The lively discussion included the topic of the increased number of certifications that are being carried out by large retailers, which are in addition to the testing and good manufacturing practices already required by FDA. Retailers such as CVS and Amazon are implementing these certification programs to help determine which dietary supplements they put on their shelves.
“So as far as I'm concerned, efforts around quality are always good for us as an industry,” said Mike Archbold, CEO at the Council for Inclusive Capitalism and former CEO of GNC. “Any kind of focus that we can do that makes sure we continue to improve the quality, the efficacy, the effectiveness, and the safety of our products in this space is a positive for us because it's a positive for our consumers as well. I think we as an industry have spent so much time and so many people have done so many great things to really drive quality and I think one of the things we haven't done as good a job on is really educating the consumer on how much quality we have put into our products. I celebrate any kind of focus that we can have to drive quality through the industry.”
Building consumer trust begins with a focus on quality
In this competitive retail environment trust counts, and as consumers evolve, they’re becoming increasingly educated on what to look for in dietary supplements.
When it comes to consumer trust, Marc Brush, principal in the consulting firm Bend LLC and former editor of Nutrition Business Journal, said the extra certifications certainly can't hurt. “I think the bigger impact from everything we've sort of mentioned here is the cleanup effort at Amazon. I think if you want to talk about creating more trust and transparency within the industry, getting Amazon to step up and the way that they're beginning to indicate they will and have already begun to implement, that's going to have a big impact, especially for the sports category.”
While third-party certifications can help retailers ensure the quality and safety of products they carry, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has criticized the move, citing a lack of harmonized standards which they say has resulted in a complicated and costly patchwork of requirements for manufacturers.
“I look at this from just implementing extra hurdles to some of these small brands. They utilize Amazon sometimes as the ability to offer those products in a cost-effective way. There's some of these commodity products that probably the price has been driven down because of the competitiveness on Amazon,” said Joshua Schall, principal of J. Schall Consulting.
On top of the costly hurdles, bad actors don’t have to sell on places like Amazon and can simply sell on their own DTC websites.
“There's a lot on the quality control side of manufacturing that if you are going to ask for some of those extra records or manufacturing paperwork or just having some of those things, maybe it does weed out some of the bad actors, but that ultimately then decentralizes them and shifts over to direct-to-consumer. I think that there's always a way for them to shift. That the demand is never going to go away for those products and this is again talking to more gray market or black market products. So I look at it in both directions, but I think if it's going to help the overall industry get over that hurdle of the quality, I think it's probably a net positive,” added Schall.
Calling out bad actors
While industry bears the brunt of the burden, Steve Hanson, founder and CEO of Nutrasocial said consumers have to do their due diligence too.
“I think the challenge we have is an industry is that we have products out there and just by virtue of being on the market, consumers think a lot of these products are okay and that they're trustworthy. But we as an industry, we look at these products and know that we have bad players and and we need to do a better job as an industry with organizations like CRN, American Botanical Council (ABC), and other organizations that sort of call out these bad players or establishing processes that are able to turn in what a lot of people in the industry know are players that aren't doing doing things in an ethical way,” explained Hanson. “Fortunately, I want to say that I do believe there's a lot more good players than bad players, but the bad players are the ones that everyone remembers. And we need to try to get those individuals and companies out of the industry.”
The next installation of the Sports & Active Nutrition Summit 2021 is the ‘Opportunity of the Microbiome’ on Thursday, Feb 4. NutraIngredients-USA’s Hank Schultz will be leading the conversation with scientists and key brands at the forefront of this trend.
The segments continue through the month of February and will look at Recovery as well as White Spaces in Sports Nutrition with an emphasis on the female athlete and esports opportunities.
You can register for the FREE event here. Those who register will also be able to catch the webinar On Demand after the live event.