Called Big T Transparency, the program has been under development for some time, Craven said. It incorporates some elements that have been in use for a while, such as the company’s publicly accessible webcams that overlook manufacturing areas. And some are new, such as giving the public access to video records of company town hall meetings.
Craven said the company had to conduct a balancing act to decide how best to fulfill its transparency pledge. “Transparency is not a light switch you flip on,” Craven told NutraIngredients-USA. “There is some risk involved. You have got to guard your formulas.”
“But we think the faster brands can build a bridge of trust to consumers, the faster the wider industry will have the trust of the marketplace,” he said.
MegaFood’s plan includes these initiatives:
Open Access to its Facilities and Strategies. MegaFood is set up to show how its supplements are made five days a week, 24 hours a day, simply by tuning in at www.MegaFood.com/LiveCams. MegaFood also offers regular tours of its New Hampshire facilities to retail customers and to the public during the company's annual "ZingMojo" festival. As a next level Big T Transparency effort, the company will publicly live-stream a portion of its employee town-hall meetings, giving customers an open-book view of company strategies and results.
Facility Audit Results Online. MegaFood will describe the results of its third party facility audits on its website, along with a brief video explaining the findings and steps taken to improve facility operations. The company said its manufacturing and lab audits, conducted by credible, third-party organizations like FDA & NSF, demonstrate its commitment to continuous improvement and earning customer trust.
“We want to make the results of those audits public,” Craven said. “We need to explain that no one ever gets an A plus. An auditor never comes in and finds nothing. It’s a matter of continuous improvement.”
Sharing New Product Development Plans. MegaFood will provide access to its upcoming new products, showcasing what's to come from the brand and shining a light on what it takes to craft premium supplements including those products that never make it to the shelf and why. “About 20% of our planned launches don’t go through. It can be anything from difficulty in maintaing quality standards to supply chain issues. We want to show the significant things it takes to really launch a product,” Craven said.
Sharing Testing Processes and Results. MegaFood manufactures and tests its products on-site, including testing all raw materials, providing quality checks throughout the process and testing finished goods before they are bottled. By sharing this information, MegaFood will explain real time results to proactively build trust while also helping to address quality concerns that have been raised at the industry level.
Craven said that while the new plan could help MegaFood’s marketing efforts, it is really more about securing a place as a leader among those companies trying to address the negative publicity the industry has suffered from in the wake of the New York Attorney General affair and other moves by lawmakers.
“We have a good core loyal following of customers, but among the whole food supplement brands, we are the smallest, so we have a lot of room to grow,” Craven said.
“It is true that we are kind of singing to the choir, but in the broader market, the attacks from the media have painted the industry with a very broad brush. We are not the only ones doing this, but we want to be among the leaders. Whether its a retail customer or one of our practitioners, we want our customers to feel like they can recommend us without any blowback,” he said.