Wanna sell food in pharmacies? Just find the proper partner

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 21 / 09 / 2014

When considering innovation maybe food industry does not attract as much attention from media or analysts as some other “sexier” areas as, for instance, mobile or 3D printing. But, on the other hand, it’s not necessary an expert eye to realize the rapid pace of at which food offer and demand changes.

In fact, you only need to visit a supermarket time to time… But even those who don’t buy their own food watch television ads, so it’s difficult not to be aware of one of the most obvious market trends developing during the last decade: all food product wants to become a medicament product. Average nourishment is  no more enough . Now, we want food to offer an extra something that makes us to perform better or, at least, prevent health problems. When I was a child I used to have a sweet snack time to time that I liked because it was made of chocolate, cream and strawberry jam. This same snack is still on the market, but now advertising tries to convince mums to buy it because it delivers the daily dose of vitamins A and C that every children need.

So it seems only natural to happen the kind of collaboration that I am surprised it took me so long to hear about. I’m talking about a collaboration between players in pharma and food industries. But this is exactly what Laboratorios Esteve and Pascual Group did a year ago. These two Spanish firms created a joint society named Balance Labs to manufacture and market food products for diabetic people.

Fourteen percent of the Spanish population, around 5 million people, is affected by diabetes. Despite the increasing prevalence of this disease, Spanish market still lacked diabetes-specific products and services.

Esteve is an international pharmaceutical chemical group that focuses its efforts on innovation. The company wanted to copy the successful business model developed in the cosmetic industry ―by way of the Puig Group with the creation of the company Isdin― and looked for a partner in the food industry similar in size and philosophy as well as a family business. With a portfolio of more than 200 products, 2.400 employees and eight different plants, Grupo Pascual core business is the making, packaging, distribution and sales of dairy products, mineral water, fruit juices and coffee.

There is a novelty in their agreement that is worth to highlight. This is the first alliance of two firms from two different sectors to cover these two distribution channels, pharmacies and supermarkets. Balance Labs manufactures two lines of diabetic food products: one to be sold by Pascual in department stores under the brand name DiaBalance, and another line ―DiaBalance Expert― to be distributed by Esteve in pharmacies.

The two firms share equal ownership of the joint venture and agreed to make decisions by unanimity. The new society’s initial investment has been small, one million Euros. “The partners, rather than capital, have so far supplied the equipment required to design and launch our products, and will also take charge of marketing activities”, DiaBalance CEO José Ramón Pérez  explained.


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