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Thorne Research delves into sports nutrition market with new product line

By Hank Schultz , 19-Sep-2012

Thorne Research is delving into new territory with the launch of a line of sports performance products under the name Thorne Performance.

Thorne, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based dietary supplement manufacturer with a 25-year history mostly in the health care practitioner channel, is aiming the new line toward endurance athletes, customers who are not in the habit of asking their doctors what supplement to use during a workout.

“We discussed this with a number of practitioners,” Paul Jacobson, CEO of Thorne Research told NutraIngredients-USA.

“We told them, ‘We are looking at putting this into a consumer business,’ but we are going to offer it to physicians to give it to their patients.  But there just aren’t that many sports medicine physicians.  So we want to welcome them as clients, but we can’t build a business around them alone.

“We will be marketing through some of the associations like the USTA (United States Tennis Association) and some of the endurance athletic associations. There will be some store marketing and we’ll also sell directly on the Internet,” he said.

Sophisticated market segment

Thorne Performance is a collaboration with a company called Integrative Health Resources, LLC, which will provide a portfolio of education resources to help athletes choose and use the products. The education piece is important, Jacobson said, because of the sophistication of the consumers they are trying to reach.

“The athletic market, especially the endurance athletic market, is extremely sophisticated.  The athletes want purity. They like things to be gluten and soy free. They don’t want any artificial colors or sweeteners.  They are very conscious of things that create sensitivity in the gut. These people are extremely conscious of what they put in their body,” he said.

The product line has been under development for more than 18 months, Jacobson said. 

“We met with a lot endurance athletes.  One of the things we heard over and over is their guts are bothering them. Whatever they are taking now, there are some negative effects from these products,” he said.

“The second thing that we noticed is the fact that so many of them were complaining that so much of this stuff was just caffeine shots,” he said.

In designing the energy shots in the product line, Jacobson said, the company deliberately steered away from a caffeine-heavy formulation, relying on rhodiola and Chinese salvia as its main active ingredients.  The shots do have a trace amount (2 mg) of caffeine from green tea extract.

The other products in the line include pre- and post workout products, a probiotic supplement and immune support and stress relief products.

Backed by science

In putting together the new product line, Thorne relied on a number of branded ingredients with strong science suites behind them.  For example, the Modulate immune support product includes a propriety sterol/sterolin ingredient derived from pine made by Essential Phytosterolins of Eugene, Ore.  The manufacturer claims it is “the only clinically tested plant sterol/sterolin product proven to be effective in immune modulation.”

The Rebound post exercise formulation, which Thorne says is meant to manage post exercise soreness, features Indena ’s Meriva curcumin that is bound to soy lecithin to improve bioavailability.  Indena has a bevy of studies supporting the ingredient.

While a lot of endurance athletes fall into the 19-34 demographic, Jacobson said Thorne was looking at long view of customer development.

“We’re really there for the people who like to go out and compete,” regardless of their age, he said.

“One of our formulators is a very high level scientist whose focus has been on human endurance and performance and he has done a lot of studies on people as they age,” he said.

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