accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products.
  • UNPA (United Natural Products Alliance ) is an association representing many leading dietary supplement, functional food, natural products and analytical and technology companies that share a commitment to provide consumers with natural health products of superior quality, benefit and reliability.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Heart of the Matter: Ingredients for Heart Health

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

Heart health as a category has changed over the last 20 years. Years ago, health and nutrition magazines would tout the benefits of single vitamins, herbs or minerals: vitamins A, C and E; hawthorn, cayenne and garlic; and selenium. With the exception of hawthorn, these continue to be popular for cardiovascular health formulations.

In recent years, while other standalones that pack a punch for heart health have risen to greater prominence  coenzyme Q10, green coffee extract, fish oil, and recently magnesium  science has moved in the direction of much more sophisticated formulations, often featuring proprietary extracts or premium standalones with active ingredients produced via patented processes, a few examples of which are:


  • AmealPeptide for heart health and blood pressure (milk-derived bioactive tripeptides that are extracted from milk proteins during a patented production process);   
  • Blueberry flavonoids
  • Citri-Z for heart health (proprietary blend that exclusively provides polymethoxylated flavones [PMF] and other bioflavonoids;     
  • Curcumin for heart health; 
  • Green coffee bean extracts for cholesterol and blood pressure;    
  • Resveratrol for cholesterol;    
  • Sytrinol for cholesterol (patented and proprietary formula derived from natural citrus and palm fruit extracts); and  
  • Vitamin K2 (MK-7) (promotes heart health via help with arterial elasticity).

Part of the reason for this is that nutritional and botanical science has become more advanced, and part of the reason is that companies want to have unique formulations using one or more premium, patented ingredients or blends in order to differentiate their products from the rest of the ticker-boosting supplements that are out there.

That being said, promotion of heart-health products as part of a healthy lifestyle is becoming increasingly important to manufacturers and marketers, not only because that is more FDA/FTC friendly and more responsible for consumers, but because Americans are sick and tired of being told by Big Pharma to take pills to address health problems without addressing some of the most critical underlying causes of heart un-health: chronically poor food choices and sedentary ways.

Consumers are not thrilled with just taking more pills, whether they are supplements or pharmaceuticals, and they are not thrilled with the idea of having to devote many hours per week on heavy-duty exercise.

While anybody can capture a wallet, at least for a day, if marketers can encourage consumers to incorporate sensible supplementation into a by-and-large healthy diet with a reasonable amount of exercise, then these products (and their ingredients) will have a chance to truly capture hearts and minds, a concept Kevin Thomson rightly outlines in his book, Emotional Capital. Then you will have the consumer for a lifetime.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Premium Ingredients, Commodity Ingredients: No "Versus" Needed

By James J. Gormley

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

First off, what are “premium ingredients”? The term is so broadly used that the lines between intrinsic value and marketing speak do, at times become blurred.

Premium can mean any of these things, and more:

  • A very pure or high quality source.
  • An ingredient that has a “value-added” quality associated with it, such as a unique manufacturing, fermentation, purification or refining process, often protected by patents.
  • Ingredient compounds protected by composition of matter patents or use patents for a given application.
  • A unique delivery form, usually for enhanced absorption and bioavailability, ergo efficacy.
  • A proprietary blend (although this is highly debatable as to whether proprietary makes it premium: see below.)


If you want to use or develop a premium nutritional ingredient, what considerations are involved?

Here are some bad reasons not to use or source a premium ingredient:

  1. I just want to be able to charge more money and make better margins.
  2. I only want to differentiate my finished product from competitors’ products.
  3. I want to hide poor-quality or filler ingredients under a “proprietary blend” shield.

Here are some good reasons to use or source a premium ingredient:

  1. I want to provide the most effective product I can, matching wherever possible the dosages and ingredient forms used in clinical studies.
  2. I want to provide consumers with maximum value.
  3. I want to utilize ingredients produced via technologies that developers have invested millions of dollars in.

As to the cost burden on consumers, in cases where there is a very high price point thanks to the use of premium ingredients, Michael Lelah, technical director for Bloomingdale, IL-based NOW Foods: says: “Yes, consumers ultimately decide, and we work hard to bridge the gap between commodity and premium ingredients for and on behalf of the consumer.”

Noting that NOW Foods, for example, tries to provide premium ingredients wherever possible, “There are times when we can’t justify the high price of a premium ingredient based on its increased benefit, and we are not prepared to pass this on to the consumer.”

As to the question of economic adulteration hiding behind the “proprietary blend” aegis, Lelah notes: “We believe in full transparency on our labels. All our nutritional ingredient amounts are declared on our labels and we in most cases declare the potency of the ingredient or key botanical marker, so the consumer knows what they are purchasing.”

I would imagine that other companies share NOW Foods’ way of approaching the question of premium versus commodity. In addition Federal cGMPs are starting to level the playing field between premium and commodity ingredients, as well.

So there you have it: when it makes sense, doesn’t create an unreasonable price point, and is utilized for the right reasons, premium ingredients can be a great choice. That being said, since the quality of U.S. commodity ingredients is rising every day, these ingredients can serve as the foundation for formulas, with premium ingredients added for specific applications.