In looking at developing new products for specific target markets, Healthy Directions has hallmarks that reflect how the company interacts with its consumers historically and its current transitions. Indeed, the company represents a series of individual brands that use different tools and features to resonate with consumers. From a consumer perspective, the individual doctor brands may be better known than the company itself. Therein lies a challenge. The doctor brands also establish a relationship with the consumer as if they were their own doctors, and in the omega-3 product lines this relationship building extends back through the supply chain as part of the story.
A few distinguishing features should be considered. First is the issue of doctor-branded products. From a product development view, there is a need to differentiate between the internal doctor brands and their individual “voices." To achieve this, Healthy Directions utilizes a spectrum of options including different sources, compositions, doses, and ratios of EPA/DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid).
Healthy Directions has essentially three competitive brands operating in the omega-3 space:
• Dr. Sinatra, whose focus is on cardiovascular, lipids and obesity;
• Dr. Williams, whose focus is gastrointestinal (GI) and joints; and
• Dr. Whitaker, who is best known for brain, vision and glucose management products.
These different perspectives and skills facilitate processes to create multiple products with different areas of emphasis and application. Consumers with specific needs gravitate to the brand that matches their health needs and their perspective. However, a current challenge is to encourage consumers to move freely between those brands.
Second, Healthy Directions has an older consumer base (average ages are 71 for print and 61 for online); this influences the types of health applications and delivery systems that represent consumer needs. As a result, the company is not in the sports space, but is active in cardiovascular health.
Finally, we use omega-3 fatty acids as a foundation ingredient for other complex products. Leveraging its historical use of long format print copy, Healthy Directions has created products that go beyond just omega-3s, with the inclusion of other ingredients that contribute to the overall value proposition. This marketing format allows for extended consumer interaction and education. Indeed, the company’s top-selling line is a series of products based on omega-3 fatty acids. This family of products under the Dr. Sinatra brand is called OQPR—an acronym for the ingredients: omega-3, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), plus resveratrol. Recently, the line has expanded to add turmeric/curcumin.
Challenges for Healthy Directions and the Industry
Broader challenges include manufacturing and production. Companies are always concerned about quality, and in the case of lipids, oxidation is a concern. For companies like Healthy Directions, which markets finished goods, but uses contract manufacturers, managing the production process is based on experience in the supply chain and contract manufacturers. Nevertheless, one must stay attuned to consumer feedback and deliver value.
As part of this drive to create value, production is focused on delivering the total amount of omega-3s per serving. Efficacy is based on the total amount, and this can be addressed by having highly concentrated forms as well as exploring different delivery systems.
Another aspect, although it is lower on the consumer radar, is the relative amounts of other lipids in the mix and defining what they are. For example, if a product has omega-6 fatty acids, they compete and negate the effects of the omega-3s. Concentration affects this aspect, but it is not a point that most consumers pay attention to. However, with consumer education, it could bubble up to an action item.
With omega-3s being a foundational component of health and wellness, Healthy Directions, as do many other companies, uses co-packaging with other general health products. The tendency is to include them with multivitamin/mineral products. The issue here is the latter tend to be tablets and these do not mix well when co-packaged with soft gels. This is a source of quality concern as they could cause issues if co-packaged.
Finally, from a marketing perspective, Healthy Directions is confronting the changing nature of consumer interactions as the company migrates from large format print to online. Healthy Directions’ educational efforts and ability to develop story telling is limited online as compared to 28 pages of text in a magazine format.
So how does Healthy Directions maintain its story-telling history? It is establishing multiple points of interactions and a unique channel that is centered on my background as a professor and biomedical researcher. Specifically, as a spokesperson, I am creating messaging that delivers credible information from credible stories through social media on a daily basis. Further, we have a series of short-form educational videos with a fun twist that come out every two weeks. These may be positive in direction or dispel myths, bad science or poor interpretation in three minutes or less. This short format is important, as it is designed to deliver information in an appealing manner in bite sized quantities. Healthy Directions does not shy away from difficult science; but, when such a topic arises, engaging videos offer interesting and effective analogies that resonate. The science may be forgotten, but the message is there.
Other aspects of messaging include details of Healthy Directions’ sourcing, traceability, quality, value and meaningful ingredient combinations as they relate to consumer needs. These come through in email letter formats from the individual doctor brands as well as their Facebook pages. As you can see, education remains an important component, reflecting the company’s origins although the format of how the information is being conveyed is changing with consumer patterns of engagement.
Looking for more on the top trends in the omega-3 space and how to develop products that meet consumer demand? Join us for the Finding Your Sweet Spot in the Omega-3 Market panel discussion on Friday, Oct. 7, at SupplySide West 2016, which was developed with GOED. And for a preview video from Mark JS Miller, visit Omega-3 Market Overview.
Mark JS Miller, Ph.D., MBA, FACN, CNS, is the chief science officer at Healthy Directions LLC (healthydirections.com).