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How dietary supplements can do their part for the environment

How dietary supplements can do their part for the environment.jpg
Consumers are demanding that companies take on global environmental problems with good business practices. One way dietary supplement manufacturers can make substantiated and sincere sustainability claims is through the use of sustainable ingredients, like chaga mushrooms.

“Often, when you think you're at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Mister (Fred) Rogers

Clean, sustainable, green, environmentally friendly; these are all words used to describe what consumers are demanding from organizations across the globe. In 2018, a Nielsen survey reported 81% of global respondents strongly felt companies should do their part to help improve the environment. Contrary to popular belief, this was shared across gender and generational lines. Both men (80%) and women (81%) felt it was essential that a company implements a program to improve the environment. While Millennials (85%) were the highest to believe this, baby boomers (72%) and the silent generation (65%) were not far behind.

The demand from consumers has also bled into government requirements. For instance, it is estimated that a shocking 12.6 million people die each year from environmental health risks such as water and air pollution. Environmental pollution also carries economic impacts. The World Bank estimated air pollution alone costs the global economy US$5.7 trillion, equivalent to 4.8% of the worldwide GDP in 2016.

The burden of environmental damage is evident, and many protective initiatives have taken place, with the most notable being plastic manufacturing. Many consumers are tackling head-on chemical pollution from the use of plastic, and governments around the world have implemented bans or taxes on single-use plastic bags. This approach from some countries has been particularly effective. For instance, Australia was able to reduce its plastic waste by a third, and China saw a two-thirds drop in plastic bag usage. Taxing plastic has also shown to be successful in the U.K., with an 80% reduction in plastic bag usage. 

It is also no secret that some consumers are willing to spend more when products and companies  meet sustainable practice goals. An Accenture global report found 50% of survey applicants were willing to pay more for a product that was designed to be reused or recycled. At the same time, a product made from recycled materials had 36% of respondents willing to pay more for it. Another survey reported nearly half of its global respondents (48%) said they would be willing to forgo a brand name product to purchase an environmentally friendly product.

Shoppers are also committed to implementing environmentally friendly practices. A recent Nielsen survey demonstrated 73% of global respondents said they would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact. These stats also ring true when it comes time to purchase products.

All sustainability and transparency claims are outpacing sales of conventional products. Another study, from Harvard Business Review, found 50% of CPG growth came from sustainably marketed products. Goods with a sustainability claim on the package accounted for 16.6% of the market in 2018, up from 14.3% in 2013. These goods delivered nearly $114 billion in sales that year, up 29% from 2013. Remarkably, products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not. In more than 90% of the CPG categories, sustainably marketed products grew faster than their conventional counterparts.

Dietary supplement numbers 

Considering these stats and data on sustainability claims, where does the dietary marketplace fit? Data from Mintel's Global New Product Database, which tracks the information used to market new products all over the world, showed that in 2015 there were 370 “environmentally friendly” supplement products launched globally—up 37% from 2014. This suggests an extraordinary potential for the dietary supplement marketplace to expand.

Ingredients with a stance

One way dietary supplement manufacturers can make substantiated and sincere sustainability claims is through the use of sustainable ingredients.

For example, the "King of the Medicinal Mushrooms," also known as chaga-extract, is an ingredient shown in numerous cell lines, in vivo animal studies and ex vivo human studies to support immune health and a healthy inflammatory response (Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):191-200; J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(2):524-32 ).

Chaga is nothing new in the realm of ingredients; its use dates to the 16th century. Chaga can either be cultivated or wildcrafted, meaning grown in the wild. Feno-Chaga, a branded standardized extract made by Eevia Health in Finland, is made from wild-grown Chaga from organic forests in the northern part of the country. It grows without any human intervention and is wild harvested.

The growth of chaga in this environment exposes the mushroom and its host tree to environmental stressors, such as variations in sunlight, extreme temperatures, the availability of water, competing plants and other stress factors. Growing in these wild conditions forces the tree to develop defense mechanisms called secondary metabolites, which chaga scavenges. The chaga, therefore, becomes exceptionally potent with these bioactive polyphenols and polysaccharides. It grows more resilient and fully develops the nutrient and phytonutrient profile derived from the host tree.

The mycelium of this wildcrafted mushroom is then harvested by hand, while it is still sterile (no fruiting body). The harvest is done by specially trained pickers who travel the forest in cautious ways, allowing the tree to remain alive and for the mushroom to grow back through several cycles. The harvest is only a small fraction of the total biomass in the forest. Almost irrespective of the harvest size, the biomass is sustainable.

The chaga mushroom, from which the immune-modulating Feno-Chaga is extracted, also grows in the world’s largest certified organic collection area—the forests of Finland account for 30% of the world’s total organic collection area. The organic certification of wild, raw materials offers assurance of origin, authenticity and traceability, and it guarantees that the biodiversity of the wild forest environment is maintained. 

An ingredient with an organic and sustainable story will add tremendous value to a product’s label. By being selected and diving deeper into an ingredient’s backstory, you can have a positive impact on the industry. Companies must plan now if they haven’t already, how to implement environmentally friendly practices or products that not only benefit the planet but positively affect their bottom line.  

Kandice Randal, communications director at BrandHive, brings over a decade of experience in all facets of public relations, marketing, social media strategy, and project management within high-profile corporations. Kandice manages and directs BrandHive’s internal and external communications programs, including public relations and social media.

As the founder, Stein Ulve navigates the tricky waters of building a company. Eevia Health extracts bioactive compounds from plant material for use as dietary supplement ingredients. Our vision is a nutritional intervention product that can aid in various health problems. We are eying AMD (Age-Related Macula Degeneration) for now, with a possible game-changer, although we also have promising immune health products.

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