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National Distribution Group expands line of chewing gum.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Chewing gum can do everything from helping people lose weight to increasing their sexual potency, according to executives at a distribution company here that's marketing 21 varieties of all-natural, novelty chewing gum.

The products, which have recently begun appearing on the shelves of chain drug stores, are being marketed by the National Distribution Group in conjunction with manufacturer Gum Tech International.

"Chain drug stores love it," National Distribution Group president Rich Bernstein says about the diet gum, Chroma Trim 100. "Our biggest challenge is making the gum fast enough."

The gum, which is said to lower body fat and reduce the appetite, is the concept of Bernstein's wife. It was introduced in February.

National Distribution Group's novelty gum business began four years ago when Bernstein, threatened with losing his sales job when the candy company he was working for in southern California decided to move its operations to Chicago, began marketing a single product to his local accounts. That product, Buzz gum, described as "an herbal energy gum," continues to be one of the company's mainstays.

For most of the first year the operation was run from Bernstein's garage. But the company grew steadily; after its initial year sales rose to approximately $1 million, and there were 25 employees.

Today the organization employs 55 telemarketers working out of headquarters here as well as 35 sales representatives who handle drug store clients.

"Business has really taken off," explains Bernstein, estimating that the company has grown into an entity generating annual sales of roughly $10 million. "I have to say that we really fell into this by accident."

That accident, Bernstein says, is that, while setting out to sell novelty chewing gum, National Distribution Group claims to have stumbled upon one of the most effective delivery systems for medications -- clinically called sublingual assimilation. According to National Distribution Group, some drugs that are introduced into people's systems from under their tongues (which is how medication in company's gum enters the bloodstream) have been shown to be up to 100 times as effective as in pill form.

Bernstein points out that all of the varieties of gum distributed by the firm are made from herbs. Besides Chroma Trim 100, which uses chromium picolinate as its active ingredient, National Distribution Group markets products for a variety of other purposes:

* Power Gum, a sports gum with ginseng, royal jelly and some other natural products.

* Breath Blasters, a breath freshening gum that's said to be the only chewing gum on the market formulated with pepsin

* Love Gum, another product containing ginseng.

Bernstein soon hopes to introduce a gum to relieve problems associated with premenstrual syndrome and another one to increase male potency (expected to hit the market by year's end).

Two other products -- a cold and flu remedy and a hangover remedy -- are being repackaged and will return to the market later in the year after they are repackaged.

Besides marketing chewing gum under its own label, National Distribution Group also produces private label products for a variety of retailers. And to increase public awareness of its products, the company has entered the world of direct marketing through advertisements in a variety of national publications, including Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle and Vogue.

The result of that effort, which offers the products in larger packages than those sold at retail, has been 1,000 to 1,500 phone calls a day.

While the pace of National Distribution Group's growth has been relatively fast, the future promises to be just as action-packed. "Right now," Bernstein says, "our plan is to bring out a new gum every two or three months."
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Sep 12, 1994
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