Pharmavite LLC

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Pharmavite LLC

8510 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge, California 91345
Telephone: (818) 221-6200
Fax: (818) 221-6644
Web site:



In January 1998, Pharmavite launched a $17 million national television, print, and radio campaign for its Nature Madeline of vitamins and nutritional supplements. Created by Leo Burnett, the campaign featured the tag line "Trusted by the ones you trust" in order to highlight the brand's endorsement by the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), an organization of female doctors and medical students that lobbied for women's health issues. The "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign was Pharmavite's largest marketing effort ever, necessitated by the increasingly crowded field in the natural care market of vitamin and herbal supplements.

Although Nature Made was the leading supplement brand in terms of retail sales, several major pharmaceutical companies announced their entry into the sector in 1997 and 1998. Private-label brands produced by chain stores such as Wal-Mart were also growing in popularity and profitability. Moreover, as aging consumers became more interested in using herbs and vitamins as alternatives to conventional therapies for the treatment and prevention of disease, the vitamin industry underwent significant changes. The most popular products previously had been multivitamin supplements designed to boost overall health. By the late 1990s, however, consumers began to seek out individually packaged vitamins and minerals that were believed to address specific ailments or body systems. Pharmavite hoped that the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign would defend Nature Made's position in this lucrative but shifting market.

In two television spots Pharmavite set out to make sure that consumers were aware that the AMWA had conferred its seal of approval upon the company's offerings. Since the natural care market was still struggling for legitimacy, a medical endorsement such as this was a major boon for Pharmavite. Both spots depicted the AMWA helping underprivileged people. One spot was set in the period after World War I, while the other used an Appalachian mining town in the 1930s as a backdrop. By linking its image to the AMWA's "emphasis on patient self-care," Pharmavite sought to strengthen the brand, according to the Tan Sheet. The company felt that the campaign helped increase both sales and consumers' awareness of the Nature Made line.


The supplement industry had once been predominantly a niche market, embraced more by a minority of so-called health nuts than by mainstream consumers. But a number of political, scientific, and social developments during the 1990s served to broaden the market tremendously. After much heated debate, the U.S. Congress passed a law in October 1994 that granted makers of dietary supplements greater freedom to make claims about their products' health benefits. Prior to this legislation, the Food and Drug Administration had forbidden supplement manufacturers from asserting that a vitamin or herb acted on a specific body part. In the wake of the loosening of supplement labeling laws, however, companies could correlate their products specifically with the health and well-being of consumers. For instance, Nature Made was able to tout its chromium tablets as "help[ing] regulate glucose metabolism," its lycopene supplement "as a key antioxidant," and its vitamin E products as "essential for normal growth and development … [and] protect[-ing] tissues (cells) against damage caused by free radicals." At the same time that supplement companies were making more medical claims on their product packaging, several key studies about the efficacy of vitamins and herbal products received a great deal of attention in the media. Consumer magazines such as Newsweek and Time devoted feature articles to such remedies as DHEA (a hormone that some claimed could slow the aging process) and melatonin (which was praised by some for regulating sleep cycles). This sort of coverage enhanced the perceived legitimacy and efficacy of nutritional supplements.

According to Time, sales of natural foods and supplements grew 20 percent each year between 1990 and 1997. By 1997 total vitamin sales had reached $2.35 billion, up almost 15 percent from the year before. Pharmavite was in an ideal position to capitalize on this explosion. Founded in 1971 by two young entrepreneurs, the company introduced its Nature Made vitamin line the following year. Although Pharmavite initially sold its wares mostly at independently owned drugstores, it quickly built a sophisticated distribution network that incorporated chain drugstores and food stores. After being acquired by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd., in 1989, Pharmavite had the backing of a major corporation, which afforded it the resources to grow further. Fortuitously, just as Pharmavite expanded its distribution network, supermarkets and mass retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart began to recognize the profits to be made from supplement sales and therefore gave the products more shelf space and more in-store promotional support. Nature Made quickly became a leading supplement product at these stores.

Pharmavite was aware of the important role brand building and marketing could play in the industry. In 1996 the company inaugurated a $10 million campaign for Nature Made conceived by the San Francisco-based agency Hal Riney & Partners. Like the ads in the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign, these earlier ads strove to play up the brand's medical legitimacy. Each spot claimed that Nature Made supplements were "recommended by pharmacists more than a thousand times everyday." Although the campaign did well, Pharmavite opted to change ad agencies in 1997, and it teamed up with Leo Burnett in an effort to bolster its national consumer advertising presence.


A key factor fueling the growth of the supplement industry was the aging of baby boomer consumers. It was this main audience that Nature Made sought to reach with the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign. In their quest for a "natural alternative to prescription drugs," baby boomers ingested the largest quantity of supplements of any demographic group in the United States, explained Chain Drug Review. This population was interested not only in treating an illness after its onset but also in preventing disease in the first place and in counteracting the natural effects of aging. "Consumers are searching for the elusive fountain of youth, and certainly vitamins are a very big part of this," an industry analyst told Discount Merchandiser. This new trend was fueled in part by changes in the health care industry. As price-conscious health maintenance organizations limited patients' access to physicians, consumers looked for new ways to remedy medical complaints. "The comfortable paternalistic relationship—the doctor has all the answers, the patient obediently follows directions—is slowly disappearing," the Wall Street Journal averred on October 19, 1998. In fact, noted the paper on November 23, 1998, "Older Americans—long members of the 'see your doctor club'—are seizing upon nontraditional remedies."

Baby boomers were an ideal market to target. Not only were they massive in their sheer size, but they were also growing wealthier as they reached the peaks of their careers and earning power. As Discount Merchandiser succinctly concluded, "Vitamins cater to the aging, yet very affluent, older generation." Moreover, as baby boomers continued to age, "the incidence of chronic conditions [would] increase correspondingly," Chain Drug Review observed on February 3, 1997. Pharmavite anticipated that these consumers would seek supplements to treat such conditions. All indications were that vitamin usage was on the rise among older adults. By 1997, 43 percent of all households had at least one adult taking vitamins, up from 40 percent in 1996.

Women of the baby boomer generation were an especially important group for supplement sales. Women over 35 were drawn to natural products in search of "healthy" ways of dealing with menopause. In fact, according to Chain Drug Review, women bought approximately two-thirds of all natural care products. The "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" ads therefore particularly targeted women between the ages of 35 and 64, explained the June 23, 1997, issue of Chain Drug Review. The emphasis on the AMWA's endorsement was the primary method by which the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign sought to reach this audience. As Pharmavite said in a company press release, "To educate women on the value of supplementation, Nature Made's campaign [focused on] AMWA's commitment to improving women's health and in support of its Nature Made products." The AMWA had established itself as a respected advocate for women's health issues, such as breast and cervical cancer. The spots not only mentioned the AMWA's approval, but they also were linked to the organization's history and activism.


Nature Made was not the only company to take note of the money-making opportunities afforded by the natural care market. By 1998 the industry was experiencing "a growing trend toward bigger, more aggressive marketing efforts," according to the Tan Sheet. Although it was already a competitive market, large pharmaceutical companies entered the fray in 1997 and 1998. Warner-Lambert launched its Hails Zinc Defense in 1997 and backed it with a substantial marketing effort featuring actress Lauren Hutton. Within a few weeks SmithKline Beecham introduced a line of German herbals dubbed Abtei, and American Home Products prepared to debut an array of herbal products that would be marketed under the well-known Centrum brand name. In February 1998 the Feeling Fine Company also released a line of vitamin and nutritional supplements. To distinguish itself in the increasingly crowded arena, the brand commissioned Dr. Art Ulene of NBC's Today show fame to market and promote the company's Nutrition Boost multivitamin and mineral formula.

Established industry participants were not willing to let new market entrants poach unopposed on their turf. In 1999 Bayer introduced a campaign for its One-A-Day Specialized Blends. The commercials featured actress Annie Potts and portrayed her facing everyday challenges such as keeping up with an energetic toddler. Each spot closed with the tag line "Help your body help itself with One-A-Day Specialized Blends … just what you need to feel your best." One-A-Day also offered specialized multivitamins that targeted distinct audiences, such as One-A-Day 50-Plus and One-A-Day Men's Formula. In 1997 White-Hall Robbins also expanded its efforts to reach aging consumers by spending nearly $33 million to advertise Centrum Silver, which the company had originally introduced in 1990. This campaign, which pictured glowingly healthy older folks engaging in active pastimes such as canoeing, used the tag line "Life is an adventure because you're over 50 and still exploring." Centrum Silver became the second best-selling vitamin brand in 1998. Nature Made's other close competitor, Rexall Sundown Inc., tried to differentiate its supplements from its numerous competitors by incorporating "high-potency" formulas into its Sundown line. For a part of 1997 Sundown became the top-selling retail vitamin brand, but Nature Made reclaimed the distinction in 1998.

Private-label brands were another growing threat to Nature Made. Many retail chains, such as Safeway and Long's, produced their own versions of natural care products. In 1998 these brands controlled 15 percent of the market, but they were expected to continue to grow. Unlike their branded competitors, the private-label products incurred few marketing expenses and were therefore able to draw consumers by their lower prices as well as in-store support.


Although companies such as Pharmavite had long ago introduced soy-based supplements designed for women, it was only with the sector's explosion in the last 1990s that male-specific herbal and vitamin remedies (such as one intended to keep the prostate in good working order) entered the marketplace.


Television was the essential element of Pharmavite's strategy for Nature Made. Prior to the early 1990s, most single-element vitamins and almost all herbal supplements were sold at health food stores rather than major retailers. The suddenness of the supplement sector's boom and its arrival in the mainstream meant that most consumers had not yet formed strong brand allegiances. Before pharmaceutical corporations entered the market in 1997, most of the companies fighting for market share operated on low advertising budgets, but this was soon to change. Pharmavite used the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" ads not only to increase vitamin sales during the campaign's tenure but also to build the Nature Made brand, so that consumers would specifically seek it out at retail stores. To bring the message of the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign to its target audience, Pharmavite ran the ads on a range of network and cable television programs. Among these were Good Morning America, Today, Inside Edition, American Journal, World News Tonight, and daytime CNN shows, and the ads ran on CNN Headline News, Discovery, Lifetime, and USA, all venues that were popular with the baby boomers the company wanted to reach. Advertising on news programs was an especially important component of Nature Made's strategy. "We have found that single vitamin consumers are very focused on news and information programming," a company spokesperson told the June 23, 1997, issue of Chain Drug Review. "They respond to clinical studies; they respond to press reports." Print ads, which also prominently displayed the brand's affiliation with the AMWA, ran in major consumer magazines as well.

Trust was the core theme of the campaign, and it was also the basis upon which Pharmavite intended to bolster the Nature Made brand. While the supplement industry was growing exponentially each year, only about half of the adult population were regular supplement users by 1998. Market research revealed that those consumers who eschewed natural care products often did so because they lacked crucial information about items, had safety concerns, or did not have "a recognizable brand name they knew and trusted," explained Chain Drug Review. By highlighting Nature Made's relationship with the AMWA, Pharmavite hoped to assuage consumers' concerns. Moreover, a majority of consumers polled by the magazine stated that "they would be most likely to consider [a supplement] purchase after receiving information from pharmacists, nutritionists, friends, or relatives." Nature Made hoped that by trumpeting the AMWA endorsement it could imbue its products with this aura of authority.

The company also aimed to get pharmacists—a crucial link between consumers and products—more involved in the supplement category. In addition to circulating Nutrition Report, the company's bimonthly publication detailing the latest clinical information about supplements, to many pharmacists, Pharmavite provided them with product information to give consumers. Even more innovative was the company's Drug Induced Nutritional Deficiency Program, which strove to inform pharmacists about nutritional deficiencies that resulted from the use of certain prescription medications. Upon filling such a prescription, the pharmacist could then recommend the appropriate supplement—which the company hoped would be the Nature Made brand—to address the problem.

Pharmavite augmented this multifaceted strategy with sophisticated in-store advertising. Instead of adding Nature Made bottles to the slew of brands already crowding shelves, Nature Made often opted for a dedicated display to create a more eye-catching effect for its products. This "wall of yellow labels," reflecting the company's packaging design, would "take advantage of [Nature Made's] strong brand recognition and the popularity of individual products," Marshall Fong, the company's brand manager, told Chain Drug Review on June 29, 1998.


Pharmavite expressed satisfaction with its advertising efforts. A phone survey completed shortly after the "Trusted by the Ones You Trust" campaign broke indicated that 82 percent of consumers who regularly took supplements were aware of the Nature Made brand. "That's about 50 points higher than any other broad line supplement line," Nature Made's Fong proclaimed to Chain Drug Review. "People recognize Nature Made as a credible brand name." In the spring of 1998 Pharmavite continued to expand Nature Made's product line with the addition of nine new supplements.

Sales figures in 1998 reflected a positive year for Nature Made. The company had an 18 percent share of the vitamin E market, compared to its rivals' shares of about 3 percent each. "Our sales are growing faster than the category because of our advertising and contact with customers," Fong crowed to the Chain Drug Review. Content with what the campaign had accomplished, Pharmavite dedicated most of its advertising budget in late 1998 and early 1999 to promoting its Nature's Resource line of herbal remedies.


Eder, Rob. "Natural Care Will Create Most OTC New in '98." Drug Store News, January 12, 1998.

"Healthy Outlook." Supermarket Business, April 1, 1998.

Hume, Scott. "Burnett Lands Vitamin Client." Adweek, May 26, 1997.

Kadlec, Daniel. "How to Invest in the Herbal Remedy Boom." Time, November 23, 1998.

Mendelson, Seth. "Mass Retailers Seem to Be Taking Full Advantage of the Excitement Surrounding the Vitamin and Herbal Supplements Categories." Discount Merchandiser, May 1, 1998.

"Pharmavite Extends Nature Made Line." Tan Sheet, June 29, 1998.

"Pharmavite Nature Made Supplements Ads Break January 5." Tan Sheet, January 5, 1998.

"Science Fuels Boom in Herbal Products." Chain Drug Review, February 3, 1997.

Sullivan, Ben. "Growth Spurt; Herbs Able To Rack Up Big Sales." Los Angeles Daily News, May 3, 1998.

"Suppliers Scramble to Capitalize on Herbs." Chain Drug Review, October 12, 1998.

                                             Rebecca Stanfel