Tom Tolworthy has a reputation for growing things. During his 6-year tenure as CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe, Tolworthy helped the supplement retailer expand from 80 stores to 500. While at the helm of Barnes & Noble, he transformed the book retailer into the second largest operator of coffee cafes in the United States. Now Tolworthy is back in a leadership position within the dietary supplement space, this time as the CEO of Twinlab.

“I love the dietary supplement industry,” Tolworthy told NewHope360.com. “I always hoped that I would be able to come back.”

The supplement manufacturer appointed Tolworthy to the position last month. He replaces Bill Nicholson, who will continue as a board member and co-owner of Twinlab. IdeaSphere Inc. purchased Twinlab in 2004, following the supplement company’s decent into bankruptcy the previous year. Twinlab’s brands include the Metabolife weight-management products, Dr. Greene children’s and prenatal formulas, and Twinlab Fuel sports nutrition offerings.

According to Nutrition Business Journal, Twinlab’s revenues totaled around $90 million in 2009. Twinlab Director of Marketing Marc Stover told NutraIngredients-USA in April that the company posted 10 percent growth in 2010 and is expecting another year of double-digit expansion in 2011.

Twinlab’s long history within the dietary supplement industry attracted Tolworthy to this new leadership position. “There aren’t very many legacy brands that have stood the test of time—Twinlab has done that,” he said.  

Other attractive Twinlab attributes include the company’s reputation for quality manufacturing and the breadth of its product selection, added Tolworthy, who left The Vitamin Shoppe in October 2010 to serve as CEO of bike retailer Performance Bicycle.

Tolworthy wants growth through innovation

One of Tolworthy’s first objective as Twinlab’s new CEO is to continue the company’s strong growth trajectory.

“I believe we can grow Twinlab through internal innovation and external acquisition over time,” he said. “There is also an opportunity to modernize some of Twinlab’s formulas and bring some of the legacy SKUs forward into today’s marketplace.”

Two brands that will receive Tolworthy’s immediate attention are Alvita and Nature’s Herbs. “These were strong brands at one time but have fallen a bit out of favor,” Tolworthy said. “I believe they can be invigorated and brought back to relevance and prominence through innovation.”

Tolworthy said he also plans to keep Twinlab focused on manufacturing quality and product formulation.  “Folks are looking for efficacy and transparency” when it comes to products targeted to health and wellness and disease prevention, Tolworthy said. By ensuring that Twinlab’s products are “produced efficaciously and transparently,” the company will maintain the credibility of its brands while attracting new customers to its products, he added.

“The future of Twinlab will be built on its past,” Tolworthy said. “I see a lot of runway for growth.”

The bottom line: Brand strength varies at Twinlab

Twinlab’s wide-ranging portfolio of supplement brands represents the spectrum of innovation and marketing within the broader dietary supplement industry.

On one end, the company’s Krill Essentials Omega-3 Cardio Krill Oil product is a good example of an innovative product that is helping to drive the company’s growth. As Stover told NutraIngredients-USA.com, the new krill oil offering contains more krill than any other krill soft gel.

Twinlab’s Powerfuel product is one that is benefitting from the company’s more aggressive marketing. The product is supported by a recent deal inked with NFL star Ray Lewis, who the company hopes will provide a shot of adrenaline to Twinlab’s sports nutrition business.

Yet, as Tolworthy noted, other Twinlab brands—namely its Nature’s Herbs and Alvita teas—seem to be caught in a time warp. Simply compare the product offerings, packaging and overall branding of the Nature’s Herbs line to a more progressive and innovative herbal supplement provider such as Gaia Herbs and it’s clear how much attention needs to be paid to Twinlab’s herbal business.

Fortunately, Twinlab seems to be in good hands with Tolworthy. From managing The Vitamin Shoppe’s $150 million private-label supplement business to seeing firsthand what products and brands do best at the brick-and-mortar and online retail level, Twinlab’s new CEO has amassed the experience and knowledge necessary to help him get the job done at Twinlab.