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How Has COVID Impacted the Sports Supplement Industry?

In our current COVID-19 world, we have had to adjust to a new way of doing things. We minimize our exposure by making fewer trips to the grocery store, if we go at all, and our new fitness center is the living room, or the park. Thankfully we still have a few more months to take advantage of the nice weather, but cold and flu season is on the way, leading many to wonder how they will continue to stay strong and healthy – inside and out.

Link Between Sports Supplements and COVID/Immune Support

One very promising area of interest is in utilizing current sports nutrition supplements to support immune health. For example, researchers have found that carnosine reduced acute lung injury caused by H9N2 swine flu. One easy and affordable way to increase levels of carnosine in the body is by consuming beta-alanine – an ingredient commonly used in sports supplement formulations. In sports nutrition, beta-alanine is included to help enhance muscular endurance, prolonging time to fatigue and improving athletic performance. Other ingredients that are being looked at for their immune benefits and are also widely available in dietary sports supplements are glucosamine, chondroitin, creatine, curcumin, phytochemicals and bioflavonoids. These ingredients offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are helpful in preventing illness and reducing inflammation and injury.

Consumers Not Traveling or Exercising in Public Places

As a result of travel restrictions and people not exercising in shared spaces, the need for portable or on-the-go supplement options such as bars, RTDs (Ready-To-Drink) and stick packs is temporarily on hold. This will likely be the case for some time, because the rules will continue to require social distancing and because our behaviors and attitudes about what is “necessary” have changed. Our going-out choices, along with our purchasing choices, have been, most likely permanently altered. This shift in consumer priority and need will require private label supplement manufacturers like NutraCap Labs to provide innovation in that goes beyond the functionality of convenient packaging and addresses the concern for immunity and recovery.

The Future of Sports Supplements – Innovation

The dietary supplement industry is ever evolving, and that is especially true of the sports nutrition category. There will always be a push for new and exciting products. So where will that innovation come from?

Packaging:

There has been a continuous and increasing demand over the past several years for sports supplements and other private label supplements to be convenient for the active, on-the-go consumer. Daily packs, bars, and beverages that can go from the gym bag to the car to the hotel have been popular among consumers. (We hadn’t quite topped the wave and come down the other side yet of all of the waste these smaller packages create – but that’s a different post.) These types of packages are poorly positioned for the needs of today’s consumer, who is far less likely to be using these products outside of the home.

As a result, there will be a growing shift towards more economic packages offering value, recyclability, and sustainability. (Pro tip: These larger packages allow for a lot more outer surface area to talk about the additional benefits of these products!)  This trend is so prevalent that it even extends to consumers wanting vegan capsules due to environmental concerns.  Sustainability is shifting from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” for many consumers and companies in the in the sports supplements industry, tying in with key values in caring about health and the environment. Keep an eye on sustainable packaging trends in the future as it’s likely we will see more practical and economic options in the not too distant future.  From the use of bio-based materials to recycle-friendly shrink-film, options exist to make your finished private label supplement fully recyclable. These types of packages will continue to gain in popularity, and are what you want to be exploring for your product line.

Ingredients:

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are remarkably resilient and their ability to adapt to the current pandemic is no different.  They know that the best way to stay healthy amidst this pandemic is to “just keep swimming” – or running, or lifting, or yoga’ing. They also understand the benefits of good nutrition, and the impact that has on their performance and overall health. These consumers have continued to use their trusted supplements for endurance, muscle recovery and strength, but we’re starting to see a shift in focus to a different kind of strength that will help to prevent them from getting sick. 

In addition to the beta-alanine we mentioned above, there are other tried-and-true sports ingredients that are also powerhouses for immune support – most people just don’t know about them yet:

Creatine is a popular organic acid that is commonly used in sports supplements by bodybuilders and athletes. A new study has found that creatine provides vital support to the immune cells to better fight cancer. Creatine uptake is vital to the anti-tumor activities of CD8 T cells, (also called killer T cells),  which are the immune cells tasked with finding and destroying the infected cells.

BCAAs are another extremely popular sports supplement. Daily intake of BCAA has been shown to improve the immune response among athletes undergoing endurance training. Additionally, BCAAs can be used by immune cells within the gut as a fuel source, which allows the immune system to regenerate itself more efficiently and protect against harmful pathogens. In short, BCAA can aid in the building of a strong immune system, which aids in recovery and makes you less likely to get sick.

These established sports ingredients and many more are being studied by leading researchers all over the world, who continue to identify their abilities to provide immune support. In the meantime, they offer great opportunities for sports supplement brands to highlight the dual-benefit of both sports performance and immunity. 

Tell us how your use of sports supplements has changed as a result of COVID?

The #1 Social Media Tactic for Supplement Startup Brands

It is almost impossible to have a successful business today without being involved with social media. The use of social networks has become a part of every successful supplement brand’s marketing campaign. These platforms can help to increase brand awareness, share product information, and even generate leads. This is especially important for startups that are operating with lean budgets in a crowded market.

The problem is that most brands approach social media like a one-way street. They feel that if they just start posting and talking about themselves, people will be interested. And then if that doesn’t work, they figure they probably need to start talking about themselves even more! OK, hold on a minute!

Back in the old days (72months ago) this may have worked a little because there were only a million businesses on Facebook and Instagram was still a baby. But now there are estimated to be nearly 80 million businesses on Facebook alone, and those businesses are posting more than ever before. So, with all of these businesses talking about themselves, it’s become an extremely loud and noisy one-way street. Meanwhile, a recent study called “AudienceProject” by Statistica showed that only 17% of Facebook users where interested in following brands on social media. The most popular uses were actually ……. spying on ex-lovers (just kidding)! There were three big ones that account for the majority of interactions. They are as follows, in order of priority:

  1. Socializing with friends and family
  2. Entertainment
  3. Get news

So, what do we take from this? If you want to be successful going forward on social media, stop focusing so much on talking about yourself and start being, well………… Social. 

Feedback is a Supplement Startup Brand’s Best Friend:

Let’s begin by making it a two-way street. Start making at least one post per week a question. Find out what your audience likes, what their favorite things are, get to know them. Remember, people are mainly there to socialize with friends and family and to be entertained. Imagine a brand that actually cares what its audience is thinking! The most successful brands on social media act like friends, not businesses. These platforms are a way to get personal while not being in-person. Because of the instantaneous interaction these networks create, you have an opportunity to collect feedback quickly in several different ways:

  • Monitor the discussions and comments. Listen to what they are saying about your brand and use the information to improve your outreach. ***Also, look at the conversations happening on your competitor’s pages!
  • Respond to them. Answer their questions, let them know you are listening to their feedback, address their concerns in real time, ask them what they want!

Responding to your customers and followers changes these posts from being a one-sided conversation to a place where people share and have authentic interactions. It is, after all, SOCIAL media.

Use these platforms to let people know a little bit about who you are, what your supplement brand is all about, and why they should care. At the same time, learn about them.

Social Surveys 101:

Social media can be a fast, free, and effective way for supplement startup brands to get valuable market research if they are looking to grow fast. Surveys are a great way to do this. You can setup a survey yourself, or there are some simple apps that make it easy and interactive. Surveys provide all kinds of valuable insights:

  • Identify who your followers and customers are – confirm you are connecting with your target demographic.
  • Test out new concepts – such as packaging ideas or new products.
  • Learn about how your product is being used – where are your supplements being taken, and why are they choosing yours. This helps you refine existing products and create new ones.
  • Get customer testimonials – let your customers share their love of your products and let that word-of-mouth endorsement spread to other followers.

Social surveys are a great way to find out about your customers and followers. Find out what they like, what they want, and who they are.

Following Up Gets You Followers!

Whether you’re talking about Facebook, Instagram or even Tiktok, you want to grow a pool of what are called “followers”. People who have purposefully connected to your brand through that social channel, essentially subscribing to see your future content. There are a few ways to do this. You could buy them – there are lists and services that help you do that, but this can lead to problems. For instance, if you’re hitting the feeds of unengaged followers that don’t fit your target demographic, they won’t be followers for long. This is where you need to focus on QUALITY over QUANTITY. You want quality followers who are interested in your products, earning them organically through your engagement.  So, post content people like or want to share, encourage conversations about your products, ask questions about how they are being used, and learn about your customers and what they are looking for. Also, (pro tip) Facebook has a feature that allows you to send “follow invites” to anyone who has commented or liked your posts. So again, back to the theme of this article, if you are having conversations, you are going to drive comments and posts which can then be converted to followers.

So, what’s the #1 social media tactic for startup supplement brands? Answer: Be Social!

Encourage conversations, engagement, and sharing by acting more like a friend than a brand. By doing this, social media can help your supplement startup to reach more people, make real-time connections with them and use that engagement to help you stand out in a crowded market.   

Speaking of engagement, what did you think? If this article was helpful, please share on social and tag us – we’ll take that as a signal that you want more!

Why Use Trademarked Ingredients in Private Label Supplements?

Three out of every four Americans consume a dietary supplement of some kind every day. Unfortunately, most consumers lack a solid understanding of the many different supplement ingredients – how they work, what forms are best absorbed, or optimal dosage. This is where the inclusion of a trademarked ingredient can be helpful.

What are trademarked supplement ingredients?

When scanning the label of a supplement ingredient panel, you might notice at least one branded ingredient is listed. This would be the Capitalized ingredient, often in bold, and accompanied by either a ™ or ® symbol. Branded ingredients are also sometimes also called trademarked ingredients, which are ingredients registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.  These ingredients typically have some clinical research in support of their safety and effectiveness.

The key benefits of trademarked ingredients are:

  • They use high-standard research, often double-blind methods (which limit any biases or manipulation of the data).
  • They have vigorous testing protocols to make sure the quality of the product is to the highest standard.
  • They are guaranteed to be “clean”, free from harmful substances or contaminants.
  • The manufacturing of these ingredients has been conducted under strict conditions to ensure their quality and viability remain intact throughout the process.
  • Most ingredient research and studies have been done on the patented ingredients, rather than the generic ones, ensuring the product using the patented ingredient has been shown to provide the stated benefits.

Why you might use trademarked ingredients in your private label brand:

Including a trademarked ingredient in your private label supplement is a great way to increase both the actual and perceived quality of your product. These specialized, branded ingredients can offer your customers some assurance that the products are well formulated and so they can count on getting the health benefits they are after.

Take curcumin, for example.  In the past several years there has been an explosion of curcumin products on the market – both trademarked and generic. Curcumin is a polyphenol known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is good for overall health. While the health benefits of curcumin are now widely known, what many people don’t realize is that curcumin is not well-absorbed by the body. So, scientists got to work and there are now several branded curcumin ingredients on the market that have research supporting their bio-availability.

How to leverage trademarked ingredients in your supplement marketing:

The dietary supplement industry is forever battling the age-old “snake oil” stereotype. For the large percentage of Americans buying dietary supplements who have no idea what they’re buying, a trademarked ingredient can be everyone’s best friend. Supplement companies that source ingredients primarily based upon price run the risk of having those ingredients be less potent and therefore less effective.  This can destroy a brand over time. On the other hand, companies that use branded/trademarked ingredients backed by science have something specific to reference when they are talking about quality and efficacy – the two most important elements in building a trusted brand.

Tell a story –Often there is a great creation story you can share. One example that comes to mind is a collagen product called UC-II®. A Rheumatologist working with Harvard and Beth Israel in Boston had a daughter who was severely crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. In an effort to help his daughter, Dr. David Trentham began working with different collagen products to find one that could help her. The result was UC-II®, an undenatured type-II collagen product that works with the autoimmune response in RA sufferers. (His daughter did eventually end up gaining a significant amount of her mobility back.)

Team-up in your efforts – The manufacturer of the trademarked ingredient will be doing their own marketing and promotional activities. It would make sense for you to tie into these and double your impact to help build greater awareness of the ingredient. Perhaps they want finished products to display that feature their branded ingredient – offer yours and get the free promotion!

Leverage the research – Probably the best way to communicate the excellence of your product is to use the research that has already been done for you. The science behind the branded ingredient you choose will have head-to-head comparisons with the generic versions, possibly even with other branded versions. There will be hard data demonstrating efficacy at a specific dose, which you’re less likely to find with untested generic ingredients coming from unknown supplier sources – but that’s another story.

You can absolutely create a private label supplement that is safe, effective, and high quality without including a trademarked ingredient, but including one or two of them can make it easier for you to communicate the advantages of your product to your customer. These branded ingredients offer visible research showing their safety and effectiveness, which ultimately serves to support the finished product and help it stand out as being transparent, trustworthy and of high value. If you want to learn more about trademarked ingredients or you would like to explore including them in your product, shoot us an email or message us on social. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Amazon Private Label Brands 3 Ways Its Reshaping the Supplement Market

As the owner of a quickly emerging private label supplement brand, your primary goal is to carve out a piece of the market and grow it as quickly as you can. With specialty chains like The Vitamin Shop and megastores like Target limiting their shelf space (and fewer people shopping brick and mortar because of COVID), more brands are forced to figure out how to win on Amazon.

So, no surprise, Amazon now offers more supplement brands than any other ecommerce retailer – like 50 TIMES more!  While that fact may be a little scary, there are brands just like yours who break through and achieve huge success all of the time.  We work with some of those brands, and so we thought we would share some important insights with you.

How Amazon Private Label Supplements Changes the Game

Although general “big box” and specialty brick and mortar stores still offer strong selling channels, most of the supplement business (both private label and branded) has shifted to online ecommerce retailers (a.k.a Ecomm).  Among those online ecommerce sales – the vast majority, almost 80% of sales, are made on Amazon.  A staggering number.

As previously mentioned, Amazon offers approximately 50 times more supplement brands than any other Ecomm retailer. This enormous pool of products is broken into three main groups.  The first, and largest, are the national brands – totally custom formulations, strong brand identity, and heavy marketing support.

The second are what many call “white label” brands, which are generally individual nutrients or generic formulations that are produced in bulk and sitting on manufacturers’ shelves just waiting for label.  A small seller comes along, can buy small quantities of these stock generic formulations, put their own label on it and sell it as their own line.

The third and final is the retailer’s own private label or, as they like to call it, “private brands”.   For example, Amazon offers supplements under their own brands, such as Solimo™, Elements™ and technically Whole Foods™ 365 (since Wholefoods is owned by Amazon).

Regardless of which grouping of supplement brands we’re talking about, what’s important to understand is how Amazon has managed to scoop up so much market share.  This can be summed up in three main buckets.  We could probably write a whole book on each one of these buckets, but we’re going to keep it simple: 

  1. CONVENIENCE. Like any major Ecomm retailer, it’s easier to go online than it is to visit the store.  But where Amazon has really rocked the world is with cheap fast delivery.  Most shipments are delivered in 2 days or less and, in some cases, you can get the products you order the very same day either through direct delivery or store pickup.  Do you own your own supplement brand?  Well, chances are that Amazon can deliver YOUR products faster and more cheaply than you can.  Pretty crazy!
  2. SELECTION. Amazon offers a larger selection than you could fit in any brick and mortar retailer.  You would need a warehouse or club store to display all of the different private label supplement brands a simple Amazon search provides.  It’s the world’s largest product search engine, helping shoppers quickly find and compare products that they are interested in purchasing.
  3. PRICE. Amazon’s algorithm never sleeps.  It is searching the web day and night to ensure that its prices beat all others (including your own website). When that algorithm finds a lower price, it automatically adjusts its own product listings to be lower.  As a result, they’ve now established a reputation for being consistently lower than the competition.  And programs like their “Subscribe N Save” only serve to further cement that.

OK, so we know Amazon is the #1 Ecomm retailer for supplements which means that there is a huge opportunity for sales, BUT there is also a TON of competition on Amazon so we have to make sure we’ve got a strong game plan to succeed.

Having worked with many successful brands on Amazon over the years, we put together a quick summary of key areas to focus your efforts. 

Four “Must Haves” to Win on the Big A

A “nice to have” is something you would really like but it’s not going to ruin your good time if you don’t get it.  Like a bottle opener.  A “must have” on the other hand……..is more like a big screen HDTV when you’re throwing a Super Bowl party!

So here are four “must haves” in order to win on Amazon.

  • Content. In most cases, your Amazon product pages will get more visitor traffic than your own website product pages.  Consider that and think about how important the content is on those Amazon pages.  Use Amazon’s Enhanced Brand Content features to tell your story on your product listing pages. Speak to the shopper’s pain, offer value-added information like recipes, tips, and other tricks to position yourself as a valuable resource. Amazon has now expanded their shoppable content to include branded video. Make a quick how-to featuring one of your products, and let your future customers get to know you a little bit.
  • Connection. Amazon is convenient, but it can also be a bit impersonal. There aren’t many opportunities to show your customers who you really are in that brown box that lands on the shopper’s doorstep. Include some free samples or coupons with every purchase, or a handwritten thank you note. Provide a link to an online survey or a loyalty program they can join. By taking the time to interact directly with these people, getting them involved, and helping them feel like they’re part of “something bigger”, it further cements their relationship with your brand.
  • Customization. While Amazon offers a lot of products, few of them are personal to the shopper. In general, most shoppers are just looking at labels and comparing prices.  As your supplement manufacturer, we can work with you to create a unique product that feels like it was made just for them and help you explain each of the ingredient choices in detail.  You can also utilize Amazon’s capability to “bundle” products.  A product bundle is two compatible products sold together (like protein and aminos).  Offer several different product “bundles” for your various consumer types (such as women or athletes). 
  • Community. There is a huge opportunity to leverage social media and other online forums in a personal way to build a community around your brand.  You have an opportunity to identify who your customer will be and target them directly. Provide original and engaging content that they will care about, and respond to their questions and reviews on the Amazon platform so that you create an engaged community.  Again, that Enhanced Brand Content feature can be leveraged to invite people to your own social community.

Turns out Amazon is quite a bit like the massive jungle it was named after.  A vast world of wonder and excitement, yet incredibly dangerous if you don’t know you’re way around.

Please let us know if this article was helpful by sharing your questions or comments on our Nutracap Labs Facebook page.  Also, if there are specific topics or tips you want to hear more about, please let us know that as well.

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