Walking the right path
Merchandising is the key to boosting foot care sales
The treads may be wearing thin in the foot care category, where overall sales across U.S. multi-outlets are down by 10% or more, though there may yet be opportunity with those silver foxes making their daily mall walks. Insoles and shoe inserts have long had household penetration in the high teens among the coveted baby boomers demographic.
“Baby boomers and the aging of America help foot care in general,” Steve Head, Implus executive vice president of sales, said. “Foot issues come with age. But that being said, household penetration stubbornly stays in the high teens and that makes the category not have the growth we’d all like to see.”
To help differentiate the foot care set and drive the traffic against the category that will help sustain overall foot health, Head suggested merchandising within the planogram based on condition. He noted that condition-based merchandising has done well in the case of plantar fasciitis, which creates pain in the heel of the foot and affects roughly 2 million people every year, according to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, most of them between the ages of 40 years and 60 years old.
“People have foot issues that move beyond just comfort,” Head said. “If you have plantar fasciitis, the shoes aren’t going to magically fix that; you really need to get either a plantar fasciitis orthotic or sleeve to address that issue. That’s one of the things that has been driving a lot of success.”
In the past year, Implus has brought a plantar fasciitis sleeve to the market that has worked very well, Head said. “That’s the easiest opportunity [to capitalize on]. It’s easy to understand and altogether different.”
There also may be an opportunity to market foot care products to weekend warriors in the mass channel.
“Weekend warriors are more inclined to get an insole that may help with their athletic endeavors in food, drug and mass outlet,” Head said. “[But], if they’re a more serious competitor, they tend to get that product in a sporting goods environment. That’s helping drive the premium insole piece of the business. Everyone’s trying to be more active. … And the more you’re on your feet the more they tend to hurt.”
Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, or SARMs, are a class of ingredients that can pose a threat to consumer safety, particularly in the bodybuilding and fitness communities. The Council for Responsible Nutrition, recognizing the safety threat, in February launched a consumer education initiative designed to raise awareness of the segment, whose role as an adulterated supplement segment gives mainstream operators a bad name.
“Bad actors tarnishing the reputation of responsible industry must never be tolerated. CRN and its member companies fully support the FDA’s efforts to crack down on companies unlawfully manufacturing products containing SARMs,” Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, said. “We hope that fitness organizations, sports clubs, personal trainers and coaches across the country will join CRN and its members in taking a stand against SARMs.”
Through its consumer education initiative, CRN said it wants to amplify recent warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and support U.S. Anti-Doping Agency efforts to alert athletes to the dangers of SARMs, which include increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and liver damage. To inform the bodybuilding and fitness communities, CRN created a #SARMsCanHarm toolkit for fitness organizations that includes customizable flyers, newsletter material and social media content.
“We are grateful for the organizations helping us deliver responsible industry’s firm message: SARMs are dangerous, illegal and have no place in dietary supplements or in any sports nutrition regimen,” Mister said.
SARMs are prohibited under the S1 Anabolic Agent category of the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List. They often are listed “ostarine” or “andarine” ingredients in adulterated products falsely labeled as dietary supplements.
Fueling consumers’ gains
CRN webinar encourages sports nutrition stewardship
The sports nutrition segment represents a significant opportunity for retailers, with SPINS reporting that protein supplements alone accounted for almost $4 billion in mass retail and specialty outlet sales last year — but is it worth the potential headache?
By and large, consumers shopping the sports nutrition category represent an aspirational shopper who is committed to getting fit and also willing to spend the money to accomplish those goals over a condensed time frame. But on the other hand, the segment’s profit-boosting SKUs can turn into a product liability mindset in the hands of a shopper with an “if-two-is-good-four-is-better” mindset.
Recognizing the double-edged sword of the segment, the Council for Responsible Nutrition recently hosted a webinar aimed at helping better navigate the space.
“Sports nutrition consumers are uniquely committed to improving performance, looking better or recovering faster,” Duffy MacKay, CRN’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said during the webinar. “Dietary supplements can play an incredibly important role in keeping athletes healthy, active and able to perform.”
Numbers show that consumers recognize the potential benefits of sports nutrition products. A SPINSights report published last year on protein found that as many as 66% of Americans said they were looking to consume “as much protein as possible.” This need has helped feed growth across several sports nutrition segments, including liquid protein and meal replacements.
To take advantage of that consumer need without incurring too much risk, retailers need to vet the sports nutrition companies seeking space on their shelves, CRN’s experts said.
“From a legal perspective, all of the usual concerns that a company would have in the broader dietary supplement industry apply to sports nutrition,” Rick Collins, a founding attorney of the Collins Gann McCloskey and Barry firm, said. “There needs to be a manufacturing agreement in place that deals with issues of loss, contamination and indemnification. There needs to be insurance for the product, including recall insurance. The same concerns for label compliance under DSHEA and the avoidance of unsubstantiated claims apply.”
Consumers are looking for that additional level of accountability, and there is an emerging traceability trend taking shape across the industry that is akin to the gravitation toward cleaner labels and more transparency.
CRN’s Supplement OWL, an industry-wide dietary supplement product registry, may help retailers identify optimal sports nutrition partners, the webinar said. Manufacturers who have bought into the product registry are able to upload product information and documentation and choose who will have access to that information — down to the retailer or regulator.