A dose of good fortune Agreement: Martek Biosciences Corp. of Columbia gets a boost as the nation's largest mass marketer of nutritional supplements agrees to sell a Martek product.

October 13, 1997|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

General Nutrition Center, the nation's largest mass marketer of vitamins and other nutritional supplements, has agreed to begin selling Neuromins, a nutritional supplement made with an oil developed by Columbia-based Martek Biosciences Corp.

The oil contains DHA, a key fatty acid needed for brain function and development.

General Nutrition said it will stock Neuromins sold by Nature's Way, one of the leading vitamin and supplement marketers.

Martek, which lost $8.9 million on $4 million in revenue last year, is hopeful the move will boost revenue.

Martek makes and supplies DHA to Nature's Way and three other nutritional supplement companies for Neuromins production.

"This is a very important event for us," said Gregg Lampf, a spokesman for Martek.

"Once you get your product into GNC, it's a springboard into the mass market."

General Nutrition operates 2,000 stores nationwide. Another 1,000 stores operated by franchisees are not covered by the arrangement.

Henry "Pete" Linsert, Martek's chairman and chief executive officer, said getting Neuromins into GNC stores would double -- to about 6,000 -- the number of stores the product is sold in nationwide.

Lampf said Martek is talking with General Nutrition about an in-store advertising campaign and is planning a national marketing effort to tout the health benefits of DHA and Neuromins.

Martek hopes the agreement with General Nutrition will help open up shelf space for Neuromins in chain groceries and pharmacies, other key mass-market channels for nutritional supplements.

To further boost interest, the company plans to underwrite human studies on DHA and its effect on brain functions, Lampf said.

Scientific studies have found that the brain uses DHA to build membranes around nerve cells. The capsules are marketed as a new way to get sufficient amounts of the oil.

DHA also can be found in some fish; salmon is a rich source.

More than 15 scientific studies, most of them conducted in Europe, have pointed to a correlation between DHA deprivation and attention deficit disorder in children, depression, Alzheimer's disease and visual disorders including retinitis pigmentosa.

DHA and Neuromins got another boost last week when Prevention magazine briefly mentioned their health benefits. The national monthly has 3.2 million subscribers.

Lampf said Martek hopes to see improving sales of Neuromins -- a relatively unknown product among the general public -- during the next several quarters as a result of increased exposure and new studies.

"A lot depends on the success of clinical studies and what the public comes to believe Neuromins could help them with," he said.

Most of the nutritional supplement companies marketing Neuromins offer a dosage for general use and a higher dosage product for pregnant and lactating women to ensure fetal brain development.

Martek said sales of the capsules have improved steadily since their introduction to the market in February.

For the third quarter ended July 31, Lampf said, Martek posted revenue of $365,000 for its Neuromins oil, up from $79,000 in the first quarter, which ended Jan. 31.

Third-quarter sales, however, were below the $1 million estimate made in May by analyst Alex Zisson of Hambrecht & Quist.

For now, Neuromins has emerged as Martek's largest revenue producer.

Its other product, an infant-formula additive called Formulaid, posted sales of $160,000 in the third quarter.

Martek has agreements to supply most of the major infant-formula manufacturers with the product, which is also made using DHA, for sales in Europe and the Mideast.

Formulaid has not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for baby formulas in the United States, which represents 45 percent of the world infant-formula market.

Lampf said Martek expects Formulaid to become its leading revenue generator if it gets U.S. marketing clearance.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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