Stepan, based in the Netherlands, is looking at further expanding the knowledge of the mode of action of the lipid ingredient, which has already show promise in a range of applications ranging from weight loss to body composition. And now, in the sports nutrition sphere, Stepan has a partner in GNC Nutrition with the marketing power to take the ingredient to the next level, sports nutrition-wise.
“We are still looking at companies that have the courage to do something. GNC has that courage,” said Casper Ravesteijn, Global Sales Director of Stepan.
Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA recently at the VitaFoods trade show in Geneva, Switzerland, Stepan said GNC, one of the leading marketers of dietary supplements in North America, is an ideal partner because of the nature of the promise of conjugated linolenic acid, or CLA and specifically Stepan’s branded form, Clarinol. Ingredients that offer a benefit based on long-term supplementation, such as lutein for eye health as an example, are something of a lifestyle choice and one made out of belief. Studies can back an ingredients’s long-term benefits across broad swaths of the population. But in individual cases, without a data baseline to work from—no one can say in each case what a consumer’s eye health would have been like it they hadn’t opted for lutein supplements— consumers believe what they want to believe.
With Clarinol, the consumer herself is the baseline. The promised changes in body composition have to be delivered on within the specified time frame.
“We don’t promise something in 20 years. We promise something in three months,” Ravesteijn said. “That’s the challenge for all companies that are selling ingredients with a short-term promise.”
Delivering on that promise carries a risk on the compliance side. If a consumer doesn’t use the product in accord with the label instruction, that quick results turnaround won’t be realized. This is another way in which the GNC format is helpful, Ravesteijn said.
“GNC can explain in the store what the ingredient does,” he said. That personal connection between sales staff and consumers can reinforce compliance, the Achilles heel of all supplements. If consumers don’t take the product as they should, they are more likely to blame the bottle on its failure to deliver, and not themselves.
Product development pipeline
And GNC has an active product development pipeline, a capability that marries well with work Stepan has already done, Ravesteijn said.
“GNC is looking at new delivery forms,” he said. “And we have lot invested already in application work.” This includes micronized forms of the ingredient that can function in clear beverages, Ravesteijn said, which is a big plus in the sports nutrition sphere as beverages, whether in ready to mix powder or ready to drink, form such an important part of the overall product mix.
And partnering with GNC will expedite the process by which Stepan can identify which ingredients function best in conjunction with Clarinol. A lot of those sports drinks feature complicated ingredient decks, except those that focus exclusively on hydration, and it seems to be something that the sports nutrition consuming is coming to expect.
“Synergies with other ingredients are very important,” Ravesteijn said.