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VMS offerings get personal at Ritzman

BY Michael Johnsen

A regional player is getting into the VMS business in a unique and personalized way. Ritzman Pharmacy, based in Medina, Ohio, last spring launched a new line of own-brand patient-customized supplements through its RefreshinQ division as part of a new wellness subscription offering.
 
“RefreshinQ is the future of Ritzman and [represents] how we’re positioning ourselves differently,” Ritzman Pharmacy president and COO George Glatcz said. “It’s changing the way we do business.”
 
[quote-from-article] Glatcz said that the new offering is a way to help customers navigate a category whose sheer size and variety can be off-putting.
 
“There’re a thousand SKUs of different types of vitamins and supplements,” Glatcz said. “They have no clue what they need, [and] they’re so confused.”
 
At Ritzman locations, pharmacists are tailoring supplements to individual patients through a partnership with InsideTracker, which harnesses a database representing more than 150,000 people, as well as peer-reviewed research to help define optimal health recommendations for all types of people, Glatcz said.
 
RefreshinQ starts with a simple baseline health analysis from the user, including information about individual hydration, energy, blood pressure, heart rate and weight. After the baseline analysis, RefreshinQ customers are given a code to redeem for blood analysis performed at an approved facility.
 
The blood test analyzes as many as 30 biomarkers as part of a $279 offering that includes three months of dietary supplements and professional health consultations with Ritzman pharmacists, Glatcz said.
 
“Our pharmacists [will] become coaches to help guide people through whatever their wellness goals are,” he said.
 
Those coaching guides help users build a customized health and nutrition program. Supplement buyers can customize that pack mix directly through RefreshinQ.com, where a 30-day supply of between five and seven supplements will cost $69.99.  Also, Ritzman has incorporated a prepackage service into the RefreshinQ program.
 
“We’ve taken that technology and [applied] it to the supplement lines,” Glatcz said. “Instead of people having six vitamin bottles, we’ll prepackage them for them, and they can have it in one packet instead of in a bottle.
 

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Supplementing shoppers’ lifestyles

BY Michael Johnsen

The VMS category is mercurial. When a group of ingredients declines, another sector emerges or experiences a renaissance based on consumer interest. As a result, VMS manufacturers say that keeping up with the latest trends is the key to maintaining a steady-growth trajectory across the vitamin category.
 
“The category does have some challenges ahead, including large-scale declines in glucosamine/chondroitin, calcium, Co Q-10, cranberry, unisex senior multis, coconut oil and fish oil,” said Tony True, vice president of North American sales at Northridge, Calif.-based Pharmavite.
 
[quote-from-article] Collectively, the losses True mentioned amount to almost $40 million drop-in sales for the 26 weeks ended Nov. 4, based on IRI data. But the good news is that trends in growing segments point to the category’s growth potential being able to significantly outstrip the sales lost as other areas decline.  
 
One of the biggest growth areas, True said, are gummies.
 
“Consumers are responding to the growing availability of gummies and demonstrating interest in specific product segments and need states,” he said. “The gummy delivery form continues to contribute to strong growth for the category, and its sales trend is projected to remain strong. Gummies represent 73% of the growth that the category has realized, which translates to $58.6 million in growth versus a year ago for the most current 26-week period.”
 
As more consumers opt for a different delivery method, they grow increasingly interested in the popular sleep, energy, beauty and digestive products segments.
 
“[These] are popular right now because of their usefulness,” said Kristine Urea, vice president of category management and shopper strategy at Bohemia, N.Y.-based Nature’s Bounty. “They are aligned to key lifestyle benefits that consumers feel are areas of concern.”
 
Knowing which segments and formats are feeding sales trends is only half the battle, however. Even with “Dr. Google” available at a consumer’s fingertips, educating consumers on what supplements to buy in order to realize their wellness goals can be a challenge.
 
“Retailers should be working to help educate consumers about why supplements are important, and what benefits they can provide,” Urea said. “The vitamin and supplement aisle can be intimidating, and people don’t always know what they’re looking for. Some consumers may walk in knowing that they want more energy, but wouldn’t necessarily know that taking a B-12 supplement could help support their energy levels. People are largely unsure of what to take that meets specific desired needs, but they are open to learning. That’s an opportunity for us and for our retail partners.”
 
The bottom line is that people are looking for easy and convenient ways to help them maintain health without adding extra steps to their already hectic lives, Urea said. “People need support to help them keep up with all they want to do — and they are coming into the vitamin category to find solutions that can help them achieve balance, thrive and incorporate healthy choices.”
 
Merchandising is one important way for retailers to help shoppers navigate the VMS category, according to Patricia Jones, general manager at Mason Vitamins, based in Miami Lakes, Fla.
 
“I see a lot of retailers merchandise by category as opposed to by brand,” Jones said. “That makes it easier for the consumer. If they don’t know anything about vitamins, they’re not going to want to go to five different vitamin lines to look for something for their immune system.”
 
The merchandising imperative is being complicated as a new consumer mindset takes over — the idea of beauty from within, making skin health- and complexion-boosting supplements more popular. This raises the question of where to merchandise these products, and whether they belong near supplements, in the beauty aisle or both.
 
“This is a brand-new trend we’re all trying to [navigate],” Mason Vitamins senior vice president of sales and marketing Gary Pigott said. “In drug especially, or even food, I don’t see the consumer shopping beauty supplements in the beauty care set,” he said, adding that retailers that successfully merchandise beauty in the beauty aisle also typically have beauty advisors to help drive those sales. “Walgreens, Ulta Beauty, those kinds of outfits have that [level of service]. Wegmans does a nice job of that, too.”
 
According to many suppliers operating in the VMS space, other trending subcategories across the natural health space include probiotics, which continues to be a strong segment within vitamins with $796.1 million in sales on growth of 4% across total U.S. multi-outlets, according to IRI.
 
“The gut microbiome continues to be a hot topic and an area of quickly expanding scientific study,” said Hannah Braye, technical advisor at U.K.-based Protexin, which sells the Bio-Kult probiotic brand.
 
To help retailers capture that probiotic sale, Protexin this summer will be introducing its “Survive Summer” campaign, Braye said. “If a customer is someone who suffers from hay fever, heat rash, excess sweating, dry skin, an upset stomach while traveling or an increase in bouts of cystitis, then the summer months can be difficult,” she said. “Retailers can give them a helping hand this summer by suggesting they try taking a probiotic supplement to help balance the gut flora to support their digestive and immune systems.”
 
Growing probiotics sales comes at the same time as a push among consumers toward natural ingredients that is akin to the “cleaner ingredient” trend tracked in the center store of supermarkets — that is, a focus on products defined as non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, and free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
 
“‘Clean’ is a big topic lately,” said Nicholas Senande, assistant brand manager at Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Piping Rock Health Products. “Consumers are looking for more and more clean products.”
 
Senande noted that consumers’ interest in clean or natural products offers the opportunity to merchandise these products alongside other wellness-focused products that might not strictly belong to the VMAs category.
 
“[The] opportunity exists with retailers to cross merchandise these growing segments and bring new, emerging and trending products and ingredients into the VMS section, such as nutritional powders, aromatherapy, natural therapies, etc.,” he said. “This creates a more cohesive shopping experience for consumers and will build baskets as they immerse themselves deeper into the expanded category selections.”
 

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General Merchandise: What’s hot in 2018

BY Carol Radice
The International Home + Housewares Show may just be a couple of months away, but Phil Brandl, president and CEO of the Rosemont, Ill.-based International Housewares Association said some interesting trends — propelled by innovative, design-driven products — are taking shape to impact several general merchandise categories in the following months. 
 
“Across the spectrum of home products, the impact of design and the emergence of new materials have created many new options for decorating, organizing, cleaning and supplying the home,” Brandl said. “Inspired by social media and peer-to-peer idea sharing, consumers are busily exploring new food preparation options, and kitchenware suppliers are ready with tools to support them.”  
 
Food and beverage storage
The standout hydration category, which includes bottles, infusion and filtration products, has experienced growth upward of 25% in the past year, and sales momentum is expected to continue forward in 2018. Propelled by health-and-wellness trends, such factors as technology, fashion and design continue to drive the category’s growth.  
 
The category is so hot, officials at IHA are adding a pre-show event, the Trending Today Preview: A Marketplace for Hydration on Saturday, March 10. Buyers will be able to meet with 60 exhibitors of hydration and hydration-related products from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. ahead of the show floor opening.
 
Among the vendors playing into the hydration trend is Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Bradshaw International. Bradshaw is best known for its wide assortment of kitchenware offerings, but its products cover all seasons across every category, including tools and gadgets, bakeware, cookware, food storage and baking/decorating.
 
The company has recently launched its GoBottle under its Good Cook brand. Available in 25 SKUs, the GoBottle comes in a range of price points and options from acrylic to stainless steel thermal insulated bottles. The company said that it features quality construction and multiple usage features that include dual-function lids at a value that connects with most consumers. It also has bold, on-trend colors that Bradshaw said was meant to appeal to a younger demographic.
 
“We feel that the food storage and hydration categories make a lot of sense for our drug store partners,” said Melissa Simpson, senior channel manager at Bradshaw. “We have always had a presence with some core kitchen gadgets such as corkscrews and can openers, so the extension into these everyday items offers more opportunities for sales.”
 
Many of bottles are spill resistant with secure lids sealed with silicone gaskets, are BPA-free, designed to be easy to fill and clean, and many have built-in loops ready to be attached to backpacks or gym bags, Bradshaw said, noting that a color-coded system quickly lets the consumer know the top three details of each bottle.
 
Good Cook’s GoBottle stainless steel group is constructed of 18/8 stainless steel in order to provide durability and thermal insulation, Bradshaw said. On some of its bottles, cold drinks will maintain icy cold temperatures for up to 24 hours, while hot liquids can hold their temperature for longer than six hours, according to Bradshaw. 
 
Bradshaw is tapping into another general merchandise category that sees near-constant demand — food storage. Consumers never seem to have enough food storage containers, in part because they are always bringing them to work, in their car or taking them along when visiting friends. Experts say price, durability and weight are three factors that will be influencing consumers’ buying decisions in 2018. Shoppers also want eco-friendly, versatile and temperature-resistant containers.
 
In an effort to deliver on these needs, Bradshaw has recently introduced its Good Cook Food Storage Value Pack. The 50-piece set is BPA-free, as well as microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Bradshaw said the price point makes an ideal addition to drug, grocery and mass retailers. 
 
Tech storage
Freelancing is becoming more prevalent in our society, especially with the younger generation and those who need or want more flexibility in their work hours. With more workers in the United States being positioned as freelancers, many of these mobile employees work from multiple places on any given day, which has led to an increased demand for products that help support this portable lifestyle. Officials at Allegro, a division of Conair, located in El Segundo, Calif., noted that the driving factor for innovation will be how to help these workers maintain a certain level of organization and preparedness wherever they may be, with ease and efficiency.
 
The growing freelancer community and lifestyle are leading companies like Allegro to create products that provide innovative solutions that make organization and accessibility of all their gear and tech accessories easy. Allegro’s Porte Play line of electronic accessories storage bags come in a variety of sizes and was created to help users easily and neatly store cables, chargers, and other tech accessories. 
 
“We created Porte Play to be functional and not overly designed, unlike some similar items in the market,” Sarah Phan, vice president of marketing and new business strategy, said. She noted that such features as mesh and PVC pockets make it easy to store larger items and see what is in each compartment. Elastic loops were included to offer easy access to frequently used smaller items.
 
“And given that most freelancers work in public spaces or open collaborative workspaces, we made sure the bags also look sleek and stylish so they are happy to pull them out of their bags or leave them open on the desk,” Phan said.
 
Express yourself
Staying relevant by keeping up with what consumers are looking for will be critical for greeting card sales to thrive in 2018. This applies as much to content as it does to design. Affirming messages, in particular, are expected to appeal to greeting card shoppers this year. 
 
“Greeting cards are an emotional purchase and communicate messages we often cannot say ourselves,” said Megan Baucco, associate manager, marketing communications for Cleveland-based American Greetings. 
 
Special occasion cards will remain the top reason consumers buy cards, but as Baucco pointed out, consumers also will look to greeting cards to celebrate the everyday things, people and moments in life that really matter. 
 
Accompanying this content, experts noted design elements featuring personal touches and high-end craftsmanshipwill be features drawing consumers
 
“Despite living hectic lives more people will be inclined to show up for each other and offer friends and loved ones’ support in those everyday moments,” Baucco said. “Cards with positive messages will remain a popular choice with consumers looking to take a little stress out of someone’s life.”
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