Inside The Vitamin Shoppe Brands: Tabitha Daley, Brian Tanzer, Dustin Elliott | Episode #134

Following Episode 133 with Lee Wright, CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe, we head back to the company’s 2024 Brand Summit in Dallas, TX to take a look behind the scenes with some key leaders on the formulation and regulatory side of the company.

Inside the Vitamin Shoppe Brands

Episode 134: An Inside Look at The Vitamin Shoppe Brands with Tabitha, Brian, and Dustin

In Episode 134 of the PricePlow Podcast, we get an inside look at The Vitamin Shoppe Brands with Tabitha, Brian, and Dustin

Episode 134 of the PricePlow Podcast is a double feature — first, we talk to Senior Brand Manager, Tabitha Daley, and Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Brian Tanzer. After that, we patch in a conversation with Dustin Elliott, who was also Senior Brand Manager at the time of recording.

In this episode, you’ll understand how The Vitamin Shoppe approaches formulation within their house brands, manages relationships with their third parties, and deals with regulatory concerns regarding dietary supplement ingredients. We learn a bit about PLNT, BodyTech Elite, and VThrive, three major parts of the Vitamin Shoppe’s strategy — these aren’t just traditional white label brands!

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Video: An Inside Look at The Vitamin Shoppe’s Brands

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Detailed Show Notes

  • 0:00 – Introductions

    In the 2024 Vitamin Shoppe Brand Summit in Dallas, Ben and Mike welcome guests including Tabitha, a senior brand manager overseeing the organic, vegan PLNT brand and the clinically oriented Vthrive brand, and Brian Tanzer, Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs. Brian plays a critical role in product formulations, claim substantiations, and regulatory compliance, ensuring that Vitamin Shoppe maintains high standards across its marketing and customer interactions.

  • 3:00 – Vitamin Shoppe Summit

    Lee Wright The Vitamin Shoppe CEO on the PricePlow Podcast

    Lee Wright, CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe, quickly jumps on the PricePlow Podcast to explain the Vitamin Shoppe Brand Summit and his visits to The Shoppe

    Mike and Ben discuss with Tabitha and Brian the purpose and benefits of the event. Held biennially, it brings together over 750 store managers and leaders to discuss new developments and engage with third-party vendors, emphasizing education and innovation. The summit serves as a motivational and educational platform for all attendees, boosting their enthusiasm for their roles. Brian highlights the emphasis on educating rather than selling, enabling employees to better assist customers in making informed health choices.

    The CEO’s active engagement and the personal growth stories of employees are noted, showcasing the company’s focus on health education and customer service. This supportive environment is part of what makes working at the Vitamin Shoppe appealing, as it fosters personal and professional growth in the health and wellness sector.

  • 7:00 – New Ingredients

    Brian explains the rigorous process for introducing new ingredients into their products. He emphasizes the necessity of supporting health claims with scientific research, including human clinical trials, to ensure both effectiveness and legal compliance. This thorough vetting process involves close collaboration with vendors and meticulous review of all marketing materials to ensure that claims are substantiated and regulatory requirements are met.

    Brian also discusses the quality assurance practices for the Vitamin Shoppe’s own brands, including audits, GMP compliance, and both internal and third-party testing to ensure the highest standards are maintained. He highlights the company’s commitment to quality, especially evident in products like creatine monohydrate, which is rigorously tested and trusted for its consistent quality.

  • 11:15 – PLNT

    Jocko Willink on the PricePlow Podcast

    Jocko Willink joins PricePlow for Episode 132 to talk about founding Jocko Fuel, doing the right thing when formulating supplements, and Jocko’s entire stack from start to finish

    Tabitha discusses the rationale behind Vitamin Shoppe’s decision to create its own brand, PLNT, highlighting a market gap in natural, organic, whole food-based products which wasn’t fully addressed by their existing offerings. This led to the development of PLNT to cater specifically to niche customers, particularly as consumer preferences, especially among Gen Z, shift towards more natural ingredients and products. She mentions the deliberate choice of the brand name “PLNT,” which uniquely omits the letter ‘A’ to signify the brand’s commitment to naturalness, though she admits it could be marketed better.

    Tabitha also teases upcoming product launches, with about 20 new SKUs expected in 2024, emphasizing continuous innovation and expansion in their product lines. She notes that while Vitamin Shoppe develops competitive products like high-quality pre-workouts under their private labels, there hasn’t been significant friction with third-party brands.

  • 14:30 – Employee Insights

    Jack Gayton: The Vitamin Shoppe Divisional Vice President of Merchandising

    Jack Gayton, The Vitamin Shoppe’s Divisional Vice President of Merchandising, joined the PricePlow Podcast with Aaron Heidebreicht back in Episode #105 to explain what TVS looks for in brands

    The team at Vitamin Shoppe actively uses insights from their “health enthusiasts” (store employees) to inform product development, ensuring they meet consumer needs. This approach has facilitated the introduction of competitive private label products. Furthermore, the stores’ engagement through individual social media accounts, while creative, is carefully monitored to adhere to regulatory standards. Brian highlights the importance of education within the company, ensuring all employees, regardless of department, understand the regulatory environment and are equipped to provide accurate information without making unsubstantiated claims, thus enhancing customer trust and satisfaction.

  • 18:10 – Education

    Brian discusses how Vitamin Shoppe trains its health enthusiasts to navigate customer interactions, particularly when dealing with disease-related queries, by focusing on regulatory-friendly language and avoiding disease claims. He emphasizes the importance of education, both for staff and customers, to maintain compliance with FDA regulations. The conversation also covers the challenges and processes involved in launching new products, particularly how they manage novel ingredients and ensure everything is legally compliant before hitting the market.

    Tabitha speaks about managing the Vitamin Shoppe’s private brands like PLNT and Vthrive, noting significant sales growth and discussing the strategy for being first to market with new ingredients pending regulatory approval. Furthermore, the discussion touches on the broader context of the supplement industry, particularly in relation to pharmaceutical trends like semaglutide, highlighting the industry’s role in complementing medication with nutritional support to ensure holistic health management.

  • 24:30 – Ozempic and the Supplement Industry

    Berberine vs Ozempic

    Is Berberine “Nature’s Ozempic”? We take a look at their mechanisms as GLP-1 agonists, and answer, “Yes, somewhat.”

    Brian discusses the complexities of addressing the interaction between dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals within the regulatory framework. He explains that it is acceptable to educate consumers on nutrient deficiencies that may arise from medication use, as long as the discussion stays clear of making direct disease claims. The conversation also touches on broader trends in the supplement industry, including the significant impact of pharmaceuticals like semaglutide on nutrient absorption and the need for nutritional supplementation.

    This issue is particularly relevant to those on medications that reduce food intake or nutrient absorption, such as bariatric surgery patients or those on acid-blocking drugs. The panel highlights the industry’s evolving response to these challenges, noting the importance of informed supplementation to address potential deficiencies without crossing into regulatory infringements.

  • 27:45 – Dustin Introduction

    The crew welcomes Dustin to the conversation, who has a background in exercise physiology and strength conditioning. He discusses his journey from internships in the sports industry to a significant role in supplement formulation. Initially working at a nutrition store in Miami to supplement his income, Dustin crossed paths with a contract manufacturer who was seeking advice on a newly acquired brand. His comprehensive knowledge of supplements, nutrition, and the business side of the industry impressed the manufacturer enough to offer him a job.

    The Vitamin Shoppe Quality Promise

    Dustin’s role expanded from field rep to an influential figure in product formulation, specifically noting his involvement in creating a novel pre-workout supplement with testosterone boosters. This innovative approach to supplements was a precursor to his move to Vitamin Shoppe, which acquired the contract manufacturer to integrate its operations. Dustin’s story highlights his pivotal role in evolving sports nutrition products and aligning them with regulatory standards, culminating in a leadership position at Vitamin Shoppe focused on private label brands.

  • 33:45 – Testosterone-Boosting Supplements

    Dustin discusses the complexities and considerations involved in formulating testosterone-boosting supplements. He acknowledges that while some ingredients might only show a marginal increase in testosterone levels statistically, their real-world effects, like enhancing vitality and libido, are what consumers often seek. Dustin highlights how he strategically formulated a testosterone booster called Altered Test, incorporating ingredients like KSM-66 for cortisol reduction (which indirectly supports testosterone levels) and RIPFACTOR for strength and performance benefits.

    He aims to create products that meet consumer expectations beyond just hormone enhancement, focusing also on overall well-being and performance. Dustin emphasizes the importance of realistic marketing and educating consumers on what to realistically expect from such supplements. Additionally, he discusses his approach to formulating pre-workout supplements that include testosterone-boosting elements, considering both male and female users and how the fitness community’s diverse needs influence product development.

  • 41:45 – Other Products

    BodyTech Elite Altered Physique

    See our coverage on Altered Physique

    Dustin discusses the collaborative nature of formulating supplements at Vitamin Shoppe, particularly highlighting his work with Tabitha on the products Altered Savage and Altered Physique. He explains how his role has evolved to focus more on branding while Tabitha handles the research aspects due to her strong background in interacting with ingredient vendors. Dustin reflects on their approach to including innovative ingredients like ZinjaBurn in Altered Physique, a fat burner formula.

    He notes that while ZinjaBurn, derived from a type of ginger, lacks extensive human data, its potential for promoting thermogenesis made it an appealing differentiator. The formula is balanced with other well-supported ingredients to ensure efficacy and regulatory compliance. This method allows them to be on the forefront of supplement technology while maintaining a responsible stance on product claims, waiting for more conclusive data before making specific health claims about newer ingredients.

  • 45:45 – Private Label

    Episode 134: An Inside Look at The Vitamin Shoppe with Tabitha, Brian, and Dustin

    In this podcast segment, Dustin discusses his pride in the Altered series from BodyTech, a product line he sees as a symbol of Vitamin Shoppe’s shift in approach towards private brands. He contrasts the traditional view of private labels—often seen as mere knock-offs of popular products—with the new direction where Vitamin Shoppe leverages its 20 years of industry experience and scientific backing to innovate and lead rather than follow. The Altered series, including products like Altered Amino, exemplifies this innovative approach, emphasizing industry leadership and expertise in creating products that meet consumer needs and expectations. Dustin appreciates this move towards making private brands stand out through unique and forward-thinking product development.

Where to Find Brian, Tabitha, and The Vitamin Shoppe

Thanks again to The Vitamin Shoppe for hosting the 2024 Brand Summit, and for everybody’s time we were allowed to take up!

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About the Author: Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto is a research scientist and water sports athlete who founded PricePlow. He is an n=1 diet experimenter with extensive experience in supplementation and dietary modification, whose personal expertise stems from several experiments done on himself while sharing lab tests.

Mike's goal is to bridge the gap between nutritional research scientists and non-academics who seek to better their health in a system that has catastrophically failed the public. Mike is currently experimenting with a low Vitamin A diet.

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