Cash Motivates Employee Success In Wellness Programs

Cash Incentive For Health PerformanceCash motivates employees to succeed in wellness programs

Using financial incentives in conjunction with a workplace wellness program can greatly increase employee participation in healthful activities and the probability of improved health outcomes, Cigna Corp. said Tuesday in a report.

It’s not surprising that even with a cap of $2000/yr, it’s still way cheaper than hospitalization or surgery.  This is one area ripe for exploration – employee health, company profit, cash. It’s about time.

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Stepping Up To The Obesity Challenge

Time to Weigh InObesity isn’t a topic most Americans want to face up to, especially on Thanksgiving. For many Americans, the traditional food binge brings up things  like elastic waistbands and antacids to be grateful for.

Workers compensation insurers can  no longer avoid the rise in obesity. Workers compensation insurers have enormous (literally and figuratively) opportunities to carve out effective loss prevention and wellness strategies. Getting out of the market isn’t the answer.  So what is?

Playing the “Is It Healthy?” Game is the answer. When business, government and citizens commit to mastering the game, we’ll see how quickly new opportunities for health and wellness emerge.

In the meantime, here are some tips to weight loss that have actually been proven to work. I’m not talking about the no-brainers like watch your diet and exercise. These tips are  about training yourself to recognize your own internal cues for hunger. It’s the first step to having your willpower work. Once we recognize what’s going on with us, there’s no reason to battle with will power. Getting present to choice in the moment is a key to successful weight management. What a concept.


To Instill Willpower, Sniff, Nibble and Have A Nice Long Look

Research has shown that training kids to resist food cravings is the only useful strategy for losing weight. The key is training the brain to resist temptations by paying attention to internal states rather than external triggers from the environment.  Check out the video.



Two novel treatments to reduce overeating in overweight children: A randomized controlled trial.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving and all the great food that goes with it. Just pay attention to whether you’re actually hungry. If not, step away from the table.

With Top Lines Drooping, Firms Reach for Vitamins

It’s no surprise large companies are hunting for nutritional supplement companies. For starters, health works. And secondly, the nutritional supplement category has shown consistent growth – even in a “bad” economy.  Maybe there’s a lesson here.

Like a lot of aging Americans, consumer products and drug companies are hoping vitamins will give them an energy boost.

Procter & Gamble Co., PG +0.83% drug maker Pfizer Inc. PFE -0.07% and Arm & Hammer CHD -0.23% owner Church & Dwight Co. all acquired makers of dietary supplements last year. More deals are expected, as companies bet baby boomers and rising health-care costs will drive demand for products that promise health in a bottle.

Supplements appeal because they can tap into the desire for health remedies and claim high prices, without the hassle of tough U.S. regulatory oversight.  (Not to mention the countless scientific studies validating efficacy).

Sales of vitamins, minerals and supplements totaled nearly $23 billion in the U.S. last year, according to Euromonitor International, and are growing at a 5% to 7% annual clip.

Pfizer owns Centrum vitamins and also Emergen-C supplements.

Some major retailers are allocating more shelf space to health supplements, giving manufacturers the room to move more brands and products. Meanwhile, sales of many consumer products and over-the-counter drugs are growing only at or below the rate of economic growth.

The shift in American demographics and tastes is lifting a business that consumer companies have tried before. Half a decade ago, poor sales led P&G to pull a line of women’s vitamins launched under its Olay beauty brand. But the company gave the business another try last spring by acquiring New Chapter Inc., a Vermont-based maker of supplements that are sold through health and specialty stores.

“We may have been ahead of our time” with the Olay vitamins, said Tom Millikin, a spokesman for P&G’s health-care division, where New Chapter is housed. “Today, people are more health-conscious and more focused on preventative health care.”  (It’s also taken years of consumer education to solidify the value proposition of food and nutrition as the basis for health).

“What’s really changed is consumer interest,” said Romitha Mally, a managing director in the consumer group at Morgan Stanley MS -1.46% .

William Hood, an investment banker at Houlihan Lokey in New York, said potential buyers are looking for vitamin and supplement brands that are well established or still independently owned.

Companies seen as ripe for deals, according to people familiar with the matter, include NBTY Inc., known for brands like Nature’s Bounty, Balance Bar and the Disney DIS -0.19% line of children’s vitamins, and Jamieson Laboratories, Canada’s largest manufacturer of vitamins and supplements, with products sold in more than 50 countries. Atrium Innovations Inc. ATB.T -1.41% and Thorne Research Inc., which make high-end supplements sold by medical professionals, are also possible acquisition candidates, the people added.

Eric Margolis, chairman of Jamieson, said the 91-year-old company attracts many suitors and has had discussions with a large British firm and others as it seeks to expand its sales in the U.S.

Paul Jacobson, Thorne Research’s chief executive, said his company stands out for selling high-end products through doctors, dietitians and osteopaths.

“It’s no secret that there has been growing interest in the nutritional supplement industry in recent years,” he said.

A spokesman for Carlyle Group, CG +0.30% which took NBTY private in 2010 in a $3.6 billion deal and has since expanded the business, declined to comment on whether it might be sold.

A spokeswoman for Atrium, which is publicly listed in Toronto, declined to comment on whether the company is willing to be acquired.

The sector is shaping up to be a battleground between pharmaceutical players and consumer-products companies, many of which are trying to counter slow growth in their mainstay businesses. Last year, British consumer company Reckitt Benckiser RB.LN -1.19% PLC topped Bayer AG BAYN.XE +1.59% in a bidding war by paying $1.4 billion for Schiff Nutrition, a U.S.-based supplements company best known for its Airborne fizzy vitamins.

Companies in both industries used to be skeptical about vitamins and supplements. The business historically has been highly fragmented, with scores of different brands and products, few of which are well known. (Yet the industry continues to grow despite tiny marketing budgets compared to big pharma).

Then Pfizer acquired Centrum and a new portfolio of consumer goods as part of its $68 billion takeover of Wyeth in 2009. Pfizer’s consumer-unit sales, including the vitamins business, rose 6% last year to $3.2 billion. The company partly attributed a 16% increase in consumer-health-products sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 to the “strong growth” of Centrum in the U.S.

Pfizer came under pressure from some on Wall Street to sell its consumer unit last year, but is expanding it instead. In 2011, the pharmaceuticals company bought Ferrosan Consumer Health, a Danish company that sells dietary supplements mainly in the emerging markets of Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, Pfizer acquired Alacer Corp., the maker of Emergen-C powdered-drink vitamin supplements.

Emergen-C sales have since grown 20%, according to Pfizer. “Consumers are taking increasing personal responsibility for their own health and wellness,” according to Paul Sturman, president of Pfizer’s consumer health-care unit. “Vitamins and dietary supplements play an important and direct role in this.”

There are limits on what the sector can contribute to companies’ growth. Many vitamin and supplement makers are small, so the acquisitions are unlikely to move the needle much for large consumer and drug companies. Popularizing better-known brands could also require significant investment in advertising and promotions, which could pressure profit margins. And Keith Pelt, managing director for consumer coverage at Deutsche Bank, DBK.XE -0.23% said regular vitamins have become commodities.

Still, many companies like the business. Church & Dwight, which sells Arm & Hammer household products, Trojan condoms and First Response pregnancy tests, last fall paid $650 million for Avid Health Inc., a maker of gummy vitamins. Chewable vitamins are popular with children, but few adults currently take them, and Church & Dwight sees “explosive growth” in this area, chief executive James Craigie said at an investor conference in February.

Unlike prescription drugs, vitamins, minerals, botanicals and other dietary supplements don’t need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective in order to be sold; that means the products don’t have to undergo clinical testing in humans that can take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. (Why vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements should be put into clinical trials is somewhat baffling.  We’re talking about essential nutrients many derived from food. But then the FDA is ok with corn being regulated as a pesticide). However, since 2007, dietary supplement manufacturers are required to follow certain guidelines to ensure they’re pure, have a consistent strength and are manufactured appropriately. See Good Manufacturing Practices.

Johnson & Johnson‘s JNJ +0.49% McNeil Nutritionals unit is an “essential part of our long-term strategy,” a spokeswoman said. The unit sells sugar substitute Splenda, Lactaid lactose-free milk products and dietary supplements. J&J doesn’t break out McNeil’s revenue, but said world-wide sales of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and nutritionals fell 1.1% last year to $4.4 billion.

J&J has tweaked the business in search of more growth. It sold Viactiv brand calcium chews for an undisclosed amount last year, and launched a natural, no-calorie sweetener called Nectresse in the U.S. last summer.

Adding vitamins and supplements can give companies more leverage when negotiating with retail pharmacies that have consolidated, as well as opportunities to make more efficient use of distribution and supply chains.

Laurent Faracci, chief strategy and marketing officer of Reckitt Benckiser USA, said the company can get its newly acquired brands like Airborne and MegaRed supplements into more drugstores and mass-retail channels where it already sells products like Lysol disinfectants and Mucinex decongestants. The company also plans to work with key retailers to better present the vitamins and supplement brands in stores.

“This is clearly a growth area we have identified,” he said, “and we have the marketing power.”

Write to Serena Ng at and Jonathan D. Rockoff at

A version of this article appeared April 1, 2013, on page B1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: With Top Lines Drooping, Firms Reach for Vitamins.

Get Up, Stand Up: Workers on Notice to Re-energize With Movement

  • By Rebecca Vesely

Workplace program pushes people to leave their desk and walk around for one to two minutes

every 25 to 30 minutes.

With a new year there often comes a renewed focus at work. But how can people maintain that focus and energy throughout the year?

Perhaps the answer is in “strategic movement,” a workplace engagement tool advocated by Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute and vice president of applied science and performance training at Wellness & Prevention Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.


The principle behind strategic movement is simple: The brain functions better with increased blood flow. It takes only one to two minutes of movement after a period of rest to increase energy and motivation, Groppel says.

“Where have you been when you’ve had your best ideas?” Groppel asks. “You were most likely standing up and moving.”

Aiming to upend the workplace culture of long sit-down meetings and hours spent slumped in cubicles, Groppel started Organizations in MOTION. The project studies what happens to performance, job satisfaction and engagement when workers add small, frequent amounts of exercise to their days.

The program advocates standing up and walking around for one to two minutes every 25 to 30 minutes.For fitness, move it or lose it

“We’re not saying, take a break,” Groppel says. Rather, workers would focus their attention on movement, such as going up a flight of stairs or walking around their office floor.

New Balance, the Boston-based athletic-shoe and -apparel company, took up the challenge last year. Some 750 employees at two corporate offices participated in the program for 90 days. The workers received daily emails from Groppel suggesting ideas for frequent and creative movement in the workplace.

Volunteer “movement champions” helped motivate their peers to stick to the program. Participants set reminders on their desktop computers. Leaders were encouraged to remind workers that they needed to move, to get up from their desks frequently and stand up during calls and meetings.

Participants who climbed stairs during these short intervals could collect tokens and cash them in for small rewards, Groppel says.

At the end of the 90-day program:

  • 53 percent said they had increased their physical activity and movement at work, and
  • 89 percent said they would continue with the changes.
  • Some 37 percent reported high levels of energy in the middle of the day, an 11 percent increase before the start of the challenge. And
  • 42 percent reported increased engagement and focus at work.

Notably, the largest increases in responses were seen for self-reported statements such as, “I am enthusiastic about my job,” “I find the work that I do full of meaning and purpose,” “My job inspires me,” “In the morning, I feel like going to work,” “At my work, I feel bursting with energy,” and “At my job, I feel strong and vigorous.”

The footwear manufacturer continues to promote the program along with its other wellness offerings.

“This program enhanced our workplace environment by engaging our associates to collaborate in new ways to increase their energy and focus levels,” says Joe Preston, executive vice president, global footwear product and marketing for New Balance.

Groppel says the idea of strategic movement at work has yet to take off.

“We still have a ways to go,” he says of the program. “Corporate leaders have to give their employees permission to do this.”

Some of his corporate clients are incorporating strategic movement by scheduling meetings for 55 minutes instead of an hour, blocking out the last five minutes to encourage movement, Groppel says.

“We have to look at how do we get the brain to be more engaged?” he says. “We have to teach people energy management, not just time management.”

Rebecca Vesely is a writer based in San Francisco. Comment below or email

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