With a new Congress in session, a presidential race about to heat up and more media scrutiny than ever before on the natural products industry, these are the five greatest challenges to tackle in 2015:
The Federal Trade Commission
When it comes to regulatory agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one to watch this year, as its action could prove quite challenging for the industry if taken lightly.
One of the most pertinent cases involving the FTC currently is the action against the Bayer Corporation for the marketing of its Phillips’ Colon Health product that started late last year. How this case plays out has the potential to adversely affect our industry if FTC gets its way. The FTC’s requirement of two double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT) studies would set a dangerous precedent for structure/function claims for dietary supplements. NPA will be eyeing this issue closely: judicially, through the acceptance of our amicus brief in the Bayer case, in which our arguments will be considered as germane; if that fails, with a legislative evaluation on the matter.
With 40% new members in Congress since 2010 and many of our strongest supporters approaching retirement, it’s past time for our industry to seek out new representatives to champion our cause in Congress. This year especially, our industry will only have a short time period – about 100 days – in which we will be able to get our issues in front of Congress before the next presidential cycle approaches. Politics, along with our ability to effect change, will begin to grind to a halt earlier than ever in this changing political landscape, making it imperative that we start as soon as possible.
To do this effectively, we need to start supporting, through Political Action Committees (PACs), the senators, representatives and candidates who value our industry’s issues if we want to continue to have an active voice in the legislation that affects our industry. As always, the Natural Products Association (NPA) will be leading the charge to find these new champions early in the year with our annual Natural Products Day on March 24, and NPA PAC events to nurture future supporters.
As the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standard enters its eighth year, it’s time we re-evaluate the effectiveness of the current system and how we as an industry navigate it. This includes decreasing the need to view regulatory agencies as adversarial, since we share the same common goal of keeping consumers healthy and safe.
To better fill this gap in knowledge, NPA has partnered with UL, a leading global independent safety science company, for expanded industry education. The alliance is meant to elevate the industry standard for compliance by better informing dietary supplement manufacturers, distributors, auditors, retailers and other industry stakeholders on a variety of vital issues via various online and in-person training platforms. This will not only lead to less confusion for businesses when it comes to regulatory agencies, but also provide consistency for the entire industry and incite consumer confidence.
The demographic shift in the marketplace will continue to make younger consumers all that much more important to the natural products industry, as well as shape overall societal values for future generations. This rising millennial generation has a large stake in living healthier lives, after seeing the toll it has taken on the economy and older generations, and already has a large number of individuals who take dietary supplements on a daily basis, especially those for heart and joint health. These economic indicators will shift importance to the younger buyer and their values as we enter the latter half of the decade.
Similar to the changing focus on the new consumers, how we reach our audience will continue to progress as we move forward, causing a potential, though surmountable, challenge. Stories spread faster than ever in this day and age, which makes it imperative that we, as industry members, are the authors and sharers. In part because of this, today’s consumer places a high interest in increased transparency, both for the organizations themselves and their products, which makes it important that we are the ones telling the tale and sharing our unique journeys.
One way to communicate our story directly to our consumers and demonstrate transparency is to take part in the conversation on the social media platforms at our fingertips. This is where many current and potential consumers go to learn about new products and information, as well as interact with companies since this new media makes it so accessible. However, traditional mass media isn’t going anywhere, so that will also continue to be a challenge for our industry, as we still feel the brunt of the misinformation disseminated to the public through these platforms. Media outreach to print and broadcast news outlets, correcting inaccuracies and clarifying misunderstandings, will remain vitally important.
It is imperative to our industry growth that we review and evaluate these challenges and more that we’ll face as we move forward into 2015. We cannot afford to sit back and see what pops up over the coming months. We must be prepared to take action and ensure our success this year and into the future.