Roots: Clothes, shoes and…vitamins?

So what's the story?...

So what’s the story?

Toronto-based Roots Canada is broadening its reach into the lucrative healthcare market with the launch of Roots Multivitamins for children, teens and adults. The new line of multivitamins and minerals, which is being manufactured and distributed by the consumer health care division of Burlington, Ont.-based Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. (BICL), is the first such product line from a drug company to be branded and marketed in conjunction with a non-pharmaceutical partner. The supplements hit the shelves of drug stores, grocery stores and mass merchandisers across Canada this month.

As if branding an airline wasn’t enough…Aren’t vitamins a bit of a stretch?

Roots is no longer simply a clothing retailer, says Jamie Malpass, director of marketing at BICL.

‘It’s become so much more than that,’ he says of the Canadian retail icon, whose portfolio includes branded products such as Roots Time, Roots Fragrances and the soon-to-be-launched Roots Air. ‘When you think of Roots, you don’t think of just a sweatshirt, it’s a lifestyle.’

Uh-huh. We’ve heard that one before. So what’s in it for the pair of them?

Roots Multivitamins, Malpass contends, help round out the apparel company’s image as a purveyor of positive, Canadian standards. The Roots image and ubiquitous brand name, meanwhile, gives the product line the ammunition it needs to become a leader in the crowded Canadian multivitamin market, currently valued at $80 million. While adult-targeted products account for close to $60 million of that total, the sale of kids’ multivitamins is nothing to sneeze at.

Sounds like there’s a potentially lucrative market there. Who’s the target, exactly?

Chances are they’re the same people who buy Roots’ clothes, furniture and leather dog beds. BICL currently markets a popular adult line of vitamins under the Quest banner, but according to Malpass, the Roots line won’t be cannibalizing those sales.

‘They’re not as educated or sophisticated or as knowledgeable about supplements and health products [as Quest buyers]. When we did our research, and looked at the environment and the segment that shops like that, it was screaming Roots. They were the same consumers,’ he says.

In addition to catering to the adult and kids 2-12 markets, Roots Multivitamins zero in on the retailer’s core demographic – teenagers – a market Malpass contends is under-served by the current vitamin marketplace. The new line of vitamins and minerals is the first in Canada to be specially formulated for teenagers, he says.

‘That’s a major segment we will be putting our efforts toward.’

The Roots Multivitamins for this segment, he adds, are labeled ‘Young Adult’ multivitamins, and are targeted by gender.

Has anyone considered the fact that maybe there’s a reason no one’s doing teen vitamins? That maybe vitamins fall somewhere below the new Limp Bizkit CD on the average teen’s shopping agenda?

According to Malpass, the popularity of the Roots brand will go a long way toward motivating this market segment to sample vitamins – even if they’ve never tried them before.

‘It’s because of what Roots stands for. It’s Canadian, it’s cool, it’s a way of life,’ he says.

While the line of supplements – packaged in ‘vibrant, contemporary’ cartons – has already hit store shelves, the launch will be officially kicked off in February at one of Roots’ flagship Toronto stores. A national campaign to promote awareness and trial will follow, built around print and radio advertising on teen-oriented stations and magazines across the country.

And what, pray tell, will be the selling proposition?

The message will be one of health and wellness, he says.

‘You have Roots on the outside, now have Roots on the inside – that sort of idea.’

The national campaign may also involve consumer contests, he says, including rewarding Roots Multivitamin shoppers with Roots apparel, or building a contest around the Roots lodge in B.C.

‘There are some interesting possibilities.’