HEALTH

GNC reports 2008 financial results

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH General Nutrition Centers on Thursday reported revenue of $1.7 billion for the year ended Dec. 31, an increase of 6.7%. Same-store sales improved 2.7% in domestic company-owned stores, the specialty retailer reported.

EBITDA totaled $212.2 million for 2008, up 69.1%.

Revenue across GNC’s manufacturing and wholesale increased 10.8% for the year to $179.4 million.

“The growth in this segment was the result of increased third party sales and additional license fee revenue for Rite Aid’s store-within-a-store openings,” said GNC CFO Michael Nuzzo.

Rite Aid continued to expand its GNC store-within-a-store concept, adding a net 30 stores this quarter, Nuzzo said, bringing the total number of GNC/Rite Aid locations to 1,712, up from 1,358 stores last year.

Rite Aid is planning to open another 200 GNC storefronts this year. “We’ve been in constant touch with them on things as we work through the year, and we’re trying to partner with them, to help them in any way we can,” Joseph Fortunato, GNC CEO, told analysts Thursday. “We’re in discussions on some things right now, and I’m not free to really disclose them. But I think they are fairly firm in that they’re going to try to hold their commitments with us,” he said, responding to an analyst’s question on whether or not Rite Aid had shut down its GNC expansion plans.

At year end, operated 2,774 company-owned stores in the United States and Canada and had 954 domestic franchise locations, in addition to 1,712 Rite-Aid locations and 1,190 international franchise locations for a total of 6,630 locations globally.

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P & G’s probiotic supplement now available nationwide

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI Procter & Gamble on Thursday officially launched its Align daily probiotic supplement.

Once exclusively available online and through special order from pharmacists, Align will now be available on store shelves across the United States in spring 2009.

Align contains the probiotic strain, Bifantis (Bifidobacterium infantis 35624), which has been clinically proven to help promote the balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive system and to help build and maintain an ongoing natural defense against five signs of episodic digestive imbalance – constipation, diarrhea, urgency, gas and bloating.

“With continued professional and consumer accolades, we are extremely enthusiastic for the national launch of Align and further building our consumer health care business”, stated Mauricio Troncoso, P&G’s director, global digestive wellness. “Broadened availability of Align is on strategy with P&G’s efforts to focus on our consumer health care brands.”

Digestive health is expected to be a key health trend in 2009, P&G noted, and the probiotics category is leading the charge. Align helps naturally defend against digestive imbalance, with ongoing protection from episodic digestive upsets. The product has already received overwhelming support via online sales and in test markets, as well as professional support through its efficacy in clinical practice.

“We know consumers with episodic digestive problems are looking for real solutions, and Align is a clinically proven option,” stated Tom Kuhn, Align brand manager. “Because Align is grounded in real science and meets a real consumer health need, we expect it to become a cornerstone brand in our personal healthcare portfolio.”

As Procter & Gamble prepares to rollout Align nationally, the product’s packaging will be changing from a yellow and blue box to a green and white box with a new logo design that includes revised information to help consumers understand how Align can help provide a balancing defense against episodic digestive issues.

The new packaging also has educational information on the box to help consumers confidently select the product while keeping up with their supplement regimen through tracking tools and reminders.

KelloggsDRSNhttp://www.centerstoregrowth.com

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Mannatech launches scientific Web site

BY Michael Johnsen

COPPELL, Texas Mannatech on Thursday announced the launch of its scientific Web site, www.MannatechScience.org, which outlines the clinical support behind its proprietary product lines of dietary supplements.

“The hallmark of the Web site is Mannatech’s research,” stated Robert Sinnott, chief science officer and SVP, Mannatech. “Working in collaboration with scientists around the world, Mannatech has published and presented 16 studies, reviewing the scientific findings of its products and product ingredients, including Ambrotose products, BounceBack capsules, EMPACT energy and endurance formula and OsoLean powder.”

The company’s new Web site provides research information, including Mannatech’s published pre-clinical and clinical studies, and basic identity and safety information around the ingredients in Mannatech products.

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