How Peter Ehrlich of Big Life Living Creates Innovative Health Products
If you’re in the health food world, you know who Peter Ehrlich is. As the extra sharp brains behind Big Life Living, his unconventionally named Sexcereal product rocketed him to fame when it gleaned media attention from the likes of Conan, CNN, Good Morning America, David Letterman and Stephen Colbert. Big Life Living has now created a new and groundbreaking industry-shaking line of products in the plant-based powdered drink category. Hubba was lucky enough to hear from the inventor himself to hear about his experience making pioneering health products.
How did you get started in the health food industry?
I was walking through a vegan fair and came out thinking OK, I know there’s an opportunity to innovate here, but how do i give this an edge? I took a sacred cow and put the word sex to a sacred cow, how would the industry react? I was scared to death. But then, I also believe in Richard Branson’s philosophy, if what you’re doing doesn’t shake up the industry, why do it?
Given all your success to date, what are the challenges of having an unconventional product?
Retailers know how competitive things are, now that natural foods have taken off in particular. Commercial cereal sales have decreased 25% since 2008 because people aren’t taking time to sit down with a bowl in the morning. What we tried to do was create a completely different animal that people couldn’t resist. And even though people are still shy on occasion of the brand, it’s funny, at every trade show, it’s the young people are the shyest. Women and men over the age of 40 gravitate to the cereal because they see their mortality, they acknowledge that life is short and you want to take care of yourself, and that includes sexual health.
It’s accomplished what I wanted: shake up industry a bit and get people to notice it in a declining industry, grocery cereal. Natural cereal is doing well because people are so careful with what they put in their body, so we are so careful with the ingredients, it’s not a novelty thing, every ingredient points to a facet of sexual health.
What gave you the idea to expand your product line and develop something for your heart and brain?
We thought of what makes up a well rounded person: he’s sexy, he’s got a big brain and has a big heart. These are the 3 pillars that make up the complete package (in case you’re wondering I’ve got all three and I am single). So we created a cereal that is completely focused on heart and brain health. If you google any of the ingredients they are legitimately connected to brain health, for example it includes omegas and healthy fatty acids of walnuts.
How do you approach innovating in the holistic health space?
If you don’t differentiate you won’t survive. It costs hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars to get noticed. For us, I didn’t have to spend a cent on marketing because the brand name did it for me (do you think sex will old?). 90% of food industry is owned by 20 companies — they can launch anything. The only way small manufacturers are going to do to survive is to launch something different.
I walked into a good health food store where they have all these protein powders but nothing was specialized for brain or heart. So we created them. The degree of bio availability is unique, and genuinely improves mental functioning and heart health. Protein shakes don’t make these kinds of claims but we can make that claim because Health Canada approved it, very official. We have the only powders in the marketplace that are proven for heart health. We also made sure they taste delicious, spent all summer working with our formulator to get chocolate and vanilla tasting great. Brainpower is perfect for students before an exam or presentation, or for someone to drink an hour before you present to people, and also great for people 45+ where brain health is essential.
What was the most surprising reaction you’ve had to your products?
It was interesting that Sex was all of a sudden sinful when it’s out on a product like cereal. we had to do a lot of explaining to people at first that sexual health is a legit and valid concern. People are resistant to new and different and in your face and even though there were people who related it something sinful eventually the customers who complained became fewer and fewer, then nonexistant. And the whole time store managers coming to trade shows knew it would draw attention,
people eventually appreciated courage behind the brand.
Where do you hope you can go with your product lines and what kinds of retail partners are you looking for?
We can be in mass grocery or we can be in your local health food store. We want the mass grocery stores to come on board. They get bombarded by thousands of companies and shelf space is sacred. They sell it per square inch, so you have to have something that customers want, no fooling around with it.
Margins on food are notoriously slim. You have to sell a lot of anything to make a buck, so it’s important to come out the gate to have major differentiating factors. I’d never put out “Peter’s Powdered Drink”.
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