Focus on: Mason Vitamins looks to set itself apart
How can a vitamin company stand out in a crowd?
Officials at Mason Vitamins, the Miami Lakes, Fla.-based manufacturer of more than 400 SKUs of vitamins and minerals, feel that they have discovered one way. By offering a steady stream of products, all closely monitored to ensure they are what consumers are looking for, and backing it with a flawless manufacturing record, they think they have made a difference on store shelves and with shoppers.
The results: A steady double-digit sales growth rate for the privately held operation and no signs of slowing down as more consumers — and retailers — see the many benefits of its product and get more comfortable with the brand and what it stands for.
“We view it as a commitment to quality, from the manufacturing process all the way to store shelves,” said Patricia Jones, the general manager of sales for the 51-year-old company. “We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and creating a dialogue with them to ensure that we are producing the products they want. Plus, we also spend a great deal of time working with data to make sure we offer our retail partners the right mix of products for their demographics based on trend.
“To be successful in this business over the long haul, we have to see what is hot and what is trending and use these figures to gain placement on store shelves. In the end, our retail partners will benefit from this and gain further trust in what we offer.”
But there is much more to Mason Vitamins. The company, which has just under 200 employees, prides itself on its manufacturing track record, from its strong history of developing innovative products and formulas to its outstanding safety record and quality standards. Jones and others at the company continuously praise the fact that Mason has never received an FDA violation at its manufacturing facility, located in Miami Lakes.
“We think it says a lot of who we are as a company and what we can mean to consumers and their families,” she said. “We have a very strong commitment to honesty, quality standards and to establish the best manufacturing process in the industry. It pays off for us and for those retailers who believe in us.”
Timing is also playing a big part in Mason’s success. In the words of a vitamin buyer for a major drug store chain, this is “not the same category of a decade ago.” Now, consumers are increasingly interested in types of vitamins, minerals and supplements for specific ailments or issues, as well as delivery systems that make it easier for them and their families to take the products. That has help spike a mini-boom in the overall VMS category, leading retailers to stock a larger assortment of products and give the overall category a more prominent spot in their stores.
It also has caused some headaches for retailers who are looking for ways to stock as many segments and brands as possible, while not overwhelming consumers and taking too much space.
Mason is not missing out on these changes. The company is introducing 11 new SKUs to the market through this month. The new items included a vitamin K2, biotin, osteo restore joint therapy, a matcha gummy, a collagen gummy and body, hair, skin and nails gummy. “We evaluate our product line constantly and add and delete items as needed,” Jones said. “We try very hard to stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and what the consumer is looking for. These new items are the result of that dedication by our knowledgeable staff.”
Furthermore, in honor of its 50th anniversary last year, Mason Vitamins rebranded its entire line of vitamins and supplements. According to Jones, the new packaging is more up-to-date and feature its heritage logo, as well as highlighting the fact that the company was founded in 1967. “After exhaustive and collaborative research, we think that we have come up with packaging that features a cleaner label that makes it easier for the consumer to understand what the products are designed to do for them,” she said. “We think it will quickly lead to more sales.”
In the end, Jones added, it is all about educating the consumer and the retailer about what Mason offers and how its products are unique in a very complicated category. “Our strategy is to educate the consumer about the segments of this category, and how our products are unique and designed to serve a specific purpose,” she said. “We want consumers to know that Mason is focused on offering them the right SKUs at affordable prices, and products that do the job correctly. The fact is that many consumers are confused about their supplement options. Our job is to clear up any confusion out there.”
Mason officials firmly believe that the company’s history is also playing in their favor. The company was founded in 1967 by Carlos Rodriguez as a drug distribution company called Machado & Son for the metro Miami market. Carlos’ father had a similar business in Havana, Cuba. By the end of the 1990s, the name had been changed to Mason and the focus was squarely on manufacturing of vitamins and supplements.
In 2006, Mason Vitamins was acquired by Ito-En North America, a green tea beverage manufacturer. This collaboration has resulted in increased synergy, value and sustainable efficiencies for both companies, Jones said. “We believe we are very well situated for the future. This is a category that keeps evolving and changing, but we really believe that we are on the cutting edge of the market, and can satisfy the needs of our consumers and retailers. We are very excited about the future.”
CRN unveils breakfast session speaker for The Conference in October
WASHINGTON — Preventive Medicine Research Institute founder and president, Dean Ornish, will speak at the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s annual conference in October, CRN has announced.
The Conference: CRN’s Annual Symposium for the Dietary Supplement Industry is taking place Oct. 16 to 19 at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif.
Ornish is known for his work demonstrating the effects of comprehensive lifestyle changes on health outcomes and that lifestyle changes can help reverse coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and early-stage prostate cancer. He is the author of six national best-selling books and is widely published in scientific journals. Millions view his TED talks and he has appeared in PBS’s “Nova” and its series “Healing & The Mind.” The “Ornish Diet” has been rated No. 1 for heart health by U.S. News & World Report every year from 2011 to 2017. He was chosen by Life magazine as “one of the 50 most influential members of his generation” and recognized by Forbes magazine as “one of the world’s seven most powerful teachers.”
“Dr. Ornish, an eminent scientist with decades of clinical research demonstrating that key lifestyle factors that can prevent — and reverse — disease and enhance longevity, is a perfect fit for our breakfast session at The Conference,” said CRN president and CEO Steve Mister. “Our dietary supplement and functional food company executives in attendance will hear valuable insights on empowering consumers by helping them make meaningful, holistic choices.”
In addition to Ornish, The Conference will feature speakers on regulation, business and marketing, government affairs and more, to be announced throughout the summer.
VMS gains traction in acute needs spaces, natural
Consumers want results from the dietary supplement category.
That’s great news for retailers who benefit from the category’s steady sales, good margins and strong price points. But it also puts pressure on merchants to have a solid assortment of products, featuring a combination of today’s trendy items, the old favorites and some items for specific ailments and remedies.
In the end, the VMS category remains a key component of any retailer’s healthcare section, and retailers are well aware that they need to constantly fine-tune the section to maximize sales and profits. The opportunity, many have said, will only increase in the near future.
“Due to high healthcare costs and an increased emphasis on preventive care, consumers are spending increasing amounts on vitamins and dietary supplements in addition to their regular foods to maintain their health,” said Patricia Jones, general manager of sales at Mason Vitamins. “With an increased interest in healthy lifestyles, consumers continue to expand their consumption of vitamins and dietary supplements, particularly those targeted at systemic benefits like digestive health, immune system fortification, vitality and longevity.”
The best news is that it is not just older consumers who are buying into the supplement category. “Younger generations, including millennials, are taking a proactive interest in their health and are increasingly driving sales in the health-and-wellness industry,” Jones said. While millennials trail boomers in overall supplement use, an estimated 73% of adults ages 25-to-34 years old regularly take vitamin and mineral supplements. “Consumer research indicates that consumers of all ages are increasingly seeking out natural supplements to maximize their health and stay youthful.”
Those shoppers are hungry for supplement knowledge, suppliers said. “Consumers are more engaged in their health than ever before and want to create tailored regimens to address individual needs,” said Olly’s supplement brand manager Jessica Heitz. “Specifically, supplements that address acute need states like sleep, energy and stress are driving trial with new consumers. With respect to sleep supplements, millennials believe that sleep is a foundational pillar of health routines and are thus driving category growth. We expect the sleep category and other acute need states to continue to grow.”
That sleep opportunity, in particular, is representative of the trend toward natural. Many consumers who are tired of those same old OTC products and their associated side effects are finding relief in the VMS space. “Natural products are ideal because the consumer is currently looking for these products. Many of the old sleep brands are sleepy, and haven’t adjusted to the consumer trends,” said Jim Lacey, CEO of Healthy Ventures. “Increasing the space of natural sleep aids [and] decreasing some space for underperforming SKU’s of synthetic products will provide an excellent variety of products for the retailer’s shelf space.”
When those customers get to the supplement aisle, ingredient transparency across brands is becoming more and more important, putting pressure on suppliers to ensure they are educating both shoppers and retailers about their items. “There are a lot of proprietary blends out there and people really don’t know what they are truly getting out of a product, and if it is even an efficacious dose,” said Ben Benedict, national sales manager at Nutrex. “The supplement consumer is far more educated than what they used to be. More people are health conscious and are not only starting supplement regiments, but also making lifestyle changes. They are more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies and [subsequently] reading more labels.”