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Naturade Tries New Herbal Line to Heal Profit Slide

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Paramount-based Naturade Inc., distributor of nutritional supplements such as the popular N-R-G protein powder, on Wednesday unveiled a new line of herbal medicines in an effort to boost earnings, which have been in steady decline since last year.

The Chinese Way line of throat, sinus and immune system products is expected to hit the shelves at health food stores sometime this fall, the company said.

Chairman Ronald Ahrens and Chief Executive Bill Stewart could not be reached for comment.

Ahrens and Stewart joined the company in April. following a second-quarter loss that cost stockholders nearly 30 cents a share. Naturade’s board hopes the two will turn around the 72-year-old company with their combined experience marketing a string of successful national brands, including Pepcid AC, Nyquil and Oil of Olay, for such consumer product giants as Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

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Ahrens and Stewart have taken the reins at Naturade at a time of steady growth. Annual sales of $12.5 million last year were up 24% from 1996.

However, Naturade has posted a loss in each of the last three quarters, and its earnings have been declining since January 1997, when it acquired the operating assets of the bankrupt Carrollton, Texas-based Performance Nutrition.

Despite the slump, Naturade’s stock price over the last 18 months has steadily risen, hitting a record high of $5.38 in December.

On Wednesday, the stock saw a 7-cent gain to close at $3.88 in over-the-counter trading.

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