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This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

October 20, 1999. All rights reserved.

Competition for NutRx

The bulk of the product in the neutriceuticals industry is being sold

at healthfood stores such as GNC (39 percent), big box stores such as

WalMart (18.7 percent, and food stores (10 percent). But NutRx’ chief

competitors are the virtual firms (Mothernature.com, Vitamins.com, and

Vitaminshop.com) that are spending millions to grab

market share, and specialty pioneers, such as the Fort

Lauderdale-based Life Extension Foundation (LEF).

The LEF was controversial in its early years, and at one point the

Food and Drug Administration confiscated its computers because it

sold a controversial product, but now that same product is sold

everywhere. Unlike NutRx, LEF concentrates on educating the consumer

rather than the healthcare practitioner (http://www.lef.org). It

began in 1981 to study everything from cryonics to caloric restriction

and now sells 500 nutritional supplements

to members of its buyers club.

The large pharmaceutical

companies are just beginning to realize the potential for

this market. "The drug companies have tried to make everything

regulated," says DiBartolomeo, "but they realize if they are not going

to be able to force the government to regulate natural compounds, they

need to start their own divisions."

Johnson & Johnson, for instance, currently markets nutritional

ingredients, called "functional foods," rather than neutriceutical

compounds that would directly compete with NutRx. These foods include

Lactaid, a milk substitute; Benecol, a food ingredient that blocks

absorption of cholesterol; and Splenda, a sugar substitute made from

sugar that is not yet widely available. "We have a couple of very

significant businesses in the nutritional/nutriceutical area. We look

to these businesses as a platform for growth, but as yet we have no

separate division," says Willard D. Nielsen, of Johnson & Johnson.

Bristol-Myers Squibb has its Mead Johnson

Nutritionals division in Evansville, Indiana, with global sales of $2

billion and more than 60

brand name products. Like J&J it has until now concentrated on foods,

including Enfamil infant formulas, Boost (a nutritional energy

beverage with antioxidants), and

Choice-dm (a nutrition bar and beverage for those with diabetes).

Spokesperson Peter J. Paradossi says his firm’s first venture into the

supplement market, Viactiv Soft Calcium Chews, is "revolutionary." It

has Vitamins D and K for better absorption, and with a texture like

that of a soft taffy candy, it is chewable.

— Barbara Fox


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