Sales infusion

We live in a fast-paced world. Consumers want products that help them keep moving forward quickly with as much energy as possible while also preventing physical and mental burnout.

This societal attitude offers retail grocers a unique opportunity to sell vitamins, nutritional supplements and energy products. The opportunity is even greater given today’s economy, which has caused consumers to look for ways to avoid the cost of doctor’s visits and prescription medications. However, to make the most of the vitamin, nutritional supplement and energy product categories, store personnel need not only to know what to stock but how best to promote these items on the shelf.

Armed with this information, any grocer—big or small—can successfully take advantage of consumers’ desire for vitamins, nutritional supplements and energy products that help their customers live their lives in a healthy and energetic manner.

Virtually all segments of the energy category continue to experience strong, steady growth. “We all want more energy to help us achieve and perform,” says Andrew Lippman, chief marketing officer for New York-based EverNutrition. “The success of the energy category is that it appeals to all of us.”

Liquid energy “shots” are showing the fastest growth at the moment. According to Lippman, energy drinks continue to prosper on the back of small-format (1.5- to 4-ounce packages) energy shots. Energy bars continue as the most successful sub-segment of the nutrition bar category. The reason for these products’ success lies in their portability. “Additionally, supplements that promote energy enhancement are growing nearly twice as fast as the overall market,” says Lippman.

EverNutrition is an official licensee of Everlast Worldwide. The company creates, manufactures and distributes nutritional products that help athletes maximize their potential. Everlast Sports Nutrition products blend modern fitness science with proven herbal and botanical ingredients. Some of EverNutrition’s newer products include Everlast Energy Bars, Everlast ENERGY capsules, Everlast E-DRENALINE Energy Shots, and Everlast Multi-Vitamins.

With energy shots established as part of the energy drink category, Carl Sperber, communications director for Living Essentials, LLC, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., whose biggest seller is Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy, says, “Multi-packs are the way to go. Single servings are great for consumer trial, but people that have made 5-Hour Energy part of their lives are looking for multi-packs that offer a price discount. We offer 6-packs and 12-packs for those people.”

Living Essentials manufactures and markets 5-Hour Energy, a 2-ounce liquid energy shot introduced in 2004. This year the company plans to introduce two new flavors.

While some consumers simply purchase energy drinks for the “boost” with no concern for the nutritional or health value, many want to know that the drink offers a health benefit or will enhance their physical performance. Like many companies that produce energy products, Everlast Sports Nutrition products are custom-formulated to provide essential supplementation to active, fitness-minded individuals and serious athletes, providing retailers with strong selling points that appeal to many health- and fitness-minded consumers.

“Unlike canned energy drinks, 5-Hour Energy ap­peals primarily to working adults,” Sperber says. “They see it as a viable energy option they can relate to, unlike the edgy names and rebellious marketing of the canned energy drinks.”

Retailers should keep these product benefits in mind when considering promotional angles, observers say.  Energy products make an ideal impulse purchase or point-of-sale item when featured near the register. “Energy bars and energy shots, in particular, report strong lifts as incremental purchase items when sold near checkouts,” says Lippman.

Purchases of energy supplements are more carefully planned and purposefully considered by consumers, industry observers note. Therefore, these don’t sell as well near the register, but repeat purchase rates and margins are high.

Lippman recommends brand blocking to help sell energy products. “The brand billboard created when these products are merchandised together helps consumers identify all options,” he says.

Since energy shots tend to be small in size, Sperber recommends using point-of-purchase materials to call attention to them. “Presence is important,” he says. “Energy shots are small and can disappear in line. We offer a number of POP options.”

The most recent economic crisis, along with rising health care costs in general, have sent consumers in search of ways to stay healthier and to address health concerns with over-the-counter products.

Gary Pigott, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Miami Lakes, Fla.-based Mason Vitamins, says consumers flock to these categories, because they are “cash strapped for prescription refills and alternative preventative care.”

Nutrition 21, based in Purchase, N.Y., has a portfolio of health and wellness brands that include Iceland Health, PRESCRIPTIX and Diabetes Essentials.  Dean DiMaria, Nutrition 21’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, sees two trends in the area of vitamins and nutritional products. The first ingredient-specific trend points to the popularity of omega-3 fish oil, CoQ10 and vitamin D. “Based upon the continued, developing science, we see these as long-term, sustainable growth segments. Omega-3 fish oil in particular, has become a major multibillion dollar business with supplement sales rising 18% last year,” says DiMaria.

Consumer trends also indicate increased desire for digestive aids, detox/cleansers, colon cleansers, and Niacin, adds Pigott. “Other single letter vitamins will continue to have the highest percentage demand as a result of media coverage and more recent scientific studies,” he says. Due to the current consumer popularity of D3 5000iu, Mason Vitamins has introduced two new products: Natural D 3 5000iu softgel and Niacin.

The second trend identified by DiMaria involves consumers gravitating toward specific benefits—specifically heart, digestive, immune, and blood sugar/diabetes health. To align with these trends, Nutrition 21’s latest products include Iceland Health Omega-3 Plus Vitamin D3 and Chromax 1000 mcg. The first product offers consumers ingredients to help prevent heart disease, bone loss, increased risk of fracture, and numerous forms of cancer. The second product features a high dose of chromium picolinate, which significantly reduces hunger levels and caloric intake as well as cravings for high fat foods and carbohydrates, according to research.

In line with consumers’ desire for digestive and immune products, Kate Jones, vice president of Northwest Natural Products, Inc., based in Vancouver, Wash., sees an additional trend towards effective and easy-to-take vitamin and nutritional products, including probiotics. The company has introduced AccuFlora Pro-biotic Acidophilus, an easy-to-swallow caplet that contains the equivalent of 10 cups of yogurt, according to officials.

Additionally, keeping up with the trends in these categories, NNP’s line of children’s gummy bear vitamins, L’il Critters, now includes L’il Critters Omega-3 Gummy Fish and L’il Critters Vitamin D gummy vitamins. The company provides gummy products for adults as well. NNP’s latest addition to is Vitafusion adult vitamin line is Vitamin D.

Just as energy shots allow consumers an easy way to “power up,” vitamin and nutritional supplement delivery forms can also provide buyers with easy delivery systems and they can provide retail grocers with another sales avenue. For example, promoting gummy vitamin products for both adults and children could prove beneficial in these categories. “Nowadays, consumers look for easy-to-take and tasty alternatives to the traditional hard-to-swallow and chalky caplets and tablets,” Jones explains. “Recent polls show that 40% of American adults report experiencing difficulty swallowing pills. Our products help retailers drive sales growth by offering them new user-friendly forms, such as liquids, powders, soft chews, and gummies, which are in high demand with consumers.”

Retailers should be prepared to take advantage of new products coming up on the horizon as well. Pigott points to Mason Vitamins’ Flush Free Niacin 750mg and Vita D3 oral spray as examples.

Experts predict that the vitamin, nutritional supplement and energy product categories will continue to be robust as American’s continue to be time-starved with little time to focus on eating right and exercising.

When it comes to energy products, Sperber says, “I believe energy shots are here to stay, at least until the next big thing comes along. Who knows what that will be?”

As for the vitamins and nutritional supplement categories, DiMaria sums up the future this way: “As consumers continue to become more educated on the role that ‘nutraceuticals’ play in their health and wellness regimens, they will demand brands and products featuring high-quality ingredients that have substantial clinical research behind them.” 

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