Supplement Perspectives
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How to Lead in the Dietary Supplement Industry

LoRayne Haye offers five tips on how a supplement company can get an edge—the right way.

The dietary supplement industry has boomed over the past 10 years. It is currently tagged as the fastest growing industry globally, with a jaw dropping $32 billion in revenue for nutritional supplements alone in 2012. According to Nutrition Business Journal, the industry is projected to double that by 2021. 1

Thirty to forty years ago, when this sector was in its infancy, many great companies were responsible for paving the way for the rest of the herd to start doing business. Unfortunately, far too often, upstarts are missing what these stellar companies have done to become pillars of success—and, yes, they do share commonalities.

So, if you want your company to rule the dietary dog pile—read on.

Get quality raw materials. When you’re sourcing raw materials, you owe your customers a contaminant-free, high quality product. Otherwise, as one industry professional aid, “There will be a reckoning….and it’ll surface one of two ways: unhappy customers who are not getting results, or other health professionals who find out from ‘other’ industry pros that the goods your company is sourcing are contaminated and bogus.” Also, this hurts the entire tribe. Think about it—if you use raw material that hasn’t been checked for contaminants—combined with a facility that doesn’t adhere to cGMPs, (21 CFR) and HACCP guidelines, has no tight systems in place for QC and QA, and features and uneducated staff—it’s a prescription for disaster.

As one FDA official put it, “If steadfast HACCP systems are not set in place, then it’s not a matter of if… it’s a matter of when a contamination will occur.” 2

Conduct independent lab analysis. Many companies test raw materials they purchase by either contracting an independent lab or having an onsite lab with qualified techs running the analysis. By doing this, a company can rule in or rule out suspicious and potentially harmful contaminants that may be present—and curtail future recalls.

Educate your staff and management. Conducting continuing education for all staff members is extremely important, especially when it comes to the field of nutrition, including anything that’s within the category of dietary supplements. Primarily because of the quick pace that new research is being churned out that means providing everything from new ways to increase bioavailability to new quality assurance and quality control laws. This is a very dynamic profession. As such it’s important that your entire team be on the same page. That means being able to answer consumer questions, whether at a trade show or over the phone.

Additionally, make sure your staff complies with the updated Food Safety & Modernization Act’s Section 420, which requires certifications such as the cGMPs and states that “all employees involved in manufacturing, packaging, labeling, or holding of dietary supplements must be trained in their respective role in maintaining compliance to 21 CFR 111.” (For links to professional organizations that offer training and certification, see work cited). 2,3,4

Far too often companies only require their sales force to receive regular educational training. It needs to be top-down. Yes, even the CEOs need to know what material their companies’ capsules are made of and how they are made. Why would that be important? If a potential customer asks, “Who has a vegetarian-based business?” every employee should be able to answer that. Additionally, allergies abound, so people and potential vendors want to know what is in the products they are consuming.

Live up to your vision statement. This really sounds like a no-brainer, but too frequently companies don’t come close to what their missions or vison statements impart. From the crumbling tablets that reside in their multivitamin bottles to the off-color and iffy taste of their electrolyte powders, the list is endless. It can be by way of a manufacturing misstep, or from the sales associates making promises that your company and product could never deliver. It doesn’t matter. Ownership resides with the CEO and management team to make certain that the staff understands what integrity actually means as well as how the company intends to deliver it.

And, yes, there have been numerous times a company’s vision or mission statement has needed to be revised—because it was mission impossible to achieve.

Don’t make bogus claims. From faulty structure function claims to inept health claims, your company must provide the necessary research to back up any and all statements you make pertaining to the products you sell. Making false statements about what the product is intended for, or making false statements about what the actual ingredients are, will hurt your business.

Recently, the feds shut down the nefarious USP Labs. According to Todd Runestad, a writer for New Hope 360,“Five federal agencies led by the U.S. Department of Justice brought criminal and civil actions against more than 100 makers and marketers of supplements for making illegal products masqueraded as supplements and making deceptive claims about supplement ingredients.” You are not immune. This administration has demonstrated zero tolerance for not adhering to the laws. When this kind of news breaks, it hurts the entire industry. The media latch onto any sordid story—all supplement companies get lumped together. We all pay the price. 4,5,6

This can be complicated if you’re not well-versed in regulatory law; that is why many companies employ a specific person with such a background. Having a point person within your organization can alleviate a lot of angst when it comes to dealing with compliance issues and sourcing the research to substantiate it.

The Natural Products Association has complied a terrific little book that gives the lowdown on what rights are afforded to manufacturers and natural food stores and their employees. There is even a quick read on FDA audits (see “work cited” for the link). 4

Work Cited

1. Lariviere, D. “Nutritional Supplements Flexing Muscles As Growth Industry.” Forbes Magazine. April 2013.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidlariviere/2013/04/18/nutritional-supplements-flexing-their-muscles-as-growth-industry/

2.  Nutrition Labeling & Education Act (NLEA): Update July-2015. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm387533.htm

3.  N.S.F. The Public Health & Safety Organization
Dietary Supplement Certification for cGMP
http://www.nsf.org/services/by-industry/dietary-supplements/dietary-supplements-training/

HACCP Certification
http://www.nsf.org/services/by-industry/food-safety-quality/haccp

4. “Dietary Supplement Claim Handbook.” Compiled by the Natural Product Association www.npainfo.org. The link for the handbook is below.
https://www.npainfo.org/App_Themes/NPA/docs/education/retailkit/NPA%20-%20Dietary%20Supplement%20Claims%20Handbook%20final%20111110.pdf

5.  Runestad, T. “Federal agencies hit 117 supplement makers.” New Hope 360 Magazine. Published Nov-17-2015.  http://newhope360.com/supplements/federal-agencies-hit-117-supplement-makers

6.  “Label Claims for Conventional Foods and Dietary Supplements.” U.S.F.D.A.
http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm111447.htm

LoRayne Haye is consultant with over 24 years in the nutrition, fitness and natural products industry. She holds an M.S. in human nutrition, and is working on a combined B.S./M.S in Food Science from Kansas State University. For her full bio, log onto www.eating-4-energy.com.

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