Organic and clean trends are making inroads on dietary supplement labels

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Clean label Organic food eco-friendly

Overlapping health trends are pushing more companies to have simpler ingredient decks to achieve organic and clean labels.

A case in point is, who just launched their new Gold Standard, which awards food, beverage and supplement brands that demonstrate superior levels of organic practices and eco-friendly procedures. The organization says the multi-tiered verification process is a trustworthy resource for consumers and encourages best practices by suppliers, creating a win-win for humanity and the planet.


The MAA Gold Standard evaluates and awards brands based upon their verifiable commitment to health, integrity, transparency, and beyond sustainable- regenerative organic practices.  On a scale of three to five stars, the three-tier standard is designed to include established, proven certifications (such as USDA certified organic, non-GMO, etc.) while augmenting their benchmarks in some cases and supplementing them to create an exceptional level of verification for key components, such as ingredient transparency, fair wages, and packaging biodegradability.

The first recipient of the Moms Across America Gold Standard is the detoxification supplement from Bioray. "We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Primary Detox from Bioray is the first Moms Across America Gold Standard product,​” remarked Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Executive Director of Moms Across America. “Our standards are high, and at the 5 Star level, Bioray is leading the way in creating a healthier world.” 

Raising the bar 

The company received 5 out of 5 stars, for what MAA says raises the bar in the pursuit of clean, ethically manufactured, beyond-sustainable products. As well as having met the base requirements for the Moms Across America Gold Standard three-star verification, Primary Detox passed the test for non-detectable heavy metals, glyphosate, 429 and other pesticides. Furthermore, the company has taken the rare extra step to label their bottles with plant-based material that allows their glass bottles to be recyclable. 

President and CEO of Bioray, Stephanie Ray, ND, tells NutraIngredients-USA that the Gold Standard is important to her customers, who are eco-responsible and active in the organic herbal community. Ray added that the overall consumer awareness for organic supplements is catching on: “I believe parents and consumers are educated or are willing to be educated on any ingredient as long as they know it is grown, handled and manufactured in a pure and sustainable way. Having the Gold Standard can sum up that knowledge by an organization that people trust.”

For companies like Bioray, having a selection of clean label supplements provides them a talking point that appeals to those label-reading consumers who are on the hunt for products that match their clean and ethical values. But not everyone sees organic certification as an opportunity, some find it to be more problematic. 

Back to the drawing board

Manufacturers who want to shift to organic are finding themselves in a Catch-22. Reformulating ingredients is a costly venture that requires substantial investments in research and technology. It can have repercussions across the supply chain, from added lab time to sourcing to distribution. For instance, replacing an additive with an organic alternative could impact shelf life. 

For some dietary supplements, it may not even be possible to be entirely organic. Supplements have various delivery systems and excipients which are difficult to find in a certified organic form. So many manufacturers are forced to use products that contain non-nutritive fillers, binders, and flow agents. Although these excipients serve mainly to hold tablets together and keep nutritional powders moving along, many of these ingredients would not pass the organic test. As a result, the best companies can do is hope for is a claim like 'made with organic ingredients'​ vs. '100% organic.'

One company’s loss is another company’s gain

Consumer awareness of excipients has shifted preferences away from tablets and capsules and toward nutritional powders and certain liquid formats. One ingredient company that is pouncing on the opportunity is Ribus, which bases its business around rice. The company added Nu-MAG to their portfolio. The rice extract blend replaces magnesium stearate and stearic acid, synthetic ingredients previously considered vital in making dietary supplements, but prohibited in organic products. Nu-MAG provides tablet and capsule manufacturers the required lubrication, while also enabling clean label statements. Ribus also offers Nu-FLOW, an anti-caking agent that replaces silicon dioxide, tricalcium phosphate or talc with a rice concentrate, allowing them to claim they are for a 100% organic. 

Navigating the organic transition can be daunting, so in 2018 Clean Label Alliance was formed. It’s an initiative to help manufacturers develop or transition to clean labels to meet evolving consumer preferences. Lonza Consumer Health, which will highlight the alliance at its booth at SupplySide West (Ribus was also a founding member), says, “Developed in response to the increasing demand by consumers for greater transparency, and cleaner and simpler dietary supplements, the Clean Label Alliance will offer expert guidance to companies bringing nutritional supplements to consumers. As supplement manufacturers transition to cleaner labels, they must overcome both formulation and production challenges. The Clean Label Alliance will offer premium resources and technical solutions to help manufacturers to produce clean-label supplements more easily and efficiently.”

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