May 1, 2000

5 Min Read
Branding Case Study: CitriMax

Branding Case Study: CitriMax
by William "Skip" Seroy

The date was Saturday, July 30, 1994. The place was the National NutritionalFoods Association (NNFA) trade show in Las Vegas. The product was CitriMax.The rest is history.

Overnight, CitriMax, an all-natural diet ingredient, became the Kleenexof the HCA product category. For more than five years now, CitriMax hasmaintained a dominant market share and is still the number one selling HCA dietingredient in the world. While many diet ingredients have come and gone, newproducts with CitriMax continue to be introduced and retail store shelvescontinue to have sections dedicated to CitriMax-containing products. So how didthis come to be? Why CitriMax?

Research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals reported that HCA (hydroxycitricacid) was effective at reducing appetite and inhibiting the production of bodyfat. In contrast to other appetite suppressants on the market, HCA was safe totake and did not cause the side effects associated with popular selling dietstimulants such as Ma-Huang or phenylpropanolamine (PPA). Safe, natural,effective and a history of use to-boot. CitriMax appeared to have all themakings of a successful new product opportunity for the multi-billion dollarweight loss products industry. But CitriMax was not the first HCA ingredient onthe market. Nor was it the cheapest. In fact, other HCA ingredients had beenavailable for more than two years prior. So why CitriMax? And why at that time?

It would be unfair to say that timing and luck had nothing to do with thesuccess of CitriMax. However, creating a strong brand identity and offeringmanufacturers a value-added ingredient they could use to help grow theirbusiness played a significant role not only in defining the success of CitriMax,but in the way many nutraceutical ingredients would be marketed in the future.

Innovation, Protection, Communication

CitriMax was not the first branded ingredient to be marketed in dietarysupplements. Others such as MaxEPA, Ester-C, Chromax,ChromeMate and L-OptiZinc have enjoyed varying degreesof success. But the success of CitriMax seemed to redefine the value of brandedingredients to manufacturers of dietary supplements. For starters, CitriMaxachieved an exceptionally high level of brand awareness at the consumer leveland was responsible for the development of a new product category that nowexceeds $100 million in finished product sales per year. It also offeredmanufacturers a device for calling attention to, and increasing the value of,their finished products. The result: increased sales and profits.

But what defines a branded ingredient? A unique name? A distinct trademark?In its simplest form, yes. But three elements that define a successful brandedingredient include innovation, protection and marketing communications.

CitriMax introduced the idea of safe and natural weight loss to consumers.Diet stimulants such as Ma-Huang and PPA were known to cause serious sideeffects, including insomnia, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and evendeath. But HCA, which had a long history of use and a safety index similar tocitric acid found in oranges, reduced appetite and inhibited fat productionwithout side effects. Importantly, CitriMax captured this information in apowerful marketing communications program aimed at both the health food tradeand consumer markets.

In the days leading up to the July 1994 NNFA trade show in Las Vegas, theCitriMax story was up-linked via satellite to television and radio stationsacross the country and aired on the evening news. Reports of the story spreadrapidly throughout the show and on Saturday nearly 1,000 retailers, wholesalersand manufacturers attended a conference sponsored by the makers of CitriMax,InterHealth Nutraceuticals, to hear researchers and InterHealth's celebrityspokesperson, Kim Alexis, talk about the product.

That was the beginning. The sudden influx of interest was eventuallysupplemented with ongoing consumer advertising, product publicity and,importantly, manufacturers support. Companies such as Natrol (CitriMax),Twinlab (Diet Fuel) and Irwin Naturals (System-Six) capitalized on thebrand identity and market awareness created around CitriMax by introducingCitriMax-containing products of their own. These companies then expanded thebrand awareness of CitriMax by developing advertising and promotion campaignsutilizing many of the product concepts and information originally created forCitriMax. The result was a win-win situation for everyone; new products andmarket share for manufacturers, increased sales for distributors and retailersand a healthy weight loss solution for consumers.

Subsequently, a variety of CitriMax products have been introduced byInterHealth. They include different particle sizes for tablet, capsule andpowder applications; liquid and soluble forms for beverage applications; newhigher potency forms containing greater levels of HCA; effervescent forms forincreased absorption; and even forms containing flavor enhancement solids forcertain food and beverage applications. These products have allowed InterHealthto access new markets and offer new solutions to its customers' weight lossproduct challenges.

Creating a strong brand identity supported by marketing communications,patenting many of its product innovations and expanding its trademark throughoutthe world are ways InterHealth has protected and supported its brands in themarketplace. This protection has allowed the company to reinvest in research andmarketing communications so that it can continue to support its customers'products in the marketplace.

Product Quality

Of course, it makes no difference how strong your branding program is if youdo not have a quality, efficacious and relevant product to begin with. Safetyand efficacy supported by research, consistency and stability of the ingredientpotency and physical properties, applicability to various dosage forms,functionality in terms of human health benefits, value in terms of thecost:benefit (or potency) ratio compared to other similar functioningingredients and, of course, market opportunity all factor into the success ofany ingredient. Throw in the need to innovate, protect and communicate, and theodds of developing a successful branded ingredient become even slimmer. Yet, ina market driven by innovation where profit margins are dwindling, brandedingredients offer manufacturers one of the best opportunities for increasingsales and fattening profits.

William "Skip" Seroy is president and founder of InterHealthNutraceuticals of Benicia, Calif. You may contact Seroy at (707) 751-2800 or [email protected].

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