Consumer education a key trend in US dietary supplements

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplement industry, Dietary supplement

Consumer education and industry regulation will dominate the US dietary supplement industry, according to a panel discussion group of leading executives.

Speaking at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Annual Symposium, Connie Barry, president and CEO, Pharmavite LLC, said companies were starting to allocate more funds to consumer education. Consumers want to understand more about their health and that offers an opportunity to dietary supplements companies, she said.

Educated consumers who understand the role dietary supplements play in health and wellness are more likely to spend money on such products than those with a poor understanding, she added.

Douglas Lioon, executive chairman, Douglas Laboratories, said: “There is an abundance of information out there and consumers are demanding that information. We need to put out good products with clinically backed ingredients. The more science they see about supplements, the more they become believers​.”

Healthcare

But too many consumers are confused by competing proprietary claims, warned James Hyde, CEO, Albion Laboratories which specializes in mineral supplement products. “The economy and state of healthcare has created an opportunity that our industry has never had before; it has created ​[an anxiousness for consumers] wanting to see dietary supplements work​,” he said.

Turning to continuing industry regulation, all the panel speakers agreed that this would remain a continuing feature of the dietary supplement industry with particular attention focusing on good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Many of the large companies have already been inspected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for compliance.

The fact that Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner, FDA, was willing to address the Symposium was a good indication that the regulatory agency wants to co-operate with the dietary supplement industry to help ensure high-quality, safe products for consumers, said Barry. “That’s why I get up in the morning—to give consumers products that can benefit their lives​,” she added.

GMP regulations

Hyde said that his company already had many GMP processes in place before the final guidance was issued. “We embrace the GMP regulations and use it as a strategic advantage,”​ said Hyde. “It is a few bad actors that give the industry a bad name​.”

Commenting on the Senate’s bill for the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act and its impact on the dietary supplement industry, Ms. Barry said she wished that Congress, FDA and the industry could use the tools that are already in place under the law. That would be preferable to enacting new legislation, she said.

Although it was too early to predict the impact of this legislation, it could benefit the industry, said Hyde. “If there is a perception change in how the industry is regulated, then it is probably a good thing​,” he said.

The discussion forum, View From The Top, took place at CRN’s Annual Symposium at Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

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