This month's edition of Kent Business features the successful rise of Ashford-based food supplement firm FORZA. The publication provides news and analysis on major breaking business stories throughout Kent - from small firms to major employers. A Kent diet supplements firm is grabbing a bigger share of the market, planning a push into America as well as creating more jobs in Ashford. Lee Smith, 35, boss of Ashford-based diet firm FORZA Supplements, has just hired five new staff across the Atlantic to meet the growing demand for his fat-busting pills. Smith now employs 15 people at the company’s base at the Javelin Enterprise Park in Ashford and he expects that number to grow to over 200 over the next five years as it expands rapidly. Sales are up seven-fold for the firm, helped by a highly successful marketing campaign with the ex-Emmerdale star Roxanne Pallett, who used the company’s diet pills to lose more than a stone for a stage role.
Smith said: “With obesity figures reaching record levels globally, this is a great time for diet firms. “People may be getting fatter but they are also wanting to get fit. “As they learn more about diet and fitness they also discover products like ours. “Many regular gym goers face a dilemma: They are fitter than they have ever been, yet they are still overweight. Well, they won’t be if they combine that fitness regime with better supplementation.” Having built up a thriving online business, Smith is now expanding his network of sales outlets. Retail giants Costco and Ocado have just started stocking its products and there are plans to sell them in some of the big High Street pharmacy chains. Smith is now investing in new technology that will allow FORZA to package its own pills. Smith noted that recent controversies surrounding illegal, unlicensed pills sold online from abroad have placed an emphasis on British manufacturers’ quality control. He said: “All of our products have been produced in Good Manufacturing Practices-certified facilities and we are also ISO registered. “We knew that there would be a clampdown by the authorities in the way in which many products make it to market, and we have got into the very good habit of ensuring that any such clampdown would only benefit our business. “People want to know exactly what they are putting in their system, particularly after the recent scandals over horse meat. All our supplements are made with entirely traceable ingredients. “We have to be completely transparent, using as few ingredients as possible, to build trust with the consumer.” The diet industry in the States alone is worth £30 billion a year – and Lee Smith reckons his Ashford firm FORZA is more than ready to get its fingers into the pie. Kent-born Smith said: “The Americans are very good at big and bold but they are not so good at being sleek and stylish. Our products look a lot better than what is on offer over there.”
Smith has taught himself how to speak French and Italian so that he can converse with new customers abroad, although he will readily admit: “It is the Americans that I still have most trouble understanding.” Three-quarters of FORZA’s sales come from a range of healthy living products such as Raspberry Ketone, Green Coffee and other slimming products aimed largely at dieting women between the ages of 18-40. Prices start from £15. The company’s sports nutrition range is also a big hit with bodybuilders and athletes. Smith grew up in Maidstone and attended Oldborough Community College. He worked as an art dealer – selling works by artists such as Damien Hirst – before switching into network marketing and building up a network of sales contacts for various firms. Six years ago he spotted an emerging market for health and fitness supplements – and has never looked back. Home for Lee Smith is the pretty village of Mersham, where he lives with Karen Page, who works with him at FORZA and is expecting their first child. Smith also believes that Ashford is the perfect place from which to expand globally. He says: “We moved from Maidstone because the commercial rents were cheaper, and it is the best decision we ever made. “The M20 is just down the road, the rail links are amongst the best in Europe and Dover is only 25 minutes away. “I can easily be in Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and any other of the European centres of commerce where we are currently marketing our products. “Ashford is a boom town and so many people are moving here because of the quality of life with new shops and restaurants opening constantly. “It is a great place to find new talent.”
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