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MegaFood CEO: ‘Transparency with a big T is the solution to many of the industry’s woes’

By Stephen DANIELLS , 12-Mar-2014
Last updated the 12-Mar-2014 at 16:51 GMT

“We have over 40 products verified and it’s been awesome for us because we haven’t changed our formula just to get verification,
“We have over 40 products verified and it’s been awesome for us because we haven’t changed our formula just to get verification," says Robert Craven, CEO of MegaFood/FoodState

Dietary supplement manufacturers must be totally transparent if they are to strengthen trust with retailers and consumers, but contract manufacturers and brokers are unlikely to like such moves, says Robert Craven, CEO of FoodState/MegaFood. 

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA during the recent Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Craven said that bad players – “these companies who make money now to pay the fines later” – account for about 5% of this industry, but they’re getting a disproportionately large amount of attention. Such companies may be non-compliant with GMPs or are producing tainted or adulterated products masquerading as dietary supplements.

Craven said that trade associations like CRN and UNPA are doing what they can, but said that any change is not going to come from DC. “Meaningful change has to come from good companies taking more of a leadership position,” he said.

“We tell our consumers where our products come from and we’re sharing Certificates of Analysis all the time.

“Transparency with a big T is the solution to many of the industry’s woes.”

The Non-GMO Project is pushing transparency into the supply chain’

Gaia Herbs and its CEO Ric Scalzo has been an inspiration from the transparency standpoint, said Craven, and he wants people to follow this lead. “The hard part is contract manufacturers. No contract manufacturer is going to be that transparent.

“Also, ingredient brokers don’t want to share sources, because it risks making them redundant. Transparency is going to be tough on the broker community.”

An area where transparency is vital is verification for the Non-GMO Project, and MegaFood currently has 42 products verified by the Non-GMO Project , along with 124 verified ingredients. “We’re killing it,” he said.

“The Non-GMO Project is pushing transparency into the supply chain,” he said. “A lot of companies will struggle with that, whereas I want it to be an accelerant to transparency.”

Robert Craven, CEO of FoodState/MegaFood

However, while MegaFood is an ardent supporter of the project, Craven said he has rejected calls to change suppliers in order to obtain verified ingredients. “The Non-GMO Project serves us, we don’t serve it,” he said. “We don’t want to compromise on certain ingredients, formulas, suppliers & relationships.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re all in on the project, but supplements are very complicated. We’re non-GMO to the EU standard, but the Non-GMO Project is stricter. I can select ingredients from other suppliers, because we’re looking to get products certified, but we don’t want to do that. We want to bring the suppliers with us. Relationships are also key.”

“We have over 40 products verified and it’s been awesome for us because we haven’t changed our formula just to get verification. And there’s a whole list of others in the pipeline.

“I don’t know if others are compromising or not. We haven’t and we’re smaller so it makes it harder.”

Despite these successes, Craven said that there is no path to non-GMO certification for certain ingredients.

Supplement sales

Commenting on reports of flagging sales of multivitamins and other sales, Craven said that the premium whole food category tends to be immune from such slumps. “Our consumers are more informed and educated,” he said.

Negative reports in the media may impact supplement sales for mass retailers, he said, but, “I don’t believe the negative press has affected us.”

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