The idea for the program started several years ago when LGC was approached by one of its partner brands that was concerned about a competitor who they thought may have been amino spiking, Paul Klinger, Business Development Director, Informed for LGC, told NutraIngredients-USA.
Amino spiking is a practice where amino acids like, for example, L-Taurine or L-Glycine are added to a product to artificially inflate the overall protein levels. However, these amino acids are non-essential and really don’t do anything for a consumer in terms of muscle building and recovery.
At the time, LGC didn’t do that kind of testing, said Klinger: LGC’s other certification programs, Informed Choice and Informed Sport, are focused on testing for hundreds of banned substances to protect athletes and active consumers.
Through those two certification programs, LGC was also receiving numerous inquiries asking if they were testing for protein or heavy metals or other contaminants, and this showed that there was potentially an issue, he said.
“We looked at other forms of testing in the industry, but we wanted to have a program that was robust, that wasn’t one test per year. We wanted a program with regular testing that was also fit for purpose and that would also be available and accessible for every brand,” said Klinger.
“As a result, the LGC team developed a suite of tests that would ensure a brand meets label claim, meets a high GMP standard, and that also tests for melamine and other things like heavy metals and pesticides.”
To meet label claim, the product must match what is listed, unlike FDA quality standards which allow for a range and some leeway, said Klinger.
Currently, the program is focused on protein powder and liquids like RTD drinks. Testing and certification of protein bars is coming later this year, he said.
Leveling the playing field
As LGC was developing the certification program it examined the state of the market, Klinger told us. There were already over 300 protein products certified under Informed Sport and Informed Choice and they all met label claims and showed no signs of amino spiking, said Klinger.
However, the company also purchased over 60 unique protein products at retail that were not certified under Informed Sport and Informed Choice, and found that 25% of those failed, with many companies just not meeting label claims (amino spiking was less evident, said Klinger).
“Informed Protein benefits consumers and respectable brands that are being beaten at retail by cheaper, lower quality products,” said Klinger. “This levels the playing field.”
“A really important and timely product certification”
Dr Rob Wildman, Founder and CEO of TYM Performance and head of the International Protein Board, was instrumental in consulting with LGC on the new certifications, and TYM will be one of the first brands to carry the new certification.
Commenting on the new certification, Dr Wildman told us: “Informed Protein is a really important and timely product certification in the sports and other categories as well. There's simply no denying that protein is the most important nutrient for translating exercise training into improvements in performance and physique over time. Protein requirements are at least double for people who train seriously and are also higher for people restricting calories to lose weight as well as healthier aging.
“Protein continues to be the best-selling product type in the sports nutrition market globally. People are investing in their hard-earned money, and a lot of it, to support maximizing their hard-earned physical and performance benefits" explained Dr. Wildman. “At TYM Performance, we work with pro and elite athletes, so verification that what they want in our proteins, real protein at the level claimed, in conjunction with banned substance testing, create a comprehensive quality assurance platform for our protein products. This is all part of the transparent and verified quality relationship we want to have with consumers.
“We are really excited to be the first brand on the planet to have Informed Protein certified products,” continued Dr Wildman. “And, it's not just important in the US, but globally as well. The protein market is competitive everywhere, and people want to be sure they are getting what they are paying for in a protein product, whether it be a powder, bar, ready-to-drink (RTD), etc.
“Informed Protein takes a lot of the guesswork out of the purchase decision making when the price of a product seems too good to be true or the ingredients include other nutrients that can test as protein, even though they aren't protein,” he said.