Emerson Ecologics: Andy Greenawalt, Chief Executive Officer

by HCE Exchange on May 7, 2012

Emerson Ecologics was founded in 1980 by Joe Emerson to distribute high-quality dietary supplements to integrative healthcare practitioners. A practicing nutritionist, Joe Emerson always held product quality as a top priority, and Emerson Ecologics continues to uphold this ideal in its vision today.

In December 2003, Emerson was sold to an investor group who in turn sold the company to Liberty Lane Partners in January 2008. Liberty Lane, Emerson’s parent company, is a private investment firm in Hampton, N.H.

Emerson Ecologics acquired California competitor Terrace International Distributors (TID Health) in December of 2008 and in 2009, integrated the two brands together under the Emerson banner, using TID’s facilities as their west-coast distribution and call center. Emerson’s business also includes a newly opened distribution center in Colonial Heights, Va., and the company’s headquarters and customer-support center in Bedford, N.H.

Andy Greenawalt became Emerson’s chief executive officer in early 2010 after joining them as the interim COO in mid-2009. One of his initial objectives was to enhance the physical and IT infrastructure of the company to position it for future growth.

The distribution center in Colonial Heights was opened in August 2011 to provide additional space and capacity for expansion of Emerson’s product offering and customer base. This center is double the size of the previous New Hampshire distribution center and is more efficient. All three Emerson locations are cGMP compliant and have received NSF certification.

Emerson has experienced double-digit growth in the last five years despite the United States’ economic challenges.

“We’re in an important and growing industry,” Greenawalt said. “People are becoming more proactive in their approach to healthcare and are increasingly turning to integrated medicine and nutritional supplements to support their health. We are fortunate to support the healthcare community and patient wellness.”

Remembering its niche

Emerson’s mission is to support practitioners with the highest-quality products, educational resources, and service solutions, but Greenawalt emphasized that at the end of the day, Emerson’s primary business is distribution. Investments in the name of expansion and infrastructure have been targeted to enhance Emerson’s core competency–its ability to distribute effectively and efficiently. This includes a robust enterprise-resource planning (ERP) system and new warehouse-management systems at both distribution centers.

He said that Emerson not only needs strong distribution centers that process orders quickly and accurately, but it is essential to have an intelligent, talented customer-support team as well as a broad product offering in order to be the practitioner’s trusted one-stop source.

“We don’t manufacture products, so we rely on collaborative partnerships with the best brands in the industry,” he stressed. “If we’re not strong in those other three areas, we’re in trouble.”

To uphold the highest standards for customers, Emerson monitors the brands they distribute for quality, safety, and regulatory compliance issues within the dietary supplement industry. To further reinforce quality standards, Emerson Ecologics maintains the Emerson Quality Program℠ (EQP), a voluntary supplier certification program that classifies brands on Gold, Silver, or Partner levels.

After conducting intensive on-site and documentation audits, as well as third-party confirmatory testing of finished products, Emerson verifies brands based on their quality practices above and beyond the requirements set forth in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) that establishes the manufacturing requirements for dietary supplements.

Developing its core

“Our main customers are integrative healthcare practitioners,” Greenawalt said. “They range from naturopaths, acupuncturists, and chiropractors to MDs and osteopaths.”

With over 250 brands, Emerson focuses its product offerings on lines that are either practitioner-only brands, such as Pure Encapsulations, Integrative Therapeutics, and Metagenics, or general-market brands that are in high-demand from practitioners, such as Jarrow Formulas, New Chapter, NOW, and Garden of Life.

For years, Emerson’s product offering has included probiotics, multivitamins, and fish-oil supplements. Recently, Greenawalt said there has been increased interest in natural and organic skin and personal-care products, so Emerson has been adding these brands as well.

“We believe it is important for patients to seek their healthcare practitioners’ advice when selecting supplements based on what their specific needs are,” he explained. “Our goal is to support our practitioners and provide them with the high-quality supplements they demand for their patients.”

Based on recent trends, this is a wise strategy. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, dietary-supplement sales to the practitioner segment are growing at seven percent each year. Because of healthcare regulation and a shortage of primary-care MDs, people are turning to other types of practitioners, such as nurse practitioners, naturopaths, and chiropractors.

“The transparency and validity of quality for nutritional supplements is becoming increasingly important to healthcare practitioners and their patients,” Greenawalt said. “Safety and quality of supplements are often in the news, which illustrates that consumers need additional verification to ensure them of the quality and safety of the brands they take. Patients need to rely on their doctor; in turn, we aim to provide that reassurance to practitioners.”

Greeting the future

Thus, Greenawalt has a very optimistic view of the future. Stricter regulations and a higher demand for quality products are weeding out the poorer industry players. The emphasis on nutrition and a newfound skepticism about the safety of products has prompted people to place more faith in their practitioners.

Because of this opportunity, Greenawalt wants to see Emerson take an even more proactive role within the nutritional-supplement industry by making the information about its products as concise and digestible for its clients as possible. This will enable practitioners to give quick answers about these products, and patients will be able to make intelligent, informed decisions.

He would also like to see Emerson continue to assist integrative medical practices with running their businesses in a more efficient and effective manner through Emerson’s service solutions.

Given Emerson’s modernized infrastructure and expanded distribution capabilities, Greenawalt is confident about the company’s ability to succeed in this changing economic environment.

“I think we have the capability to support larger clinics as well as individual practitioners based on our strong distribution capabilities, customer support associates, and a very broad selection of the best products and services, all from one source.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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