How to Start Your Own Supplement Brand

by Christine Hronec

 
If you live in the gym or consider yourself a fitness or health fanatic, at one point or another it may have crossed your mind to launch a career in the fitness industry. Turning your passion into your profession not only leads to greater overall job satisfaction, but can lead to a prosperous career path. The most popular approaches to accomplish this are starting a gym, becoming a personal trainer, owning a supplement shop, and starting your own supplement brand. While starting your own brand is an expensive business venture, if done correctly, it can be a viable means of income.
Success in the supplement industry is measured by the following parameters:

  • Your brand is carried by the major supplement retailers and distributors
  • The brand is respected in the industry by loyal clients and competitors
  • Real people are able to achieve real results as a result of taking your product
  • You are profitable

Here are our top tips to success for those considering or just starting to build their own supplement brand:

  • Be Different- Copy-cat products are a dime a dozen and every supplement line has a generic protein, multi-vitamin, creatine, etc. While these are all great products that will bring in revenue, your company should have a point of differentiation that separates you from the pack. It can be something as simple as the best customer service, the most flavor variety, using a unique ingredient, the lowest prices, etc. Retailers need a reason to select you from the thousands of brands already on the market offering the same exact thing.
  • Create Attractive Labels- You can have the best quality product in the universe, but if the product isn’t attractively packaged, it will be a challenge. Unfortunately, customers do judge a book by its cover and supplement brands with flashy labels tend to sell better even if they are the same exact product. Select the best graphic designer you can afford and do not settle for anything less when designing your brand’s image.
  • Make Sure Your Labels are Accurate- It is your responsibility to ensure that your labels are accurate according to the FDA and FTC rules and regulations. It is not sufficient to study the labels of popular supplement companies as rules and regulations change yearly and more often than not large companies are able to get grandfathered on certain rulings where as small companies are not. It is crucial to have your labels review by an expert or an attorney that is fully versed in the FDA’s dietary supplement regulation rules. Large retailers such as GNC and Bodybuilding.com will not accept your product line if there are ANY errors on the labels that do not comply with the most recent rules.
  • Get Product Liability Insurance-If you are not protected, the world we live in is more than happy to sue anyone for anything. Even if you aren’t manufacturing your own product, it is your name, address, and contact information that is on every label and you will be held liable in the event of any adverse effect reported by a consumer. While the risk is relatively low, all your hard work could go down the drain with one phone call from a consumer to the FDA. Product Liability Insurance makes sure you are covered.
  • Keep Your Products in Stock- Due to manufacturing lead times, the average start-up supplement brand will not consider the amount of cash needed to build up an appropriate level of product inventory to keep their product stocked. When a brand is out of product, it forces loyal consumers to purchase another brand, therefore losing a sale. Keeping product in stock is very difficult, but is worth the effort to ensure you are known as a reliable supplier.
  • Create Demand- Even if you have the most amazing product on the planet, people will not know about it unless you advertise. Most retailers will inquire about your marketing and advertising programs before picking up an unknown brand. However if the product is new or has attractive pricing, some retailers will still take a chance on it. If you can afford it, advertising in national muscle magazines and the like will not only create a demand for your product, if will have the retailers calling you to buy your product as opposed to the other way around. The best thing for your brand is to have your consumers asking retailers to start carrying your product.
  • Contact Major Distributors- Once you have created the products and have established demand, getting a major supplement distributor to pick up your line can take your company to another level. Many retailers simply pick up the brands their distributors carry since it is the easier way for them to order. In some instances, it may be more profitable to sell direct if it fits your pricing model and eliminate the middle man.
  • Have a Technical Expert- If you aren’t adept at nutrition science or biology, you have two options, either become an expert or hire/contract someone who is. This is important to have a grasp on the latest supplement studies in the industry and how it related to your brand of products. Creating products that are not based on real science only brings down the industry as a whole and gives every company a bad reputation.
  • Create Marketing Materials for Retailers- Unless you are a national brand, do not expect to simply send the products to retailers without the appropriate support materials such as technical marketing documents, comparison charts, banner ads, testimonials, etc. The last thing a retailer wants is to be asked a question about your product and not have access to the answer.
  • Use Barcodes on every label- This is another simple tip that a lot of companies do not follow. Putting a barcode on your label is as simple as downloading a barcode font from the Internet and putting in on the side of your product. For some reason, many companies do not do this, and it is a hassle for the retailer. Most retailers have a scanner for ringing up purchases in their store. If your brand is one of the ones that they have to “manually” look up and enter in, it will be thought of as a pain in the butt. It also makes your company look less professional.
  • Create a Pricing Structure that Works- When pricing your products, you may be tempted to charge too much for your products, or charge too little in the hopes of moving higher volumes. Charging too much will severely limit your sales, especially if you are priced higher than national brands with multi-million dollar advertising budgets. There is far too much competition out there for a customer to choose an over-priced no-name brand. On the other hand, pricing your products too low will make it difficult for your company to earn the profits needed to reinvest into new science and marketing. This also makes it hard for the retailers to profit if you are priced too low. While short term sales are fine every once in a while, prices should not be set too low that you cannot survive as a business. To price your products effectively, evaluate all the costs involved in running your company and balance this will the amount of profits your distributors will need to successfully move the brand.
  • Have Your Products Tested- Most likely you will be having your products manufactured by another company. Be sure to choose a company with a good reputation, and demand that you get a certificate of analysis for every batch that they run for you. If they won’t do it, or if you do not trust that they are doing it correctly, do not use them, even if they have the best prices.
  • Create Products That Work- This is the most important tip of all. If your products do not work, you will not be successful. End of discussion. If you spend millions in advertising, you may make money in the short-term, but it will not last. Customers will only be burned once, and they will tell everybody they know (and millions that they don’t know on the Internet). You will be hurting the industry since customers will be leery of other products on the market.

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