This was the first year that Cognizin had a booth at SXSW Gaming, first held in 2014. The company was the only ingredient supplier exhibiting at the show.
“We have attended some other consumer shows like the Arnold Sports Festival [an annual multi-sport festival in Columbus, OH] but not as exhibitors,” Elyse Lovett, senior marketing manager of nutrition, pharmaceutical & CCM at Kyowa Hakko USA told NutraIngredients-USA.
“As our Cognizin brand grows in many different outlets, Kyowa’s strategy is to educate consumers on all of our branded ingredients and open new outlets for our customer’s products.”
Cornering the gamer market
Cognizin is Kyowa Hakko’s patented form of citicoline, a brain chemical which occurs naturally in the body. Kyowa’s Cognizin has been available for dietary supplements since 2003.
According to the company, the ingredient helps increase brain energy, provides structural components for synthesizing cell membranes in the brain, and helps the formation of brain nutrients that regulate cognitive function.
Because of this, an increasing number of Kyowa’s customers use Cognizin to formulate products targeting the rapidly growing gamer consumer set.
Looking at eSports alone—the term used to describe professional competitive video gaming—the industry encompasses an audience of 380 million, and North America represents the largest market with projected revenues of $656 million by 2021, up from $345 million this year, according to video game market research firm Newzoo.
“It is an industry dominated by the need for an edge in mental acuity, reflexes, alertness and awareness, so it seems like a natural fit for nootropics companies to expand their reach,” said Matthew Oster, head of consumer health research at Euromonitor International, a market research firm, in a past interview about tapping the gaming community as supplement buyers.
Building consumer trust, transparency
Ingredient suppliers are slowly coming out of the backstage area, putting effort into creating brand recognition not just in a B2B context among product formulators, but also to consumers that buy the finished product.
Transparency is one reason to do this. Direct-to-consumer women’s health brand Ritual, for example, features all the ingredient suppliers of its products on its website, complete with interviews with R&D managers or chief executives of the ingredient supplier companies.
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For Cognizin, exhibiting directly to consumers was about helping them understand the difference between branded ingredients and finished products.
“Most consumers at the show were really interested in our brand and the research behind Cognizin,” Lovett said. “Consumers also loved that there were different formulations with Cognizin on the market to choose from. For example, some wanted Cognizin formulated with caffeine, other wanted with a B-Complex, while others were just interest in trying a single formulated product with Cognizin.”
Differences from B2B exhibitions
Kyowa tailored its consumer-facing booth differently from how it sets up booths at trade shows.
“Normally at the trade industry shows we attend, we feature all of our ingredients and attend as Kyowa Hakko,” Lovett said.
“We were very focused at SXSW Gaming as we exhibited as Cognizin, our branded form of citicoline. We also featured and sampled some of our customers' products including Natures Bounty’s Active Mind, Optinutra’s Performance Lab and Mind Lab Pro, Nootropics Depots Cognizin Citicoline, and Nutrabolt’s newly launched C4 Natural Energy Beverage, all containing Cognizin Citicoline.”
“I think the benefits are also for our customers, going out to niche markets and featuring their brands definitely raises awareness and keeps the consumer engaged both on the ingredient and the finished product,” she added.
After their first booth experience at a consumer show, Lovett said that the biggest takeaway was: “More samples!”