2020 Should Have Caused Brands to Evaluate Their Products

by Matt Weik

2020 caused many brands to teeter the brink of closing their doors for good – and many, unfortunately, did. With the shutdowns that took place, many businesses simply didn’t have the capital to maintain their overhead and expenses while they were forced to be closed due to the pandemic. With that being said, many supplement brands were luckily deemed “essential” and could continue running their businesses to provide products to their retail partners. But if there is one thing that 2020 should have made brands do, it was to evaluate their products more closely.

A Deep Dive into What’s Working and What’s Not

When things are good, brands love to launch new products to expand their portfolio of options for consumers. Everything from pre-workouts, to amino acids, to protein powders, to creatine, you name it. Along with each of those categories, brands can launch each in multiple flavors.

While it’s great for brands to expand and grow, in times like 2020, when the pandemic was causing consumers to change their purchasing behaviors, brands should have looked to evaluate their products. Consumers in 2020 were spending less on supplements and more on the essentials while gyms were closed. People weren’t buying their pre-workouts like they were in previous years. Instead, we all saw an uptick in the purchase of multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry, and many other immunity-boosting supplements.

Here are the facts – immunity-boosting supplements are not going away anytime soon. Regardless of if the COVID vaccine works or not, people are going to (hopefully) continue to pay more attention to their health and making sure their immune system is functioning optimally. How can they accomplish this? By improving their nutrition and supplementing with key products to boost immunity and filling any nutritional gaps they may have.

So, where does that leave all of these supplement brands? It should lead them to evaluate their products and see what is working and what isn’t and make the necessary adjustments.

When I was running a division of MET-Rx, we had to make the tough decision to discontinue products. In fact, they discontinued more than half of the products in the portfolio. Why? Because many of the products simply weren’t working out. Were they selling? Sure, here and there. But the bread and butter of the line was in the 30-40% of the SKUs. Why not allocate all of the resources being tied up by products that weren’t working and pour all of it into the products that were as well as innovating and launching new products that would fulfill consumer demands? It just makes sense, no?

Going Lean Isn’t a Bad Thing

While a hard pill to swallow, no brand ever wants to evaluate their products and come to the realization that many of them just aren’t working out. They’re on life support and need to have the plug pulled. Many products are merely in a vegetative state where they sit on the shelves or in the warehouse until a few people purchase them, and then the cycle repeats. Product sitting on shelves or in warehouses is not doing anyone any good. It’s time to come to the realization that the product isn’t meant to be.

And look, it could be a really good product – let’s not downplay formulas. A brand could have a pre-workout with a great profile, but when you evaluate their products, the sales dollars just aren’t there. This was another harsh reality we faced when I was with MET-Rx. They had a great pre-workout, and the people who used it loved it, but the sales numbers don’t lie. The market wasn’t interested in the product with everything else available out there, and they had to kill it off.

Going lean isn’t a bad thing. It frees up capital and resources to get put into other areas of the business. Maybe it’s added marketing around the products that are selling? Perhaps it’s investing into content to stay in the front of the consumer’s mind by providing educational content (I should know, it’s what I do with my business for supplement brands)? Or maybe it’s simply cutting back to improve your blended margins across the full line of products?

There are many things that can be done and reasons for doing so. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that brands need to evaluate their products more often and possibly face the harsh reality and some tough decisions that not everything is working and should be continued.

If You Still Have the Lights On, Count Your Blessings, and Keep Pushing Forward

The last thing worth touching on in this article is the fact that if you still wake up each morning and get to go to work in the supplement space, count your blessings. Many brands failed and disappeared. There are many hopes and dreams that were crushed, bank accounts drained, and employees that were let go. You need to find out why people buy from your brand. Is it your company culture and brand ethos? Is it your formulas? What is the reason?

Take what is working and double down on it. Again, it circles back to brands need to evaluate their products. The industry is constantly changing. Do you have an old formula you can improve? Do you have an old product that simply needs to be taken behind the barn and put to rest? A stale and stagnant brand will not last long in this industry, and brand loyalty is a thing of the past. If you’re not at the cutting-edge of what is legally possible in the industry, you’re going to get lost. Don’t get frustrated, just get back to work. Count your blessing and keep pushing forward.