Blackmores CEO exclusive, part two: 'We need to move beyond bottles of pills'

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Blackmores' profits increased by 28% to $15.4m, with sales rising by 9% to $134m in Q1.
Blackmores' profits increased by 28% to $15.4m, with sales rising by 9% to $134m in Q1.
New Blackmores CEO Richard Henfrey has pledged that the firm will look to move beyond selling 'bottles of pills', hinting that a more personalised nutrition approach featuring tests and value-added services could be an option.

Former COO Henfrey took on the top role after Christine Holgate left Blackmores to head Australia Post.

In the first installment​ of our exclusive interview, published last week, he revealed the firm's long-term fortunes in China would be dependent on establishing a successful retail business, alongside its current thriving cross-border e-commerce sales.

But in a broader context, he said the company had to tap into consumer demands for more information and personalised services.

"This is a fast-moving and dynamic industry, and we have a lot product development work going on, so we certainly won't be standing still in that regard.

Richard Henfrey

"But a big part of the strategy is to look at how we can build a bigger ecosystem beyond pills and bottles. So we are looking at services, data and tests to be able to give people the value-added information if they need."

He said consumers wanted more information to enable them to make informed choices.

"If I was sensitive to caffeine, or likely to get cirrhosis of the liver if I drink too much, I would want to know and I would want to take action.

"If we can tell them that they have this SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), we can help. This is a huge opportunity."

The right path

Speaking to us at trade body Complementary Medicines Australia’s (CMA) annual awards in Sydney, Henfrey also welcomed the new health claims​ and IP regulations being introduced by regulator the Therapeutic goods Administration (TGA).

The third way, or middle pathway claim, sits between the current low-risk listed medicine classification that covers complimentary medicines and higher level registered medicines for pharmaceuticals.

To qualify for the new higher level claims, products must be backed by rigorous scientific evidence and tested by the TGA for efficacy.

"I was really engaged with the new regulations because I used to be on the CMA board and was part of the small group the TGA pulled together for targeted consultation,"​ Henfrey said.

"The middle pathway provides an enormous opportunity to build the evidence base for quality products and to be able to market them in a way that is a lot more useful to consumers."

The health claims will be made on the finished product, not the ingredients, so he warned that this would not be a rapid process.

"It will take time to get this evidence. There may be a temptation to say that if we don't have a whole heap of products coming through the new pathway straight away, it has been a failure. We need to guard against that.”

Transition timing

He also welcomed rule changes that provide firms with a two-year period of market exclusivity for new ingredients.

"Two years' exclusivity is welcome because you can spend a lot of time and money getting an ingredient listed and then not have any protection," ​he said.

"We talked around a lot of options with TGA and the two-year system seems fair and proportional. It will reward the people who do the work."

In terms of his elevation to the top role, Henfrey said it was perfect timing from a business perspective.

"The great thing is we had just launched a new strategy in July, so I came into the role with the plans already in place.

"The budget had been agreed on, so it was easy to say this is what we have and this is how we can deliver it."

Two weeks ago, he announced that the most recent quarterly figures​ showed that profits had increased by 28% to $15.4m, with sales rising by 9% to $134m.

"We were very pleased with the results and we optimistic about the rest of the year,"​ he added.

"Christine will be a hard act to follow because she's done a fantastic job, but we are in a really good position to kick on again."

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