USANA’s tight control of its distribution channels enables it to offer probiotics to its customers where some other network marketing competitors shy away, according to the company’s product development director.
John Cuomo, PhD, discussed some of the company’s new and reformulated products recently with NutraIngredients-USA. These include a new meal replacement shake and a reformulated probiotic. In regards to probiotics, Cuomo said the company spent time developing a supply chain that would support product stability in the 19 countries in which it operates (some MLM competitors operate in four times as many). An issue with probiotics has always been the viability of the organisms (early versions needed refrigeration, and some still do), and the specter of products baking at 130 degrees F or more for weeks on end in the trunk of a distributor’s car has kept some other network marketing companies from offering the probiotics.
“We have control of the supply chain until the end user gets the product,” Cuomo said. “We can control the delivery all the way through manufacture, through Q&C process we do here and shipping out to the (climate controlled) distribution centers in each country. And the temperature is controlled all the way through to those distribution centers. It took a lot of work to make sure we had that control."
Choosing the right strain
Usansa’s probiotic is a 50-50 mixture of two strains, lactobacillus rhamnosus gg and bifidobacterium BB 12, which Cuomo said offers superior stability on the shelf and survivability in the stomach.
“We were looking at probiotics years ago. But without the room temperature stability it really was something we didn’t want to get into. We want to guarantee that when somebody takes our product it actually has in it what it says on the label,” he said.
“Probiotics are certainly gaining a lot of traction. Ten or twelve years ago they weren’t as big sellers, and that was partly due to the stability issues. You have to pick the right strains and both of these were chosen because they have good acid stability and room temperature stability,” Cuomo said.
The probiotic, which is offered in a stick pack, has been reformulated to remove the milk powder that was the initial carrier.
“There are a number of people who for one reason or another don’t want milk products in anything. Now it’s just inulin and mannitol,” he said.
In addition to the reformulated probiotic, Usana has launched a new meal replacement shake based on a pea/potato protein mix. Cuomo said the product offers a complete protein, something that is becoming more of a selling point when talking about plant-based proteins. That combination was designed to score a 1 on the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) scale. PDCAAS is a measure of protein quality and digestibility, with 1 being the highest score, meaning the protein is essentially equivalent to that of an egg.
"Most of the vegetable derived protein are deficient in certain amino acids,” Cuomo said.