Sports nutrition companies differentiating based on quality, transparency

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Sports nutrition companies differentiating based on quality, transparency

Related tags Amino acid Protein

The issue of “protein spiking” has led companies in the sports nutrition sphere to start to differentiate their products based on the quality and transparency of their ingredients and to rely less on marketing-driven messages of the products’ muscle-boosting or energizing effects.

The protein spiking question turns on a somewhat fuzzy FDA food labeling regulation that specifies the amount of protein in foods and supplements is to be calculated as a factor of nitrogen content, but does not define the sources of nitrogen that should be included in such calculations. Protein is the primary source of nitrogen in foods and supplements, but there can be others, such as taurine, which has functional properties of its own but in the cynical view can be included in a formula solely for the purpose of boosting the protein numbers.

The American Herbal Products Association​ and the Council for Responsible Nutrition​ have issued guidelines for their members on the subject, creating standards that call for protein content to be calculated to include only proteins that are chains of amino acids connected by peptide bonds and to exclude any non-protein nitrogen-containing substances from such calculations. 

Quality differentiation

Dallas-based Purus Labs is touting its transparent labeling on its protein product that the company said shows that the protein content can be trusted.  Meanwhile, BPI Sports is working with Irvine, CA-based ChromaDex to verify that what’s quoted on the label is what you’ll find in the scoop.

Purus has simultaneously launched a new label program, called Clear Facts, and a new protein product, called MyoFeed.  Using a link on the protein powder’s label, consumers can quickly find the lab results that pertain to that particular lot of product.  The goal for the product was less about making money and more about positioning Purus at the forefront of the traceability trend, said Purus CEO Brandon Smith.

“We never wanted to do a protein product before because there is no margin. But I saw this protein as an opportunity to grow our market. We have people running around feeling as if there is nowhere to turn to get an honest protein product. Nobody should have to settle for a bunch of free form amino acids when they buy a tub of protein,” ​Smith told NutraIngredients-USA.

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“With our product, if people have the lot number they can get a full eight page CofA. Not only are we testing our protein content, we will test for all 24 free form amino acids to show that they are not in there. We are not doing anything revolutionary here; we are just doing what so many companies are unwilling to do,”​ he said.

“By being honest and doing our job it makes it seem as if we are doing some new thing. It’s 2015 and you would think that all this stuff should not still be going on. We read the same class action lawsuits that everybody else does. We can promise that what you pay for is what you will walk out of the store with,”​  Smith said.

New verification seal

BPI is taking the third-party tack toward reassuring its consumers about the quality of its products by acting as the launch customer for a new seal from ChromaDex dubbed “ChromaDex Quality Verified.”  The program has been a long time in the making, said ChromaDex CEO Frank Jaksch.  Part of that long gestation had to do with convincing companies that proof of quality was something worth paying for.

“Our program is not what I would call so much of a certification program as a verification program. We have had a concept for a verification program like this for a while. We have been pitching it to our customer base for years. It’s a combination of a rigorous audit and inspection program along with comprehensive testing,​” he said.

“The price tag on a program like this tends to be quite high. There is a lot of work involved. Very few companies have been willing to look at something in that price range, and BPI is the first. One of the primary drivers was they view this as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. They also wanted to make sure they were making a damn good product,” ​Jaksch said.

One of the things Jaksch said the seal will help sports nutrition companies differentiate themselves is the practice of lumping dozens of ingredients into a tub or bottle, and grouping many of them within mysterious “proprietary blends.” (It should be noted here that the ChromaDex program is aimed at all dietary supplements, not just sports nutrition products.)

“I think the practice of proprietary blends is something that really needs to stop. It makes transparency problematic. When you are looking at sports nutrition products with 50, 60, even 80 ingredients all tied up in proprietary blends, how are you ever supposed to get in there and verify anything?” ​Jaksch said.

For the most part, Jaksch said a product relying on such a labeling and formulation strategy would not be a candidate for the new seal. BPI’s formulas are relatively straightforward by comparison, he said.

Jaksch said another advantage of the seal would be to help verify the entire supply and manufacturing chain in a sector that relies very heavily on contract manufacturing.

“We get into the qualification of qualification of vendors, the qualification of suppliers.  A lot of the brand stakeholders don’t make their own products,”​ he said.

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1 comment


Posted by Elan Sudberg,

Good job BPI and Good Job Chromadex.

This is exactly what the industry needs!!

Thank you.

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