Entrepreneur finds his niche in supplement market

As a freshman at Rollins College in Florida, Garrett Green had a big idea. He sank all of his money plus four years of research and development into a product he called PowerCap, a beverage lid that held fresh active ingredients until they were ready to be mixed into the drink.

He launched in September 2008 — just as the economy was on the brink of collapse. That bad timing, along with a faulty supply chain and a larger company that beat him to market with the same technology, meant the venture ended in failure.

“It was a crash course in everything start-up,” Green said.

Vowing to never again put all his eggs in one basket, he now bills Green Co. as a private product development and marketing company.

“That’s vague for a reason,” he said.

Instead of banking on one product, the former Nichols School student’s business model is to research the beverage, health and nutritional supplement markets, try to forecast trends, figure out what he can produce that fits into that sweet spot, then speed it to market.

So far, he has been making headway. Working out of a home office in North Buffalo, Green has brought two products to store shelves and has three more in the pipeline.

Most successful has been Pure Energy, an energy drink with no sugar and no calories. Its big break came at the end of last year when Iowa-based convenience store chain KumGo agreed to carry it in all of its stores in 11 states. It is now distributed to 6,500 retailers throughout the Midwest through Farner-Bocken, an Iowa distributor.

Green Co.’s vodka, ONE ROQ sells to a handful of regional Colorado retailers near the distillery it uses in Denver, but is ramping up for a bigger launch in spring. The brand has more than 12,000 fans on Facebook.

Green Co. takes customer orders and fills them one batch at a time at contracted manufacturers around the country. He has no salaried staff or permanent operations — contracting out everything from distribution and bookkeeping to advertising and promotion.

“I don’t like to use the words ‘virtual company.’ It’s not a virtual company,” Green said.

Only recently did he lease local warehouse space, in order to prepare for the local launch of his latest product gamble, Smart D.

“We develop brands that compete in existing categories, but the holy grail of consumer product sales is to develop something totally new that didn’t exist before,” Green said.

He’s hoping to do that with Smart D, a two-ounce liquid “shot” of vitamin D and other ingredients that are supposed to help the body absorb it.

It is made by NVE Pharmaceuticals, the same New Jersey contract manufacturer that makes the popular Stacker2 “fat burning” dietary supplement capsules sold at convenience store checkout counters.

Smart D exemplifies Green’s trend-spotting and marketing spin.

The product’s packaging is much like that of the super trendy Five-Hour Energy two-ounce drinks that are currently hawked by the stars of MTV reality show “Jersey Shore.” It’s a $1 billion market, according to data from SymphonyIRI, a market research firm in Chicago.

Green is hoping Smart D will fit right into that hot niche of energy and nutritional supplements marketed to hard-partying but fitness-conscious twentysomethings.

“They have rightly identified vitamin D as having great potential in the market in single serving shot bottles,” said Walter Orcutt, executive vice president at NVE Pharmaceuticals.

And its release comes just as research and hype about the benefits of vitaminDhit a fever pitch. It is being hailed as a bone-builder, immune system strengthener and said to lower the risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

There’s plenty of fodder for Green to use in Smart D’s marketing.

There are the touted health benefits. There is the fact that vitamin D is hard to absorb on its own — that’s where Smart D’s additional ingredients supposedly come in. Since it comes from the sun, scores of people in the Northeast become deficient in the winter. And other than supplements, the only other sources are in food.

“You find it in things like fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks. Well, that doesn’t sound very good,” Green said.

That opens the door for Green to paint a compelling picture: either you go around munching two and a half filets of fresh-caught, cold water fish each day, or you toss back the occasional shot of Smart D, which is oh-so-conveniently positioned at the gas station checkout counter and selling for $2.49.

“That’s precisely the magic of what we do,” Green said.

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