Attendees at Natural Products EXPO East in Baltimore heard the latest on the state of transparency in the natural products industry from Robert Craven, CEO of FoodState, which manufactures the MegaFood brand of dietary supplements. He told them the objective with transparency is to build trust and they can achieve this by opening up, becoming more vulnerable and telling their company’s story.
“You can’t pay for trust," Craven said, noting no ad campaign or marketing savvy can give you the level of trust transparency can.
Better transparency and trust is paramount, Craven explained, because the natural products industry is damaged by a narrow (5 to 10 percent) fringe of bad players and suffers the slings and arrows of the media. He likened the industry to the Millennials, who are still growing up and lack experience: “The real world is just slapping us around."
Also working against the industry, at least in the United States, is its regulatory position. In self-regulation it is always more difficult to gain trust, he explained.
Among the ways industry companies can create transparency and build trust is sharing its culture and its audits. No facility gets an A+ audit all the time, he reminded, and there are always areas for improvement.
By example, FoodState has installed webcams throughout its facility, and customers can watch them online to see what is going on, be it in the drying area, the packaging line or in the lab. Tours of the facility are also offered. Craven also revealed FoodState is working on open sourcing its new product development to show how about 20 percent of developed ideas never make it to market while some take an average nine to 12 months to launcha few take two to three years.
Craven further said being more transparent with testing data and certificates of analysis is a laudable goal, but the reality is more complex, given the depth of information there and the willingness of customers to digest it.
In the end, Craven advised attendees they are the average of who they hang out with, from other brands to suppliers and partners. He reminded them the industry’s mantra is to “Improve lives and inspire others" (#ilio).