The color of success? See-through, SPINS says

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Whether a supplement brand touts corporate giving, sustainable sourcing or free-from ingredients, the common theme among the most successful companies is complete transparency with the consumer. Photo from Compass Natural
Whether a supplement brand touts corporate giving, sustainable sourcing or free-from ingredients, the common theme among the most successful companies is complete transparency with the consumer. Photo from Compass Natural

Related tags: Dietary supplement

The consumer desire for transparency may have originated in the food and beverage market, but it’s becoming an increasingly key part of doing business for makers of dietary supplement and functional food, according to market research firm SPINS, which chronicled the development of this growing industry trend through both product claims data and trendspotting by Susanna Ghaemi, director of the SPINS product library, at the recent Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, CA. 

Whether a supplement brand’s modus operandi is corporate responsibility, sustainable sourcing or free-from and allergen-friendly ingredients, the common theme among the most successful companies is complete transparency with the consumer.

Ingredient transparency

The controversy percolating around the term “natural” has spilled over from the food and beverage market into the dietary supplement industry. And with it, a slew of new certifications are now making their way onto supplement labels to address growing demand for transparency and ingredient sourcing information. Indeed, products with third-party certifications and other label claims continue to chart double-digit growth, according to SPINS.

According to scanner data from SPINSscan and IRI for the year ended March 23, raw-positioned products lead the way, with 39% of products in specialty and conventional channels featuring these claims. Notable examples of supplement marketers incorporating raw ingredients include Vibrant Health and SunWarrior, SPINS noted. Twenty-nine percent of products carry animal welfare-related claims. And products seeking Fairtrade USA (20%) and Non-GMO Project certification (19%) continue to grow in line with increased consumer interest. Gluten-free claims are also growing in popularity, with 18% of products carrying gluten-free labels, and another 9% of products with third-party gluten-free certification.

Doing well by doing good

It’s no secret that social responsibility platforms tend to resonate well with the natural foods customer, who is often educated on and concerned about issues ranging from global nutrition access and sustainable growing practices to civil rights. According to SPINS, 12% of supplement products carry B Corporation certification from B Labs, which denotes a higher standard for transparency, accountability and performance related to social and environmental issues. New Chapter was among the first supplement manufacturers to be certified.


In another example, Vitamin Angels, which has been helping at-risk populations get access to vitamins and minerals over the past 20 years, more recently teamed with Soapbox for soap, multivitamin and water donations to domestic and international populations in need. The manufacturer also joined with Irwin Naturals for Angel Multi. For every cobranded bottle sold, the companies provide a multivitamin to a child in need.   

Food in supplements, anti-aging, chia and the rise of protein

When it comes to ingredient trends, more and more food and beverage elements are finding their way into dietary supplements as manufacturers seek tastier delivery formats for essential vitamins and minerals, without simply relying on additions of sugar or stevia.

Neocell’s Beauty Infusion drink mixes contain collagen, hyaluronic acid, biotin, alpha lipoic acid and vitamin C for hair, skin and nail health. Meanwhile, Ohso is capitalizing on the growing body of clinical support behind the anti-inflammatory benefits associated with digesting dark chocolate, with its probiotic-enhanced Belgian chocolate. And yacon is emerging as another natural stevia alternative, as RE recently launched RE Shape, a vitality drink with 21 superfruits, green tea and prebiotic fiber that’s sweetened with yacon and agave.

Anti-aging products remain popular as the population continues to advance in age, with more recent launches hitting on the unique health conditions associated with today’s aging population, SPINS found. For one, Rainbow Light’s first-of-its-kind Prenatal 35+ supplements are specifically formulated for moms-to-be over 35. VitaPQQ incorporates the recently discovered PQQ vitamin, which claims to support energy-generating cells in the body, which the manufacturer says not only boost energy, but slow the aging process as well.

Chia continues to gain traction in the market, backed by its notable protein, fiber and omega content. Examples include Essential Formula’s Chia Omega, chia-based supplements boosted with enzymes and plant-sourced EPA and DHA, CoQ10 and D3 (for vegan and vegetarian claims). Elsewhere, Fiber-Tastic from Renew Life combines chia seed with other fiber sources, fruit and vegetables for an alternative to psyllium-based fibers; and Rezealiant’s Premium Veggie Protein blends protein from chia seeds, brown rice and peas and is organic and unsweetened.


Indeed, plant-based proteins have swelled in popularity in recent years amid a convergence of such market forces as protein’s increased popularity along with a growing incidence of food allergies, food sensitivities and special diets. Standouts among the growing portfolio of plant-based proteins include:

  • Growing Naturals, a supporter of the Celiac Disease Foundation and Vitamin Angels, offers plant-based proteins such as yellow pea (soy-, corn- and dairy-free) and rice (organic, non-GMO) as allergy-friendly substitutes to whey protein;
  • PlantFusion blends pea protein isolate, artichoke protein, sprouted amaranth powder and organic sprouted quinoa powder in its vegan plant-based protein that’s free of dairy, soy, gluten and lactose and marketed to an “allergy-prone” population;
  • PlantHead’s dairy-, soy- and gluten-free vegan protein combines pea protein isolate, whole grain brown rice protein, whole algalin protein, hemp protein and cranberry protein and is also marketed as non-genetically modified and free of common allergens;
  • KateFarms Komplete ready-to-drink protein comprises pea and organic rice protein, along with kale, chia, acia and mangosteen for a nutrient-dense drink that’s also vegan, soy-, dairy- and gluten-free; and
  • San Nutrition expanded beyond its athletic-focused supplements with RawFusion, a raw food-based vegan protein blend that features pea protein isolate, rice protein isolate and artichoke protein powder. 

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