Michael Kirtley (far right) explains why low-carb products disappear
One of the most difficult industries to be in these days has got to be the low-carb retail stores. These brave men and women have put their money where their mouth is and work right there on the front lines where people who are desperate to learn more about livin' la vida low-carb turn to for information and products for their new healthy lifestyle. Despite the constant beating low-carb receives in the media, these heroes keep chuggin' along serving the low-carb community daily.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the low-carb expert has got to be my friend Michael Kirtley who, along with his wife Marilyn, owns the low-carb store Low-Carb Central (in Hales Corner, WI). I was privileged to visit this store in January for a book signing and found Michael to be a very wise man when it comes to discussing the subject of the low-carb lifestyle.
Addressing a popular question he hears from customers on an almost constant basis in his monthly newsletter today, Michael wanted to help his customers understand why so many of the low-carb products that they like seem to just disappear. It was such a fantastic article that I obtained permission from him to reprint it for you here. ENJOY!
"Why Do They Always Discontinue the Products I Like?"
Written by Michael Kirtley
This is a question we hear everyday as retailers. If my memory is correct, I remember reading that in the grocery business somewhere around 85% of new product introductions don’t make it over the long haul. So it’s not a problem unique to the low/reduced carb industry.
Also remember that this is an industry in its infancy when compared to other businesses. I believe the first low-carb store was started in 1996, which means the oldest store is only ten years old! Then there is the fact that the industry itself has been under attack for the last couple of years from the media and so-called “health experts” who are constantly bombarding us with their “balanced” approach to eating.
I took a look at our database, which has every product we have ever sold entered into it, and found there were 1,850 different products. Of these, 425 (23%) have been discontinued. This is a large number (especially if they were products you liked) but it does leave 77% that are still on the market.
To get back to the original question, there are a number of reasons products are discontinued.
One of the biggest problems is that the company who makes the product goes out of business. I can think of a dozen manufacturers who are no longer in business. To read a fascinating article on one of the largest to shut their doors (Keto), click here.
Another big reason is that distributors (wholesalers) also go out of business. There have been four that have closed down just since our store has been open. These distributors carried anywhere from 300 to 700 products. When this happens, manufacturers who relied on them exclusively for distribution of their product have no means of getting their product to the retailer, and the consumer is unable to purchase the product until the manufacturer can secure another distributor.
Other times, a distributor will decide they are not selling enough of a certain product and drop it from their inventory. If there is no other distributor that we can order it from, we will try to order direct from the manufacturer, but their minimum orders can be extremely high. When we wanted to order Krusteaz CarbSimple baking mixes from Continental Mills, they wanted us to order a minimum of 2,000 pounds. That’s a lot of mixes!
Sometimes companies are sold, and the new owners decide not to keep producing certain products. Sometimes the product just isn’t that good. A company can’t survive if it’s producing mediocre products that don’t generate a great number of repeat sales. Sometimes the product is still made, but packaged differently, or with a different name. This is happening more with the large multinational corporations that are running as fast as they can from anything that has even a hint of “low-carb” associated with it.
Then there are instances such as Atkins Nutritionals who had to trim the number of selections in an attempt to return to profitability. Speaking of profits, when a company introduces a new product, it has certain expectations of how well it will perform in the market. In these days of lean and mean corporate policy, if a product doesn’t meet those expectations, you can bet it won’t be around very long, no matter how much you may like it.
Sometimes a competitor comes out with a superior product, and consumers purchase it instead of the inferior brand, in which case the manufacturer of the inferior product decides to pull the plug. Sometimes, a company that may have been profitable in the past has seen sales decline, and thinking they don’t want to start (or continue) losing money, they start producing different products, or close down.
So as you can see, there are lots of reasons the products you like may not be available anymore. One thing to consider though is this; this is a consumer-driven market, and where there is a demand, eventually someone somewhere will step up and meet that demand.
So be optimistic, be patient, and remember this -- it’s a pretty sure bet that the products you are lamenting about being gone are most likely convenience foods. How many of these low-carb convenience foods were there when Dr. Atkins or the Eades started their research and wrote their books about low-carb living? None. Not a single one. Their plans were based on whole foods you could, and can still get, at the meat counter, dairy aisle and vegetable section of any grocery store.
Reading this probably won’t make you feel any better when you just gotta have that candy bar, chip, or cookie that has been discontinued, but rest assured that Marilyn and I are constantly looking for new, better products to replace the ones that didn’t make it.
THANK YOU, Michael, for sharing your insights on this phenomena in the low-carb retail business. You and others who do this for a living are helping so many people understand what they need to eat to be successful at livin' la vida low-carb and, frankly, I'm glad stores like yours exist (although I wish I had one here closer to me in Spartanburg, SC!). Keep up the GREAT work, my friend! You are doing an excellent job.
5-2-06 UPDATE: Okay, this discussion of discontinued low-carb products has me curious...what products do you miss the most and why? Please feel free to share the specific name brand of a low-carb food you used to enjoy, but the manufacturer stopped making it. And what was it about that product that made you like it so much? Click on the comment link below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.