Over its history, Waltman Pharmaceuticals Inc. has quietly grown its flagship skin care product ZAPZYT into a national player with scores of distributors scattered across the U.S. It hasn’t always been easy, and challenges abounded.
However, 2014 is shaping up to be a key year for Jackson-based Waltman Pharmaceuticals as the company has expanded its patented ZAPZYT product line and unveiled a major re-branding effort.
“Every year is a milestone year for us,” said company president and founder Herchell Waltman flatly.
When asked about the success of ZAPZYT, Whitney Burns, vice president of Waltman Pharmaceuticals and Herchell Waltman’s daughter, summed it up by saying, “We have an exceptional product. It works.”
The ZAPZYT story begins in the mid-1980s when Herchell Waltman was based in Jackson and was working with a national pharmaceutical company, a position that afforded him the opportunity to make contacts in the industry, including dermatologists. Faced with a transfer to the Northeast, Waltman decided to retire and develop a skin care product here in the Magnolia State.
One of the first decision about the product — its name — would prove a game-changer. Waltman was wrestling with prospective names when the word “ZAPZYT” came to him while in church. Stopping short of claiming divine intervention, Waltman said the name ZAPZYT has proved a customer-grabber.
“It’s short, and it’s memorable. The name has been a big part of our success,” Waltman said.
By that time Waltman had already been canvassing dermatologists, asking them a simple question — what would make for an effective over-the-counter acne treatment? The preferred formula included a simple combination of water, sulfur and benzoyl peroxide.
With that, Waltman contracted a chemist to develop the formula, and Waltman Pharmaceuticals and ZAPZYT were out of the gate.
The early days proved challenging, though. Waltman said the company made some missteps, including a two-ounce bottle that proved too big for the market. “It was a tremendous mistake,” he admitted.
Hammering out the wrinkles, Waltman’s next hurdle was muscling onto store shelves. Early efforts centered around regional drug store chains, which hamstrung company growth.
The watershed moment for Waltman and ZAPZYT came in the early 1990s through one of Waltman’s contacts. A retailer in Memphis suggested that Waltman obtain a Walmart vendor number, and that proved successful. Waltman Pharmaceuticals began selling to individual Walmart stores, dropping off product each week then returning the next week to get a check and replenish the stock.
But that proved cumbersome. So, Waltman made a trip to Bentonville, Ark., to pitch the retailer’s corporate office.
Not long afterwards, a delivery van pulled up right around closing time.
“That van had enough Walmart orders in it to choke a horse,” Waltman remembered.
Since then, ZAPZYT has grown its presence and lineup. In addition to Walmart, other stores include A&P, Fred’s, Rite Aid and CVS Pharmacy, to name just a few. At press time, Waltman Pharmaceuticals was negotiating with yet another retailer, this one based in Texas.
The product lineup, which offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, had grown to three before the company added a new product just this month. The new Pore Treatment Gel, once sold as part of a skin-cleaning kit and now offered as a stand-alone product, joins ZAPZYT’s Acne Wash, Scrub and Acne Treatment Gel.
Burns said the company has more new product in the pipeline that could be introduced “over the next year or so.”
In addition, Waltman Pharmaceuticals unveiled a major re-branding this month. Contracting with the strategic brand consulting and design firm Landor Associates and after roughly a half-year of research, the new look brings forward more of blue and orange colors in a much cleaner and more modern design that tested very well among targeted consumers. The new packaging also better calls out the brand’s long established points of difference among acne products.
Waltman and Burns both said the ZAPZYT story continues to unfold. They both see areas and accounts they can add, and future growth is a given.
“We can be as big as we want to be,” Waltman said.
For more on Waltman Pharmaceuticals and ZAPZYT, visit www.zapzyt.com.
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