To address this new landscape NutraIngredients-USA will host on online forum on the subject of Transparency in Dietary Supplements set to air on Feb. 11, 2016. We sat down with one of the panelists, longtime industry communicator Suzanne Shelton, to look at some the issues that will be covered in the forum, issues that Schneiderman and those who have followed in his wake such as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-OR, have laid bare. Things have changed, and sticking to the old ways of doing business will leave a company vulnerable and disadvantaged in this new era.
Profound ripple effect
Shelton, who runs her own Chicago-based PR firm known as The Shelton Group, said Schneiderman’s actions and the resulting class action suits against the companies he targeted have had a profound ripple effect across the sector.
“While the accusations have not targeted the actual vulnerabilities, they were close enough to wake most everyone up to the risks of low quality ingredients and neglecting to routinely utilize competent testing labs. For those of us who have been warning of the risks of sourcing ingredients primarily by price, it’s been like watching a slo-mo train wreck,” Shelton said.
Many industry observers have said that ramped-up supply chain management is what’s called for in this new era. Shelton doesn’t disagree, but she went further to say that companies may now have to revisit what they consider to be proprietary information and trade secrets and what information might help them make their quality control case with consumers and the media.
“I’m sure there are companies that are doing a great job of managing their supply chain without revealing what they do and how, but with all the scrutiny and criticism, it’s just foolish not to convey that information to your customers. The best way to counteract all the negative media coverage is to communicate directly with your customers about what you do to provide them with safe and effective products. It’s the only way to earn and keep customer loyalty and trust,” she said.
Beyond GMP compliance
Some might think that all this brouhaha around ‘supply chain management’ and ‘transparency’ is just another way of saying that a company complies with GMP regulations. Shelton said that GMP compliance is part of that picture, but transparency encompasses more.
“GMP compliance is essentially a process for producing a safe product that is what it says it is, and having documentation to prove it. Transparency is the process of demonstrating the steps you take, and explaining why,” she said.
“And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of showcasing a company’s best practices. It’s not enough to just say you are transparent and use a few gimmicks to back that up. Be a really good company producing really good products, and then let people see that,” Shelton said.
Shelton founded The Shelton Group in 1990. It is a boutique public relations and marketing agency working exclusively in the dietary supplements and natural products industry, in 1990. Shelton goes beyond traditional PR and marketing tactics, incorporating industry regulatory concerns, market sensibilities, and industry issues and best practices. She has received a Nutrition Business Journal award for Efforts on Behalf of Industry in 2005, and in 2006 a Crusader award from the Natural Products Association. She was a founding board and executive committee member of the Natural Products Foundation, and is currently Communications zChair of the American Herbal Products Association.
Joining Shelton on the preliminary list of speakers are:
Jim Emme, CEO of NOW Foods. Emme has been a member of the NOW management team since early in 1995. His unique combination of a Food Science education combined with decades of experience in the design and management of food manufacturing and distribution operations are uncommon in our industry.
Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance. UNPA is (UNPA), an international alliance of companies dedicated to providing consumers with natural health products of superior quality, benefit and reliability. Israelsen has been deeply involved in the commercial and regulatory issues facing the global dietary supplement industry since 1980. He has served as vice president/general counsel to the American Herbal Products Association, co-founder and counsel to the European American
Phytomedicine Coalition (EAPC), industry liaison to FDA's Expert Advisory Committee on Ephedra, industry advisor to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), expert panel member on IFT's Functional Food Report (2005) and most recently sat as an expert panel member to the Department of Defense / RAND study on dietary supplement use among military personnel.
Registration details for the event, schedule to air on Feb. 11, 2016, will be available in January.