March 30, 2012

By Brian Bandell, Senior Reporter – South Florida Business Journal

In between breaking down NFL games on national TV, Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino has been intensely involved in the launch of a nutritional supplement line manufactured in Miami Lakes.

Marino endorses the joint and heart health supplements on VitaCore’s website, but says he’s more than a spokesman this time. The former quarterback is a partner and investor in the business.

“It is fun to help start a business and see it grow, “ Marino said. “We are on to the right thing as far as the products are concerned because it is about health and wellness and staying in shape.”

Marino, 50, has parlayed his earnings from 17 years in the NFL into some successful investments, including in the rapidly expanding Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. He has also done well with endorsements, including Nutrisystem’s weight-loss program.

With VitaCore, Marino was working with business partner and co-investor Ralph Stringer on ideas for launching a nutritional supplement line when they met with officials at Miami Lakes-based Nutri-Force for advice on the process. Instead, they decided to hire Nutri-Force as the manufacturer.

“We could have gone and started a company from scratch and hired employees,” said Stringer, who has worked with Marino for 25 years. “But why recreate the wheel when we could utilize resources in a company that has been doing it for a while?”

The partners declined to give revenue or sales projections for their products.

Nutri-Force, which is owned by Coral Gables-based private investment firm MBF Healthcare Partners , has a 125,000-square-foot facility and is building a $5 million, 40,000-square-foot vitamin manufacturing plant.

Dan Alhadeff, senior VP at Nutri-Force, said Marino and Stringer worked with Nutri-Force on what medical issues to address, what ingredients should be in the products and how they should be designed. All of the ingredients are used in other products and medically proven, yet VitaCore’s line has better sourcing for ingredients, which are combined into a single pill, he said.

FlexCore Joint Support has glucosamine, Vitamin D, hyaluronic acid and other supplements to promote what the company calls “joint comfort.” Marino, who took some brutal hits during his playing career, said he has taken glucosamine for years to relieve joint pain and stay physically active.

“It was always recommended by the team doctor,” Marino said. “I’m trying to stay in shape. You get the aches and pain here and there, but this helps.”

Alhadeff noted that 49 million Americans deal with joint pain.

The other product, CardioCore Heart Health, contains omega 3, coenzyme Q10 and plant phytosterols. It is marketed as supporting overall heart health.

“For CardioCore, if you take something for your heart, you might as well take the best stuff out there. It has all the backing of the solid science, and it is the purist grade going,” Marino said. “I’ve had teammates that had some problems. You try to do everything you can to stay healthy.”

FlexCore and CardioCore are being sold on the VitaCore and Nutri-Force websites so the companies can control the product presentation, Alhadeff said. FlexCore costs about $50 for 90 capsules, and CardioCore costs about $40 for 60 softgels.

Later this year, both products will be available at Navarro Discount Pharmacy, which is also owned by MBF Healthcare Partners. Early next year, the products will be in CVS and Walgreens stores nationwide, Alhadeff said. A major ad campaign will be part of that retail launch, he added.

Meanwhile, Marino is working with Nutri-Force on developing nutritional supplements for prostate health, blood sugar control, good vision and memory/mental performance. Those products should be out in the first quarter of next year, Alhadeff said.

Marino said he is working with Nutri-Force to finalize the ingredients and sourcing of those new products.

“If you are going to put your name out there, you want to make sure it is something that you believe in,” Marino said.