Nature's Way strategy and innovation chief shares how a legacy company is keeping up with the times
Industry veteran Matt Schueller has worked for Nature’s Way since 1993, serving in a multitude of roles including sales, marketing, scientific affairs, product development, business development, and strategy.
As the chief strategy and innovation officer at Nature’s Way, he is responsible for strategic planning, innovation, and business development at the company.
This year’s big strategy? “It’s our 50th birthday, we were founded in 1969, it’s a big celebration year for us,” he told NutraIngredients-USA at the show.
“One of our big brand initiatives this year, we’re using our birthday as an opportunity to get the word out about the company, what we’ve been doing for 50 years, and certainly how we’re hoping to make the next 50 years even better.”
With over 20 years of experience working for a supplement company that is half a century old, Schueller has developed a keen eye on what are the industry’s pressing issues, what companies need to do to stay relevant, and what consumer trends dictate product development.
The following has been edited for clarity and length
What are some new products Nature’s Way announced at the show, and what consumer demand were these products responding to?
We’ve got a couple of exciting new things at the booth. One is, we’re launching a new line of packaging for our herbal brands, and it’s unique. It’s a square bottle, it’s a 97% post-consumer recycled plastic that’s used in the bottle. From the overall sustainability standpoint, it’s pretty unique.
What it does on the shelf is unique as well. Most bottles used in the industry are round, this is a square, it provides a really nice footprint and facing for the consumer in a really unique, contemporary, updated look as well.
That’s one of the initiatives we have going on.
On the new product side, quite a bit going on with our Alive! multivitamin range. We’re launching some new Alive multivitamins around what we would say a ‘multi that offers more.’
So we have a fatigue fighter, and another one called Alive! Stress-less. Consumer needs definitely being voiced to us about stress that’s going on in the world and desire for energy, so we’ve launched some specific formulas in the Alive! brand around that.
We’ve also launched a couple new gummies in the multivitamin format under the Alive! brand called Alive! Superfoods gummies. We’ve incorporated some different blends of fruits and vegetables into these specific multivitamins as well and launched them with the name Superfoods.
How have Nature’s Way’s products evolved over the course of its 50 years?
When you look at the history of the company going back 50 years, we started with single-herb products. It was completely the company’s first range of products probably for the first 15 to 20 years. Really everything that Nature’s Way did was herbal products, and primarily single herbals.
Eventually we got into blending herbals, especially after DSHEA (The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) had come around 25 years ago and the concept of structure/function claims came to be. We could start talking to consumers more about benefits and putting those benefits forward on the label.
Then just more and more over the course of time, the company’s product range expanded. We got into multivitamins, probiotics, oils, and all of that, really driven a lot by blends, and trying to drive more towards what’s the consumer benefit.
This means, as the market for dietary supplements has grown, and we see more and more people coming into the market. Fifty years ago, I would say, it was this hippie consumer. Then came the late 60s, and people were coming in to look more for a lifestyle.
As the market has grown and grown over the years, it’s a broader consumer base that’s coming into the market and saying “Hey I’m pursuing wellness, I’m pursuing health, help me get there. But I don’t want to necessarily be an expert on the ingredients—I’m seeking a benefit.”
So that’s how the company’s product line has really evolved to meet those needs.
Speaking of trends and consumer demand, there’s a lot of buzz around CBD right now. Big, established companies are launching CBD products and national retailers are stocking CBD products, even though the FDA says it is not a legal dietary ingredient. What’s Nature’s Way’s take on this?
We’re certainly watching what’s going on in that market place. It’s really incredible to see what I’ll just call broadly the cannabis and hemp industry, and not just in the US.
What’s happened in Canada, with legalization for recreational cannabis use, we’re seeing that market certainly grow and expand.
We have not launched anything in that cannabis or CBD space, but it’s certainly an area that’s on our radar.
We’re taking our time especially because we can learn more about why consumers want it, why they are attracted to that space, what’s there that consumers are really looking for. I think that would help guide our innovation efforts as well.
You mentioned DSHEA earlier. The laws that regulate supplements are now 25 years old. What are your thoughts on revisiting DSHEA?
DSHEA is 25 years old this year. So for Nature’s Way, we’ve lived half of our corporate life with DSHEA and half without. I think when people call the industry ‘unregulated,’ it’s unfair.
We are definitely a regulated industry. We’re regulated differently than drugs, and I think a lot of times, that’s the claim that people will make: Because supplements are not regulated like a drug, that it’s unregulated. But that to me that would not be true. The industry is regulated, DSHEA lays out those regulations. It lays out the rules that companies and the industry are required to follow. It lays out where FDA has enforcement activity.
I would say by and large, most of the revenue that is done in the industry is completely done in regard to the way that FDA has laid out for the enforcement practices. Are there companies that would stray from the regulation? Sure, we’ve seen that over time, as I think any industry has.
We do see now that DSHEA is 25 years old and the industry has grown, the FDA commissioner, who had just resigned, was talking about ‘Hey, we see this as an opportunity to look at DSHEA and to think about how the industry has grown, should we make the regulatory framework more contemporary?’”
And we’d say yeah, that’s probably a wise idea. A lot has changed. A lot of science has changed. More and more consumers continue to look into natural products and their different wellness practices to get healthy. And I think consumers would welcome some change, and probably welcome more incentives more companies to invest in science in the industry as well.
I think Nature’s Way and the different work we do with trade organizations that represent the industry, I would say we would welcome dialogue and partnership with the FDA on how do we evolve DSHEA to better meet where consumers are.
DSHEA at 25
2019 is the 25th Anniversary of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act. The passage of DSHEA is a fascinating story, and two of the key architects of the law, Scott Bass and Loren Israelsen, tell that story exclusively on NutraIngredients-USA.
To watch the full video, please click HERE.