NVE's cold-fill can line fills 800 8.4-ounce cans a minute.

The exploding market of energy shots has benefited NVE Pharmaceuticals Inc., Andover, N.J., in a couple of ways. First, its Stacker2 6 Hour Power is the No. 2 selling energy shot in supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and mass merchandise channels, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Second, NVE contract manufactures for a growing number of energy shots hitting the market.

The company began more than 25 years ago by producing diet and energy tablets, capsules and powders, and even moved into herbal liquids in the late ‘80s. Shortly after it began manufacturing its own products, NVE began to offer other companies the same products that it manufactured for itself and also evolved into creating custom products. Today, NVE operates a growing contract packaging business in addition to supporting the growth of its nationally distributed Stacker2 and Stacker3 brands.

Being a successful contract packager isn’t an easy task though.

“You have to be really versatile,” says Bob Occhifinto, president of the privately held company. “Everybody really has their own idea and wants their own style of packaging. They want their own bottle or they will make a bottle unique for the product that they want to package. They will make the label and closures unique too.”

NVE tackled these requests and distinguished itself from many other contract manufacturers by having the ability to produce bottles in house. The company operates six blowmold machines that can produce 1.5- to 10-ounce bottles. NVE has the capacity to manufacture up to 30 million bottles a month.

“Packaging is really important and that sets us apart from a lot of people that have to outsource bottles and molds, when there are a lot of capacity problems at this time because 2-, 3- and 4-ounce bottles are very popular,” Occhifinto says. “A lot of the plastic blowmold facilities really did not have enough production set up because the shot industry has taken off so quickly in the last couple of years.”

In addition to ensuring contract packaging customers do not have a problem with bottle supply, by being able to manufacture bottles in house, NVE has the flexibility to create a variety of shapes and sizes. This allows contract customers to have their own custom bottle, says Karen Finocchio, NVE’s vice president of marketing. The company also is flexible with run size.

“We can blowmold a private label energy shot up to as little as one pallet or we can do large, large runs,” Finocchio says.

Emerging category

Since NVE’s conception, the company has provided Stacker2 and Stacker3 diet and energy supplements in capsule and pill form to food, drug, convenience and mass retailers. Developing energy shots and energy drinks came as a natural progression for the diet and energy specialist.

“There are huge possibilities for growth,” Finocchio says. “Everybody needs energy. I always get asked the question, ‘Who is our target consumer?’ and I say for Stacker2 6 Hour Power the target consumer is the entire country … I feel that everybody needs more energy. There’s just a real energy crisis in this country and it’s not just, ya know, fuel energy.”

NVE’s top-selling energy shot, Stacker2 6 Hour Power is marketed with the tagline “Feel it fast. Energy that lasts.” The shot launched nearly two years ago. NVE shrinkwraps two 2-ounce energy shots together, and positions the products as two-for-$3.99. 6 Hour Power is available in Very Berry, Orange, Lemon-Lime, Punch, Grape and Watermelon flavors, and all the varieties are sugar free. In addition, the company released 6 Hour Extra Strength in Grape.

“The difference between our shots and everybody else’s shot is that we are the manufacturer,” Finocchio says. “We manufacture our products so we know that the products are of the highest quality ingredients. NVE has very strict Q&A, and our flavor profiles are the best that you can get.”

Stacker2 Xtra Extreme Energy is NVE’s second top-selling energy shot. The 2-ounce shot is a private label shot marketed strictly to dollar stores. Stacker2 Xtra contains no calories and is available in Grape, Orange and Berry flavors. The shot offers about as much caffeine as a cup of brewed coffee, the company says.

NVE also offers Stacker2 6 Hour Power Black Jax and Stacker2 6Hour Power Yellow Jacket Energy Shots. The 2-ounce energy shots have a proprietary blend that includes four B vitamins, one of which contains 10,000 percent of the daily value for vitamin B12, the company says.

For the energy drink market, NVE manufactures YJ Stinger. The 8.4-ounce energy drinks contain taurine and B-Stack, a proprietary blend of vitamins. The lightly carbonated energy drinks are available in Enraged Raspberry, Sinful Citrus, Chronic Cola and Pounding Punch. Enraged Raspberry and Chronic Cola also are available in a sugar-free version.

In the coming year, NVE anticipates launching several new products. “We’ll be diversifying our line and adding new line extensions,” Finocchio says.

But the company plans to continue to put advertising support behind its Stacker2 brand, on which it has spent $100 million in advertising over the years. “We’re in all platforms — television, radio, Internet, print publications — so it’s a very, very strong national brand, and we are always looking for new and exciting ideas and platforms,” Finocchio says.

Energizing contract packaging

Since the energy shot category is an emerging market, retailers have been giving many small energy shot companies a chance. The energy shot category is just beginning to take off, but the growth NVE is seeing from energy shots is unique from other products it has manufactured.

“The upstart companies, a lot of times, in the nutritional industry don’t make it,” Occhifinto says. “We’re watching a lot of upstart companies be very successful starting off with a minimal run, and then every run getting larger and larger and doing really well. A lot of the shot upstarts are doing great and usually you don’t see the same thing in other private label manufacturing lines.”

In addition to its blowmold machines, NVE operates four high-speed lines that produce energy shots in its 250,000-square-foot production facility. It is in the process of installing a fifth energy shot filling line that will be operational early next year. NVE currently has the ability to produce 3 million energy shots a week.

The company also owns a cold-fill can line capable of filling 800 8.4-ounce cans a minute. NVE produces its YJ Stinger Energy Drinks and several private label energy drinks on this line, Finocchio says. The can line has the ability to package four- and six-packs in shrinkwrap.

NVE sources and provides all a product’s packaging needs, including bottles, caps and shrinkwraps. Along with its packaging capabilities, NVE has the ability to formulate for its customers in house.

“We’re experienced, innovative manufacturers that offer a one-stop shop,” Finocchio says. “We have in-house researchers and engineers who are apprised of the latest technology and cutting edge manufacturing processes. When you manufacture with NVE, you have the option of choosing one of our stock formulas for pills, capsules, tablets or any liquid shots or 8.4-ounce carbonated beverages. Or we can formulate a proprietary formula for your product.”

With the growth of private label products, NVE has found itself busier than ever with private label manufacturing.

“A lot of people have great ideas and need a turn-key manufacturer to help them get started,” Finocchio says. “I think that it’s a market that hasn’t begun to reach its peak at this point. The market is going to grow and we are going to see some real exciting twists and turns along the way.”

NVE can provide its services for both large and small companies because of its capabilities in formulating and flexibility in manufacturing. For small companies, NVE can help them with formulation, design ideas and packaging. For large companies that have their own private label line, NVE can help them with production demands or line extensions.

NVE’s manufacturing diversity and forward thinking in regard to its contract manufacturing business keeps the company constantly adding equipment.

“There are lots of companies that come to us that want something specific, so we’re constantly adding different molds, different filler equipment, different apparatuses to do custom work for people,” Occhifinto says. “It’s a constant progression as far as equipment. We will never stop installing or modifying equipment.”

While NVE continues to make tablets, capsules, powders and energy drinks, Occhifinto still expects to see the most growth for his business in 2- to 4-ounce energy shots.

“There has been really solid growth in the shot category in both our own line and all the contract lines,” he says. BI