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Big Interview: Marc Stover, Twinlab

Twinlab predicts double-digit growth in 2011 on back of ‘aggressive’ new marketing push

By Elaine Watson , 18-Apr-2011
Last updated on 18-Apr-2011 at 15:19 GMT2011-04-18T15:19:46Z

Dietary supplements and sports nutrition giant Twinlab grew sales more than 10% last year and predicts another year of double-digit growth in 2011 as it aggressively ramps up marketing following a deal with sporting legend Ray Lewis.

Twinlab director of marketing Marc Stover told NutraIngredients-USA.com: “Most companies in this market were up in 2010 because 2009 was such a disaster for a lot of people, but we’re also anticipating solid double-digit growth in 2011, and I’m expecting to steal more market share.”

He added: “Twinlab has been around a long time and we feel like it’s time for people to re-acquaint themselves with the brand. We’ve got a lot of innovative products to come. I can’t give specifics, but we’re looking at different sources of protein and more in the heart, joint and cognition areas.”

There would also be a continued focus on krill, he said. “Last year we launched a krill product with more krill than any other krill softgel and we’ve also put a lot of work into our Marine Friends children’s omega-3 powder for kids [a powdered blend of EPA and DHA in stick packs that can be added to food and drink].”

A recent deal with NFL star Ray Lewis to promote Twinlab’s new pre-workout supplement Powerfuel reflected a heavy investment in marketing this year, said Stover, who is relying on Lewis to “lead a rejuvenation of our sports nutrition lines”.

How has the recession affected consumer behavior?

The effects of the recession on consumer behavior had been mixed, with some shoppers worried about healthcare costs spending more on supplements as a preventative measure, but others questioning whether they were a luxury they couldn’t afford, he said.

Some consumers had switched to private-label products in a bid to save cash, although Twinlab also had a strong presence in this market, he said. “We’re not necessarily the lowest cost provider, but retailers come to us because they trust us. What do they really want? To shave another penny off the price or avoid a recall?”

Whey protein or gas for the car?

New packaging formats had also helped address cash-strapped shoppers’ concerns, he said: “Some people are asking the question, do I buy a 5lb tub of whey protein for 50 bucks or do I put gas in my car?

“But we’ve been really successful with a smaller re-sealable 1lb foil bag, which means you’re not spending $20-80 in one go.”

As for the range, it would probably contract slightly in the next two-three years, he said. “Can we do more with less? Yes. We do need to do some housekeeping and get more streamlined.”

Bricks vs clicks

The internet represented a huge opportunity for established firms such as Twinlab to build their brands and position themselves as trusted experts, he said, as more consumers did research online, even if they purchased the products in a store.

“We have to provide the depth of information on the internet that people are looking for.”

On the other hand, the internet had also attracted unscrupulous players selling questionable products direct to consumers, which threatened to undermine confidence in the whole industry, he warned. “It is something I worry about and someone that doesn’t do a good job can give the whole industry a bad name.”

He also predicted further consolidation in the market. “I think the industry will continue to consolidate, but because it’s still such a young industry with relatively few barriers to entry, we will see new market entrants as well.”

Category management

As to how best to engage with consumers in the dietary supplements arena, category management was a “constant struggle”, he said.

“We wrestle with this all the time. I don’t think anyone has figured it out yet. The good thing about the internet is that you can search in different ways, by A-Z, by product category, by brand, by health condition and so on, whereas in a store you can’t.

“It’s something that comes up in our conversations with retailers all the time. They will ask us: ‘What products do you take before a workout and what products afterwards?’ But it’s never that simple.

“We don’t say there are 37 products pre-workout and 19 for after. The same applies to most supplements, especially omega-3s where you have multiple benefits. How should you categorize them?”

Part of ISI Brands, Twinlab is a leading manufacturer and marketer of vitamins, minerals, nutraceuticals, herbs and sports nutrition products under the Twinlab, Metabolife, Dr. Greene, TeaZen, Nature's Herbs, and Alvita Teas brands.

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