Even though retailers don’t manufacture or distribute the products they sell, consumers expect them to do their due diligence.
Federal regulations require dietary supplements manufacturers to comply with GMPs, but they are not required to provide proof of GMP compliance before shipping products. Recently, however, several major retailers and online shopping platforms have begun requiring brands and manufacturers to provide proof of GMP compliance and other quality assurance requirements. The new study suggests Americans want retailers to go beyond what's required by law.
Perhaps the most prominent case that highlights this industry dilemma is Amazon. The e-commerce juggernaut introduced sweeping standards in late 2020 following an investigation from supplement brand NOW.
Last year supplement manufacturer NOW uncovered rampant quality issues after testing several “no name” brands sold on Amazon, highlighting the need for more oversight. Today the platform requires comprehensive testing and other documentation that covers potency claims, facility GMPs and more. The stipulations are a long time coming, but stakeholders say it’s a step in the right direction.
NSF takes consumers’ pulse
According to a new survey from global public health organization NSF International, the consumers most likely to demand laboratory testing of supplements are those who have children, consumers in urban areas, consumers 23 to 35 years old, and men making over $90,000 per year.
The online survey conducted in July 2021 on behalf of NSF International polled 1,000 consumers in the US about their attitudes and behaviors related to dietary supplements, personal care products and OTC drugs.
One of the most striking findings culled from the research is that a whopping 97% of consumers believe it is important for retailers to visit and inspect manufacturing facilities that produce dietary supplements, personal care products and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Nearly 85% of survey respondents said they expect retailers to test supplements and other health and wellness products for safety.
Americans hold retailers responsible
According to NSF International, busy consumers with no time for in-depth product research are increasingly relying on retailers to screen out potentially unsafe and low-quality products.
"We're seeing a trend across categories in the health and wellness sector – consumers increasingly want retailers to stand behind the products they sell," said David Trosin, Managing Director of Health Sciences Certification at NSF International. "According to this research, consumers not only expect retailers to test products for safety, they want them to inspect manufacturing facilities for compliance with current good manufacturing practices."
Building consumer trust
According to the survey, 95% of consumers have concerns about the quality and safety of dietary supplements. When asked what would make them trust these products more, 62% said "independent certification from a health and safety organization" and 61% said "made in a facility that has been inspected for good manufacturing practices." About 44% said "lab testing by the retailer" would help build their trust in supplements and personal care products. Only 14% said "advertising on TV" helps build their trust in products. "Social media comments" and "celebrity endorsements" were identified as building trust by just 17% of consumers.
"We envision a future when most major retailers will require brands to show proof of product quality in some form or another, whether through independent assurance of GMP compliance, independent laboratory testing of products or both," added Trosin.
Other key highlights
- While consumers are concerned about product safety and quality, just 48% said they research dietary supplement product claims themselves.
- About half of consumers (47%) are more likely to research a movie than the claims on supplements and other health and wellness products.
- 17% of consumers said they are more likely to read the Facebook terms and conditions than the ingredient labels of supplements.
- 56% of consumers said the COVID-19 pandemic made them more concerned about the safety of supplements
- While 85% of consumers want retailers to test the health and wellness products they sell, only 32% think retailers actually do this.
- 62% of consumers believe national chain stores/pharmacies are "most likely to sell the highest-quality" health and wellness products.
- Just 28% said online sellers and 17% said fitness centers are "most likely to sell the highest-quality" products.