Supplementing Your Tea Fix

Celestial Seasonings is rolling out a full line of single-ingredient and blended herbal supplements. There are currently 17 items in the line, eight in the single-ingredient segment and nine blends, and Ryan promises that the company will be introducing additional products shortly. According to Ryan, who also runs Slow Food Triangle, a local food website, this is a big deal.

“The blended products really add to the aura of the line,” he remarks. “The Echinacea Cold Season item, for example, contains not just echinacea but also zinc and vitamin C. It’s the blend of ingredients that gives the products the full range of effectiveness. When zinc and vitamin C are added to the echinacea, the resulting combination is much more potent.”

The manufacturer is backing the launch with a tremendous marketing budget, including about $24 million in media support and another $20 million to $24 million earmarked for in-store programs, pharmacist education and promotional initiatives. “We hope to become the No. 1 player in the herbal supplements market, and we are spending about three times more than anyone else has ever spent to help us achieve that goal,” says Ryan.

A key element of Celestial Seasoning’s strategy for the introduction of its new herbal supplements line has been persuading retailers to provide shelf space for all 17 products. Among the leading drug chains that have agreed to do so are Eckerd Corp., Walgreen Co., CVS Corn., Rite Aid Corp. and Longs Drug Stores. Several big discount chains, including Target Stores and ShopKo, will also be carrying the line, and Celestial Seasonings executives are in discussions with their counterparts at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kmart Corp.

“Our premise was that if we were going to be spending that much money on advertising and marketing support, we would ask our accounts to pick up the full line to give the new brand maximum shelf impact,” explains Ryan. ‘Most of them have agreed. This will allow us to leverage the tremendous brand equity Celestial Seasonings has in herbal teas in a truly exciting way.

The supplier is also bringing a simplified, two-tier pricing strategy to the herbal supplements market, something Ryan says consumers will welcome. ‘There has been a lot of confusion not only about brands but also about pricing in this category,” he comments. “All our single-ingredient products will carry a suggested retail price of about $8.99 and all the blends about $9.99.”

That tactic will lead to a high level of satisfaction Among consumers and make it easy for retailers to display the products on end-caps for special price promotions, he adds.

The items began hitting store shelves in meaningful numbers in May and June, and Ryan says the response to the launch has been incredible. Major television and radio support begins in September, with most ads slated to run on such news magazine shows as “60 Minutes” and “20/20.”

“That seems to be where a lot of the momentum in the herbal supplements category is coming from these days,” remarks Ryan. “When those shows do a story on a product such as Saint-John’s-wort, demand takes off immediately.”

Celestial Seasonings is debuting some items in the line at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace Conference, and Ryan says getting chain drug pharmacists to support the new products is critical. “We feel the quality of our products is the best out there, and we plan to educate pharmacists about the things they need to look for in herbal supplements, such as standardization levels, milligrams, etc.,” he explains. “That kind of scrupulous attention to product quality by a big company is particularly important in the nutritional supplements category because it is basically unregulated.”

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