Pump up the iron

Meda Consumer Healthcare is setting the stage for a good/better/best proposition in iron supplements, in part with its premium-positioned Bifera.

It’s not often a niche brand manufacturer attempts to resuscitate what has been for years a commoditized category. But that’s exactly what Meda Consumer Healthcare will be attempting to do with iron — establish a good/better/best proposition to a supplemented category best defined as mediocre. For the 52 weeks ended April 16, mineral supplement sales were down 3.3% to $534 million across food, drug and mass (including Walmart), according to Nielsen Group data.

“Every category thrives on innovation because new science brings new benefits that attract a new generation of consumers,” Jeff Cohen, VP and general manager of Meda’s consumer arm, told Drug Store News. “Without news, the [iron] category has defaulted to becoming commoditized.”

Meda is setting the stage for that good/better/best proposition in part through its recent acquisition of a few GlaxoSmithKline legacy brands last year — Geritol Tonic and Feosol — and its pre-existing premium-positioned Bifera iron supplement product. “Strategically [that creates] an opportunity to re-segment the market,” Cohen said. “We envision bringing a differentiated line with differentiated benefits, and a price value with those benefits,” he said.

And the consumer need for iron is on the rise, Cohen said. Young women with heavy menstruation, pregnant women, the aging population — these are all traditional iron markets. But yet-to-be targeted is a rapidly growing segment: active baby boomers and recreational athletes. For example, the approximate 75 million endurance athletes, such as marathon runners or bicyclists, experience heavy iron loss and need supplementation. “There is a segmentation opportunity,” Cohen said.

According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the leading nutritional disorder in the world, with up to 80% of the world’s population being iron deficient and as many as 30% suffering from iron deficiency anemia.

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