Dealing with consumers’ confusion
At the recent Expo West/Engredea trade show in Anaheim, CA, Will Black, vice president of marketing for DSM, sat down with NutraIngredients-USA to highlight the company’s participation in a education effort called the Campaign for Essential Nutrients. The campaign is a cooperative venture of DSM, Bayer, Pharmavite and Pfizer. Black said that while the campaign was planned and put together before NYAG Eric Schneiderman’s investigation first made news, it is fortuitous that this resource is available at this time.
“The AG investigation around botanicals doesn’t directly impact our nutrient portfolio but it absolutely impacts the consumer’s broader understanding of dietary supplements. There is misunderstanding about how the dietary supplement industry is regulated and the intensity of that regulation,” Black said.
“It’s unfortunate in that it creates some consumer confusion. It reduces confidence with the consumer in a lot of respects. Without getting into the details of the testing, we applaud folks like GNC who got out on the front end of the issue, to try to get some evidence-based reaction to the AG’s assertions,” he said.
Drawing a distinction
What the campaign seeks to do is to renew the message of these nutrients ‘essential’ character. While not impugning the reputation of the many thousands of other dietary ingredients, Black said the campaign seeks to draw an important distinction.
“We would define ‘essential’ nutrients as those vitamins and minerals that have an RDI. We have included omega-3s in that, and we have a separate effort around that. We are becoming increasingly convinced in our effort to provide clarity for consumer that it is important to have some differentiation between those and the several thousands of compounds that can be found in dietary supplements,” he said.
“Letter vitamins have enjoyed a century of science showing their efficacy and safety. Curing, treating, preventing disease—those are things we would never say on a label today but that’s a fact of the effect of these nutrients,” Black said.
Refreshing the message
In omega-3s, another well-researched category of nutrients, the decline in the market in the US that has taken place over the past couple of years has been attributed in part to a dearth of recent positive messages about the nutrients. The industry in effect was coasting on its earlier hefty momentum, and when several equivocal studies came out with their attendant splashy headlines, they served to quickly take the wind out of the sails. The message for industry was this: Decades of sound science might be all well and good, but what have you done for me lately?
DSM and its partners are seeking to reinvigorate the message around the essential nutrients, and to remind the market that they are the rock-solid foundation on which the whole edifice of dietary supplementation is built.
“While essential nutrients occupy a fairly solid imagery in the consumer’s mind, we do think we have to ‘renaissance’ the message around them. We’ve gone through a period in the last few decades in which vitamins have been consumed under the umbrella of dietary supplements, and broader world of supplements has benefited from the positive halo the letter vitamins have laid down over the past hundred years,” Black said.
“But still nine out of 10 consumers are not receiving these nutrients in adequate amounts,” he said.