A St. Petersburg company plans a big marketing and advertising push this year for Cholesterade, a drink supplement designed to lower cholesterol that was developed by the University of Florida medical researcher who invented Gatorade.
Go Epic Health owns the intellectual property and rights to manufacture and distribute Cholesterade, which was developed by the late Dr. J. Robert Cade.
With sales on Amazon.com and in about 5,000 brick and mortar stores nationwide and another 3,000 coming on line in the next few months, Cholesterade posted about $500,000 in sales in 2018, and is poised to do about $10 million in sales this year, said Jim Price, CEO of Go Epic Health and chairman and CEO of parent company Leone Asset Management (OTC: LEON).
Price also has established Project Cardio, a St. Pete-based non-profit created to develop awareness and education of cardiovascular disease, which is linked to high cholesterol.
“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer world-wide. Someone dies in our country every 40 seconds of a stroke or heart attack,” Price said. “If they reduce their cholesterol, which is what clogs the arteries, then they can live longer and healthier lives.”
Price is a former investment banker who in 2007 raised capital for Go Healthy, a company that originally owned the rights to several products Cade created, including Cholesterade. The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) had a deal to buy Glaceau, the maker of Vitamin Water, for $4.1 billion, and just a few years after PepsiCo. (NASDAQ: PEP ) picked up Gatorade as part of a $13.4 billion acquisition of Quaker Oats.
“I thought great, here’s an all-natural product invented by the creator of Gatorade, so we have name recognition, and a product that will address this terrible problem naturally. I raised some capital, took them public, and in 2007 the market crashed, then we had the recession in 2008,” Price said. “As a small startup company, [Go Healthy] didn’t make it. They never got Cholesterade to market and then over several years floundered.”
Price kept in touch with the original investor and told him he wanted to take over the company if the CEO ever left.
“Eight years later, after staying in touch, he contacted me and said the CEO is retiring, so Jim, I’m giving you the first shot and I said absolutely,” Price said. “I formed Go Epic Health and started putting the team together and the infrastructure that is needed before the launch of a product like this.”
Price moved from California to St. Petersburg because — given the Cade connection and the older population demographic — Florida was the right place for the company’s headquarters.
Go Epic Health made two other acquisitions — American Retail Alliance, a 30-year-old company that helps get the product on store shelves, and a small manufacturing firm. It has since outsourced manufacturing to a larger company, Price said.
Cholesterade is sold nationally in Rite Aid stores. Go Epic Health has just signed deals with Albertsons, one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States, as well as some regional chains, including Wegmans Food Markets. Price expects shipping to those stores to start by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
Florida retail is a little more difficult, Price said. The company sells Cholesterade at Tampa-based Benzer Pharmacy stores, with several locations in the area, but would like to get into Publix Super Markets Inc.
Cholesterade is a powder that can be mixed with water or juice. It’s high in fiber, with a propriety blend of enzymes that reduces the side effects found in other high-fiber products, Price said. It potentially could be an alternative to cholesterol-fighting statin drugs, such as Lipitor, a Pfizer product that sold over $120 billion in 14 years, Price said.
Cade created Cholesterade for himself.
“He had high cholesterol. He was on statin drugs, the side effects were laying him out. He wanted to create a natural product for himself,” Price said. “Once he did that, the results on himself were fantastic. He did a case study and the results were phenomenal. On average, the bad cholesterol, the LDL, was down about 21 percent, the HDL or good cholesterol was up about 13 percent and triglycerides were down 50 percent.”
Go Epic Health is conducting two additional clinical studies. The Memphis-based Mid-South Center for Prevention and Wellness is currently enrolling patients in one of the studies, the Memphis Business Journal reported.
Once the clinical studies are published, Go Epic Health could seek regulatory approval of Cholesterade as a medical food that insurance companies could recommend.
Initially capitalized through a family and friends round, Price expects a bigger funding effort to raise up to $10 million this year, primarily for marketing.
“We have the stores and shelf space, the studies, and now it’s just letting everyone know it’s there,” he said.
Part of the marketing effort underway is aimed at physicians. Go Epic Health will be attending healthcare trade shows to get in front of doctors.
“If a doctor knows about a natural product, he or she should be recommending the natural drug before a statin drug,” Price said.
The Cade story “opens doors,” Price said. Go Epic Health pays a 2 percent royalty on the products to a family trust established by Cade, and for that can use his name and image in advertising and marketing.
“We’re fortunate to be the ones to carry on Dr. Cade’s legacy,” Price said.