Dan Lifton is the vice president at Maypro Industries, a leading global supplier of high quality specialty nutraceutical ingredients and an affiliate of Marubeni Corporation, one of Japan’s largest conglomerates with over $40 billion in annual revenue. For the past five years, Dan has been responsible for developing Maypro’s patented and branded ingredient portfolio in the company’s core markets of U.S., Japan and China. He also oversees the company’s strategic planning and M&A initiatives. Under Lifton’s leadership, Maypro has been able to maintain strong sales of AHCC, a medicinal mushroom based compound now sold under more than 20 brands in multiple channels. He also oversaw the successful industry launch of Oligonol, the world’s first commercially produced low molecular weight polyphenol, which is now successfully sold in the MLM, healthcare professional and retail channels. In 2009, Lifton expanded Maypro’s ingredient portfolio to include Japan’s top selling probiotic ingredient Morinaga BB536 and MicroActive® CoQ10, a proprietary universally bioavailable sustained-release form of CoEnzyme Q10. He also managed Maypro’s launch of PQQ, the first new vitamin discovered since 1948 which has been shown to support mitochondrial function and improve cognitive performance. Lifton holds an MBA (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Columbia Business School and a B.S. (Cum Laude) from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He is fluent in Russian, French, and Spanish, and conversant in Japanese.
Health E-Insights: How do you feel your business has changed since you first got into it?
Mr. Lifton: The introduction of strict GMP compliance requirements have significantly increased demand for high quality ingredients which are highly likely to pass ID, microbial and heavy metals testing. Given the profile of the ingredients we carry, this trend has benefited us significantly and we moved to further streamline the list of manufacturers we source from and ramped up our ability to meet our customers’ documentation requests.There has also been significant growth in function-specific clinically proven patented ingredients. In response to this trend, we expanded our portfolio of patented and branded ingredients from just one to about 10 products today. This has been a great success story for us and this business continues to grow. We attribute our success to the strong support of the manufacturers we represent, our careful selection of ingredients that only consists clinically backed products and the product management expertise we have developed over the last decade.
Health E-Insights: What are your proudest accomplishments in the past 5 years?
Mr. Lifton: Maypro became the only company in the industry to have won Nutracon Awards for three of our products (AHCC in 2002, Oligonol in 2008 and VitaPQQ in 2010) and our CEO, Steve Yamada, received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nutrition Business Journal.
Health E-Insights: What is your company’s competitive advantage?
Mr. Lifton: First of all, we are one of the largest buyers of numerous top commodities which enables us to supply our customers at the lowest price in the market. Secondly, we have a very strong balance sheet that allows to support high volume business from very high volume customers. Thirdly, our customers know our integrity and trust us, which provides a significant advantage in a competitive marketplace. Finally, we consider ourselves to be the most global nutritional supplement ingredient supplier with offices in the US, Japan and China and an active exports business to Europe and Latin America. So we are able to source specific ingredients from single manufacturers and distribute them worldwide.
Health E-Insights: Do you feel product branding is important?
Mr. Lifton: We believe that for proprietary ingredients, branding is critical. Every successful product immediately draws knock-offs and competitors will borrow your science, make the same claims on an unproven ingredient while selling at a fraction of your cost. And apart from legal means, the only way to truly protect your market is through your brand. The real value is in establishing the ingredient brand among consumers which takes a lot of time and efforts but has the most impact both short-term and long-term.
Health E-Insights: As a senior corporate executive, what keeps you up at night?
Mr. Lifton: I feel a strong obligation to our suppliers of patented ingredients to grow our volumes each year. However, the market is becoming increasingly competitive with new ingredient launches and new studies on existing ingredients coming out. The poor economic environment also makes it difficult to grow in the premium price segment, where we tend to operate. So moving enough volume to keep our ingredient suppliers happy is what keeps me up at night.
Sheldon Baker is well-known for creating nutraceutical brand marketing and public relations campaigns. For Health E-Insights interview consideration, contact him at Baker@CentralValleyTalk.com. And follow him on Twitter @NutraInk.