OrthoLite Milestone: Expansion Plans

After 15 years of providing insole alternatives to the footwear market, OrthoLite Inc. is in a position to explore new avenues of growth that include the after-market category as well as children’s. 

With consumer awareness of the OrthoLite name growing, due in large part to aggressive co-branding and hang-tag marketing efforts, the company is angling to break into the after-market business in a big way. Since 2010, OrthoLite has been testing the waters by selling a single insole style, the Fusion, priced at $20, on its website and Amazon.com. A much broader retail launch is planned for the next 12 to 18 months. “Our goal is to become not just an industry-recognized brand but a consumer-recognized brand, so we’re slowly taking steps toward that,” said President Pam Gelsomini. “We’ll probably look to offer several different models, including stability, cushioning and high-rebound options.”

OrthoLite also is pursuing growth opportunities beyond insoles. Gelsomini said the company recently began partnering with brands to put its foams into other parts of the shoe, including the lining, collar and tongue. In addition, it’s developing midsole and outsole technologies. “We have some interesting things in the pipeline,” she said. “Our goal is to enhance the performance of other areas of the shoe, as we’ve done with our insoles.”

Gregg Duffy, senior director of performance footwear for Timberland, said OrthoLite’s move to expand its scope is a smart one. “Midsole foam technologies are front and center right now,” he said, “so it could be a really successful brand extension for them.”

At the same time, OrthoLite is exploring non-footwear applications in apparel and protective sporting equipment. The company is already working with athletic brands such as Mizuno, Asics and Reebok on items including basketball shooting shirts and compression shorts, baseball gloves and volleyball kneepads. Its foams are being used to cushion helmets, chest protectors and the straps on backpacks and hiking packs. “There are applications for our foams anywhere there’s direct contact with the skin and padding is needed,” Gelsomini said, adding that the company also is developing prototypes for computer bags, gun cases and headphones.

Constant innovation is critical, she noted, as OrthoLite strives to maintain its edge in the market. “There are other companies out there that want to capture our niche, so we’re constantly coming up with new ideas and collaborating with our brands to tell the best performance stories possible. Innovation is what keeps us on top.”

The children’s market is another category. Although Gelsomini said the category has been difficult to crack due to price constraints, OrthoLite is forging partnerships with brands where pricing discounts are offered if certain volume requirements are met. She said the long-lasting antimicrobial function of OrthoLite’s insoles is a major selling point for kids’ shoes. “A lot of the antibacterial insoles you see have just a surface treatment, and that wears off over time. Our antimicrobial property is added during foaming, so it’s chemically ingrained in the material. You can wash the insoles 100 times and that antimicrobial function will still work.”

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