Branding an Ingredient: an eXselen Case Study


The concept of branding an ingredient has become more and more popular over the past 10 years, and it remains a viable way for suppliers to help differentiate their products within the marketplace.


As our industry’s manufacturers are faced with an ever-expanding array of ingredients to consider for their formulations, it is increasingly difficult for raw-material suppliers to make their products and ingredients stand out from the rest of the crowd. The concept of branding an ingredient has become more and more popular over the past 10 years, and it remains a viable way for suppliers to help differentiate their products within the marketplace.

There are many factors that come into play when a supplier decides to invest the time and money into placing that ™ or ® symbol behind its ingredient name. Therefore, at Embria Health Sciences (Cedar Rapids, IA), we decided to enlist the help of a professional marketing firm to guide us in the process and help us determine a sound, strategic approach for our ingredient’s entry into what was, for us, a new marketplace.

Embria’s parent company, Diamond V Mills Inc. (Cedar Rapids, IA), began researching and developing nutritional products for the agricultural animal nutrition industry in 1943 and is now a category mainstay. Seeing crossover value, in 2005 Diamond V created Embria Health Sciences to utilize Diamond V’s rich history of product development and research. Embria Health Sciences was created to provide manufacturers with science-backed, natural ingredients for use in human nutrition products.

We decided that our first offering would be our fully pasteurized organic selenium yeast ingredient that yields high levels of the most bioavailable organic selenium form, selenomethionine. With our confidence high in this quality product, we felt that branding might be the best way to go in order to differentiate ourselves from what many view as a commodity ingredient. We also felt that providing our partners with a branded ingredient would provide substantial support to their selling efforts.


Our first steps in the evaluation process included a thorough analysis of our manufacturing processes and of the science supporting the efficacy of the ingredient. Industry marketing experts strongly support branding an ingredient when your company holds valuable patents and trade secrets, and the ingredient is backed by science and competes in an active business category. Our ingredient easily met all of these criteria.

  • Our selenium is manufactured using a proprietary fermentation and drying technology that yields the beneficial beta glucans and B vitamins from the yeast-growing process.

  • Our selenium ingredient is backed by more than 15 years of research that supports its effectiveness.

  • The categories that our selenium ingredient would be considered for are thriving and substantial (including single ingredients, multivitamins, functional foods, and specially targeted formulas).

Once we established that our ingredient was brand worthy, the actual branding process was quickly under way.


Our next steps were to pinpoint the specific messages that we wanted audiences to take away from any of our marketing materials, and to help guide the logo development process. A product positioning guide was developed that spelled out our key message points and determined the “brand essence,” a concise statement that summarized our product’s exceptional qualities.

Once this was agreed upon, the next step called for the development of the name and logo. This was soon followed by the development of advertising concepts and marketing tools, such as sales- and education-related materials.

Naming: In developing a name for our product, we wanted a word that was representative of a top-quality, non-commodity ingredient. After reviewing an exhaustive list of options, the name eXselen was chosen because it infers excellence and communicates the notion of exceeding expectations.

Logo: A logo needs to stand out in a crowded environment and also be memorable. We chose this look over others because we felt it accomplished this through the use of a handwritten X that gives the logo a human touch. The color green was also a good choice as it underscores the all-natural nature of the ingredient. We felt both design elements contributed to an all-natural product to support human health brand positioning.

Advertising campaign: There is consistent usage of scientific images and verbiage in eXselen’s print ads. The concept of X marking the spot on a destination map was the inspiration for our first print ad. Because manufacturers are always searching for superior ingredients to make their products stand out, we wanted to say that eXselen is the “treasure” they are looking for.

Key messaging: We identified eXselen’s key messages based on what would be most relevant and meaningful to our audience of quality-conscious manufacturers and consumers:

  • eXselen offers superior selenium absorption.

  • eXselen is an organic form of selenium.

  • Selenomethionine is a safe form of selenium for dietary purposes.

  • The immune system is the core of good health.

  • Selenium helps protect the body’s immune system.

  • Embria has the resources of 60 years of manufacturing experience.

  • eXselen is backed by 15 years of selenium research.

With these elements of eXselen’s marketing strategy completed, we next focused on delivering the message of the science and manufacturing behind the product. We needed to show customers that they were getting added value through the purchase of eXselen-and it was clear that science was the tool we needed to achieve this.


In order to integrate our “superior ingredient” messaging into the brand, we decided to make scientific validation central to the product’s positioning and a key component of our selling message. We used marketing tactics that emphasized the solid scientific support behind not only the eXselen ingredient, but also the importance of the role selenium has in human health. Specifically, we have created targeted educational material to reach both our manufacturer and retailer audiences.

Science-oriented educational literature: We created eXselen product brochures for our manufacturer and retail audiences that speak on different scientific levels. In addition to a technical product summary, the manufacturer brochure included charts that compared eXselen’s selenomethionine content and bioavailability with other selenium yeasts, as well as a breakdown of eXselen’s physical and chemical properties and production process.

Science-focused seminar: To further support the brand, we harnessed the knowledge of an international selenium expert, Margaret Rayman, PhD. Rayman presented her collective research on selenium and its role in human health at Embria’s executive breakfast event at last year’s SupplySide West in Las Vegas.

Interactive science: The eXselen section of contains educational information that will continue to grow as new information and science become available. Moving forward, we will continue to emphasize the unique processing that is the result of Diamond V’s years of fermentation technology that substantiates this selenium’s claim of superior bioavailability.


After completing all the hard work of launching eXselen, we intend to make continued efforts to maintain the image of our newly founded brand. In addition to adhering to a set of guidelines aimed at keeping all logo and language usage consistent, we plan to increase the visibility of the brand by participating in additional activities to bolster its industry presence and credibility. Our efforts will include:

  • Continuing public relations efforts that reach out to trade and retail publications.

  • Providing retailer training to increase their understanding and knowledge, and assist with consumer sell-through.

  • Sponsoring industry events and receptions.

  • Participating in panel discussions and educational seminars.

As we continue to develop other ingredients for the human nutrition market, we will look to eXselen as an example of a successful ingredient branding campaign.


Paul Faganel is president of Embria Health Sciences (Cedar Rapids, IA), where he oversees the ongoing scientific studies that maintain the safety, quality, and efficacy of Embria’s products and processes. For more than a decade, Faganel has dedicated himself to the success of Embria’s parent company, Diamond V Mills Inc., a raw-material manufacturing and research company.


Related Videos
Nils Hoem and Nutritional Outlook editor Sebastian Krawiec
Related Content
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.