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Collaborations Bring Great Products To Market

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The Thermogenic Spark in Twinlab’s Ripped Fuel When Twinlab® (American Fork, UT) sought to reformulate its Ripped Fuel supplement in the late 1990s, it wanted a combination of clinically tested ingredients that would work synergistically, safely and would stand out from the competition. At about the same time, Nutratech, Inc. (West Caldwell, NJ) was actively pursuing manufacturer partners for its proprietary thermogenic bitter orange extract ingredient Advantra Z®.

“Dennis Jones, MA, PhD was the first to identify the rare composition of five adrenergic amines in the immature, or unripe, bitter orange fruit, and its potential thermogenic qualities,” said Bob Green, president of Nutratech, Inc. “He was able to capture this complete, synergistic composition, ensuring consistent ingredient quality, preserving the active constituents in the same percentages in which they occur in nature, and guaranteeing standardized amounts of p-synephrine (the dominant amine and stable synephrine isomer) in every batch.” 

This discovery coincided with the FDA’s initial inquiries into the negative side effects associated with ephedra— then considered the most effective natural thermogenic ingredient on the market, Green added. “Dr. Jones’ research showed that Advantra Z could deliver comparable thermogenic activity without the risk of negative cardiovascular and central nervous system side effects,” he said.

According to Marc Stover, director of marketing with ISI Brands, which acquired Twinlab in 2003, it was Nutratech’s focus on research that made it a perfect fit for the endeavor. “We prize strong clinical research and that’s what separated Nutratech from the pack,” he said. “Twinlab is built on 40 years of customer and retailer trust. Central to achieving this is using high performance, highly tested, top and consistent quality ingredients.Advantra Z is one of those ingredients with the performance and safety data that we sought.”

Nutratech initiated the partnership 13 years ago, and Green recalled being impressed with Twinlab’s diligence before signing on. 
“Many companies chose to ride the ephedra wave until they were forced to find a replacement in 2004. Only the most forward-thinking manufacturers were looking for a new thermogenic ingredient for their formulas,” he said. “Twinlab was one of the first dietary supplement manufacturers to put its customers’ safety first and reformulate popular sports nutrition and weight management formulas like Ripped Fuel with our safe and effective thermogenic alternative.

“They recognized the potential of Advantra Z and actually commissioned their own independent research study.The results were very favorable and they decided to launch the new formula with Advantra Z,” Green continued.“Twinlab did its homework and was meticulous in its relaunch of Ripped Fuel with Advantra Z. That’s another reason we felt that it was a good match: we carry similar business ethics and will only offer products/ingredients that put science and consumer safety first.” 

Ultimately, Twinlab signed a licensing agreement, giving it the license to use the patented ingredient and to sell it using the patented claims. The agreement stipulates that both companies must adhere to specific quality standards and comply with the FDA’s DSHEA laws. There is also a clause that gives Nutratech the right to audit Twinlab’s books to ensure that they’re Only buying/using Advantra Z and not a generic extract. Twinlab has utilized the Advantra Z logo on the Ripped Fuel label, and Nutratech has since incorporated the product in its own marketing message.

The partnership has yielded impressive results for both companies. While Ripped Fuel enjoyed massive success with its initial launch, the reformulation with Advantra Z has been phenomenal.According to Stover, “Ripped Fuel is considered an institution because it works. In this category where things are long on hype and short on effectiveness, customers keep coming back to Ripped Fuel, and that says a lot for the formula and the ingredients therein.” For Nutratech, Twinlab utilizing the Advantra Z logo on Ripped Fuel’s label has caused manufacturers to take notice, and according to Green, the ingredient has experienced double-digit growth every year since its introduction.

Today, the two companies meet regularly to get updates on the latest research and to stay abreast of any new technologies Nutratech is developing.“From our side, we share our product priorities and areas of emphasis, whether it be for new products, new ingredients or new claims,” said Stover.“Partnership is indeed the right word and it has cemented itself over the years. Regular communication on topics ranging from the latest studies to new ingredients and the latest safety information ensures that we each understand where the other is going and, where mutually beneficial, our interests may intersect at some point again in the future to create another market-changing product.” 

One-of-a-Kind Component for Dr. Sears’ Immune Plus Fruit Chews 

Receiving the IFT Innovation Award for its Wellmune WGP® immune health ingredient at the 2007 IFT Expo certainly garnered Biothera (Eagan, MN) a lot of industry attention, as its introduction coincided with a rise in both consumer and manufacturer interest in immune health. While many companies inquired about the ingredient, it was a consultant that connected the supplier with the Irvine, CA-based manufacturer whose tremendous reputation is based on Dr. Bill Sears’ standing as one of America’s leading pediatricians.

“Our consumer findings show adults are constantly seeking out ways to naturally boost their immune systems. In Dr. Sears’ practice, one of the most sought after questions is finding natural remedies to keeping kids healthy during the winter season. The brand was trying to fill the void with a natural product that helps boost the immune system and backed by solid science,” said Michael Galef, executive vice president of marketing and sales for Dr. Sears Family Essentials, adding that the company began developing the Immune Chew product in early 2009, and its relationship with Biothera started more than two years ago.

The culmination of years of R&D, Wellmune WGP was introduced in 2007 as a solution for a growing need in the food, beverage and supplement markets for a natural, safe, clinically proven ingredient to deliver real immune health benefits, according to Richard Mueller, Biothera president and CEO. “Our efforts included obtaining GRAS designation from the FDA, demonstrating efficacy through clinical research, developing product forms (dispersible and soluble) to meet a wide range of product formulation needs,” he said.

But the facet of Wellmune WGP that particularly appealed to Dr. Sears is that it was developed for products that could be taken daily for year-round protection.

“We looked at a variety of immune health ingredients, but few are designed for daily consumption and year-round support,” said Galef.
“Biothera has also done extensive research to understand how their ingredient works in the body. No one can match the safety and clinical research behind Wellmune WGP.” 

Biothera’s research is based on a dose of 2.5mg of Wellmune WGP per 1kg of body weight. The dosage in Dr. Sears Family Essentials is based on this research, and Galef credits the company for ensuring this is a key piece of the agreement.

“Biothera is very careful to ensure full efficacious doses, based on our peerreviewed clinical research, are used in all products containing Wellmune,” said Galef. “Dr. Sears Family Essentials was in complete agreement on this point because of its high standards for producing an effective product.” Additionally, Sears did his own research on the product, benefits and supporting materials.

Dr. Sears Family Essentials Immune Plus Fruit Chews prominently bear the Wellmune brand. The companies have worked together on trade show opportunities to generate awareness for Dr. Sears Family Essentials and Wellmune WGP among retailers. In addition, Sears has joined the Biothera Scientific Advisory Board, which provides guidance regarding the company’s research programs, offered Mueller.

Going forward, the two are working to promote the benefits of their respective pieces of the puzzle, providing true benefits for the other. As Dr. Sears Family Essentials continues to gain more shelf space, the company’s outreach plans will be more aggressive, according to Galef. Meanwhile, Biothera continues to conduct clinical research that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of Wellmune WGP, and it will soon launch a social media campaign designed to educate consumers about immune health and the benefits of Wellmune WGP.

“Each company has benefited from partnering with a leader in their fields,” said Mueller. “When a highly trusted, nationally recognized company, such as Dr. Sears Family Essentials, selects your ingredient for their products, it enhances the credibility and reputation of your ingredient. And we think Biothera is a great fit for Dr. Sears Family Essentials, because our mission is to improve immune health globally and we have a strong commitment to clinical research.” 

A Winning Combination Creates Cran-Gyn DDS 

A pioneer probiotic company, UAS Laboratories (Eden Prairie, MN) recognized a void in the women’s health market.In 2009, Dr. S.K. Dash, president of UAS, began actively looking for a quality cranberry and D-mannose supplier that could help the company fill that space, and he found it in Eustis, Flbased Valensa.

“We contacted a number of suppliers that offered the combination, but ultimately chose Valensa because it had an excellent reputation for high-quality, leading-edge ingredients,” said Dash, “and because of its technology and patent-pending status in concentrating the active portion of the cranberry fruit.” The result was Cran-Gyn DDS®, which combines the power of DDS® probiotics with the highest-quality cranberry extract and D-mannose—two ingredients that have extensive research in the area of urogenital health.

“Before Cran-Gyn was introduced, cranberry juice and D-mannose had been used separately to support women’s UT health. A product that combined both of these ingredients was needed,” said Dr. Rudi E. Moerck, president and CEO of Valensa. “We combined natural D-mannose and cranberry extract into the high bulk density and homogenous formulation, Cran-Gyn. High bulk density helps to put more formulation into a capsule, thus reducing ‘pill count.’” 

UAS Laboratories wanted to launch the new product at Natural Products Expo West 2010, so it was set on an accelerated track. In March 2010, Valensa and UAS announced their license and supply agreement that provided UAS access to Valensa’s patented Cran-Gyn ingredient for use in the new, patent-pending “Triple-Action” women’s heath product, which offers a natural alternative to consumers for the management of urinary tract infections, yeast infections and to support digestive health. UAS manufactures and packages the final product, which includes both the Valensa and UAS logos.

The product was launched with a solid understanding of the health benefits of the individual ingredients with the intent to initiate clinical studies of the combined ingredients. Those studies are currently underway, according to UAS. In addition, Connie Falkenstein, director of marketing and education for UAS said, “The unique aspect of the agreement was the inclusion of DDSprobiotics in the patent for Cran-Gyn DDS. The trademark, patent status of Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 probiotics significantly strengthened the patent for Cran-Gyn.” 

According to Moerck, UAS Lab-oratories has been an excellent partner in bringing its health technology to a broader market. “Valensa began the collaboration with UAS—a leader in probiotics, especially in the area of women’s health—to explore the synergistic effects of probiotic products with the functioning of cranberry juice anthocyanins and natural D-mannose, along with immunity boosters and antioxidants that are present in our Cran-Gyn ingredient,” he explained, adding that the companies also did extensive stability testing on the combination of Cran- Gyn combined with DDS probiotic. “The result is a daily product to support overall GI and urinary tract health for women as well as one that can be used when adverse symptoms may be present.This is a major advance in women’s health.” He added that the two companies have worked together in launching and developing a cohesive and powerful branding and marketing strategy.

Since its launch, Cran- Gyn DDS has received industry-wide accolades, including the 2010 Best of Supplements award from Better Nutrition magazine and a 2010 Best New Product mention in Vitamin Retailer magazine. Both companies have benefited as a result of the partnership.“We have been able to effectively place this product with thought Leaders, respected marketers and health care professionals as well as major health food stores, physicians and naturopaths throughout the United States and Canada,” said Moerck. In addition, UAS was presented the 2010 Customer Value Enhancement in probiotics from Frost & Sullivan.

Looking to the future, according to UAS, the partnership will continue to grow and strengthen, and a new product collaboration is already in the pipeline.

Innovative Ingredient Takes Market by Storm … With Help 

Back in 2005, Embria Health Sciences (Ankeny, IA) was the new kid on the block with a great ingredient for the dietary supplement industry. Just a year later, it gained the attention of rawmaterial distribution veteran B&D Nutritional Ingredients (Vista, CA), and the fortuitous partnership has helped Embria make a name for itself in the dietary supplement industry. That name: EpiCor®.

“The agreement between Embria and B&D was discussed very early in our company’s history,” said Paul Faganel, president of Embria. “As a distributor, B&D was looking for efficacious products that had research to support their claims. There are a lot of immune products on the market, but there is not another ingredient like EpiCor to date, and I think that uniqueness, combined with our solid science, grabbed B&D’s attention.” 

“For more than 17 years, B&D Nutritional Ingredients has had one vital purpose: to provide the dietary supplement industry with premier raw material ingredients of exceptional quality and innovation,” said Bill VanDyke, CEO/chairman of B&D. The two companies began their initial talks at SupplySide West in 2006. “We reached out to Embria because we saw something extraordinary with EpiCor.” 

EpiCor, Embria’s flagship ingredient, is an all natural product that helps the body balance the immune system and is manufactured using a proprietary technology.Containing protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and other metabolites that deliver nutritional benefits and support immune health, clinical studies have found EpiCor’s immune-balancing properties provide year-round support by helping the body boost or suppress immune response as needed.

For all of EpiCor’s strengths, Embria needed help bringing the ingredient to market. More importantly, it needed the right help.

“As a new entry into the industry, Embria needed to work with a distribution and sales partner that not only had a successful sales history, but in particular, had the expertise and knowledge to sell highly researched, technical, high-value products,” said Faganel. “EpiCor has a growing body of clinical research supporting it, which requires people with a certain set of skills to effectively communicate what differentiates it from all the other immune health ingredients on the market. We saw that B&D could meet those needs.” 

The agreement, signed on April 1, 2007 for a three-year term, defined Embria as the manufacturer and appointed B&D to exclusively distribute EpiCor to customers and prospective purchasers within the US territory.According to VanDyke, it stated the terms of pricing, payment, delivery and commissions, as well as including the obligations of the manufacturer and the distributor individually as well as jointly.“Trademark usage is assigned along with the term and termination, insurance, indemnity, etc.—all standard best business practices,” he said. “What made this agreement rare, though, is that we pooled our collective resources and shared in our mutual success.” 

“Three years may seem a bit long, but it takes time to learn the product and fine tune the sales approach. Also, we’d prefer to build solid partnerships that result in steady growth,” said Faganel, adding that what was integral for Embria was that it had a true partner in the process. “To help offset some of that initial investment, we’ve used B&D’s sales force to help supplement our own sales team. The goal has always been to have an agreement in place so that it doesn’t matter who gets credit for a sale. In our case, we all will succeed together or, dare I say, fail together.” 

But failure has not been part of the equation. With performance objectives in mind, the two focused on a transparent relationship to exchange information daily, weekly or monthly to meet the needs of the market and their individual goals. “Jointly, we have been able to reach more customers and to support our customers’ efforts to promote their products with Epicor,” said VanDyke.“Embria has benefited from our relationships and years of industry experience, and we’ve benefited from their internal talents—science, regulatory and marketing support. Some vendors don’t have these resources and, as a result, slow the business development process.” 

In mid-2009, Embria and B&D began discussing continuing their partnership and have since re-upped for another four years (until 2014). In 2010, EpiCor was the first immune health ingredient to receive the SupplySide West Scientific Excellence Award, in recognition of the compelling clinical study results published in peer-reviewed publications such as the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Advances in Therapy and Urologic Nursing.

“Our agreement not only has to be a win-win for Embria and B&D, but, most importantly, it has to add value for our customers,” said Faganel. “If we aren’t helping make our customers’ products better, then we are not doing our job.”