“The supplement industry is hypercompetitive,” Johansen told NutraIngredients-USA. “Especially sports supplements.”
“The niche I found that we could compete in was more of an impulse buy. I wanted to get it right in front of the students,” he said.
To get it in front of students even better, Johansen’s company, Tucson, AZ-based Brainiac Supplements, recently revamped the packaging for the company’s launch product, a dietary supplement called Study Buddy.
Long list of ingredients
Johansen said the supplement was formulated with the help of a doctor and a PhD chemist to support students’ cognitive function. The product includes a suite of vitamins and minerals, and some other standbys of energy or focus supplements such as caffeine and acetyl-l-carnitine. But Johansen’s formulators also chose to include botanicals such as bacopa, ginkgo, gotu kola and toothed clubmoss.
The attention paid to developing a complex formula with high-quality ingredients was strategic decision, and one that the startup company (it’s been in existence for “a couple” of years, Johansen said) paid for with tradeoffs elsewhere.
Success in the POP marketplace is dependent to a perhaps greater degree than other venues such as online or direct sales on packaging. And it includes an aspect those others don’t: the physical display, or how the product is offered to the consumer. After all, if your customer takes only a second or two at most to decide on whether to buy your product, that decision has to be as seamless as possible.
Johansen said he knew their packaging choice to begin with was not optimal, but it was a risk he was willing to take to be able to afford to produce the kind of product he wanted.
“As a startup you have to be careful with how you allocate your budget when you develop new products,” Johansen said.
“We focused the majority of our effort on creating a product we believed would be effective. We didn’t spend too much money on the packaging.
“We asked ourselves, would you rather have a thousand customers who buy the product one time and never buy it again or a hundred customers who buy it every day and love it and tell all their friends?” he said.
The company started out with the supplements packaged in foil paper packets, hole punched and shipped with a wire hangar rack display. The foil packets didn’t do the best job of portraying the message of high quality, Johansen said. But even with that impediment, and even with having to go up against counter edge heavyweights like 5-hour Energy, the product has found success and can now be purchased in locations on and around college campuses nationwide, Johansen said.
“We’ve got products across the US. We’re in pretty close to 1,000 stores. We distribute products through Circle K, Barnes and Noble and Follett Higher Education Group that manages bookstores on college campuses,” he said.
Making it easier for consumers and retailers
The packaging revamp will boost that success, Johansen said. Working with contract packaging firm Assemblies Unlimited, based in Bloomingdale, IL, the company came up with a new blister pack that is shipped to retailers preloaded into cardboard trays that include space for branding and messaging at the back. And unlike the wire hangers, where the last few packs dangle at the back and have to be pulled forward (remember that one second window?) the cardboard trays offer every blister pack down to the last one front and center to the consumer.
“We knew we wanted to do something nicer than what we were doing,” Johansen said. In addition to providing a better interaction with consumers, the new displays work better for the retailers, too, he said.
“They are more concerned with how much time it takes to put the product on the shelf,” Johansen said. “All you have to do is take it out of the case and put it on the counter. It’s as simple as it can possibly get.”
And every little advantage is important in gaining access to shelf space, Johansen said. The POP marketplace is no less competitive than other parts of the store.
“It comes down to what we can do for them. If you want to put your product in a chain convenience store, they are going to want some cash up front to give you that shelf space. They want to know that you can invest in promotion to support sales,” he said.