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'Powerful products fuel explosive growth'.

NEW YORK -- Retailers looking to boost sales of over-the-counter health care products should consider weight management as a sector offering long-term opportunities, particularly compared with other segments of the nutritional supplements category, according to suppliers.

"There's a lot of explosive growth in weight management products, although much of that expansion stems from a handful of powerful products," notes Rich Scoza, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nature's Bounty Inc.

His colleague, vice president of marketing Jim Flaherty, holds a similar view.

"It can be a very trendy category," he remarks, "so it's important for buyers and category managers to stay on top of the sector. The movement on these products can be pretty quick, and it's vital to get these items on the shelf as fast as possible."

Scoza notes that for the 52 weeks ended January 28 mass market sales of weight control tablets and related products totaled $361.9 million, a 93.1% increase over the year before. Sales patterns for this year indicate a continued acceleration.

At the retail level products are being supplemented with services. At Ritzman Natural Health Pharmacies, for example, body fat analyses and exercise consultations are among the services provided by pharmacists at the Wadsworth, Ohio-based chain.

The category is also one in which suppliers and retailers can form alliances.

"The weight management business presents an opportunity for pharmacy and grocery chains to develop partnerships with vendors to help consumers find ways to have healthier, calorie-controlled diets," says Harry Greene, vice president and medical director at Slim-Fast Foods Co., a unit of Unilever Home & Personal Care USA.

Scoza notes that the industry is entering one of the prime sales periods for weight loss products, as many consumers seek ways to trim down in preparation for spring and summer. "They're thinking of outdoor activities, of getting into shorts and swimwear," he says.

Pharmacists, suppliers point out, can play a key role in encouraging product sales.

"Pharmacists can be very influential in helping patients make informed choices that promote active weight management," comments Greene.

Scoza notes that if a pharmacist recommends a specific weight management product "there is a very good chance the consumer will accept that advice and buy it."

Besides providing pharmacists with product literature, Nature's Bounty is working on the development of continuing education programs to help those professionals with the weight management category.

Such measures are necessary to overcome the confusion that some suppliers admit is occurring in the segment. "Many of the weight loss options available today tend to be fad diets and are not supported by research," says Greene.

He notes that the busy life-styles of many Americans leave them with little time for planning and preparing nutritious meals. As a result, fast food offerings, frozen dinners and meal replacement lines are gaining popularity.

"But not all convenience food provides the same degree of nutrition," he points out. "Some can be high in fat, sodium and calories, which may contribute to excess body weight."

Flaherty and Scoza note that Nature's Bounty offers a wide range of weight management products but pays particular attention to Xetalean cider vinegar tablets tonalin (conjugated linoleic acid) and Metabosurge.

"We just began selling Xetalean late in the fall and will be spending millions of dollars in advertising support for the product over the next several months." comments Scoza.

The product -- which contains thermogenic herbs, vitamins, minerals and other key ingredients -- has quickly become a best-selling item for the company.

"Cider vinegar is another big blip on the radar screen," Flah erty says. "It promotes digestion and improves metabolism -- it's an overall good weight control product."
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Title Annotation:weight management products
Comment:'Powerful products fuel explosive growth'.(weight management products)
Author:Schultz, John
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 9, 2001
Words:603
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