In recent years, multiple articles on the importance of consumer trust and its role as it relates to the future of the dietary supplements and nutrition industry have come to light. While there isn’t a question that the desire for wellness is well beyond a trend, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and much more particular in their expectations for a solid and measurable user experience. To meet these evolving expectations set up by consumers, the requirement from the product development and commercialisation value chain across all brands, manufacturers and technology developers should consider updating current models.
The key challenge here is understanding the product. In an industry where most new products are made with a blend of active and non-active ingredients, both quality and efficacy assurances need to be better controlled. There are three steps that when fully executed will increase quality and efficacy assurance and as a result, will offer an improved and sustainable consumer experience that will result in increasing trust.
Know Where Each Ingredient Comes From
Most natural ingredients should come directly from the farms that produce them. In many cases, these natural ingredients are changing multiple “hands" prior to reaching the finished product formulation. When this is the case, the promise for a high-quality product that was fully controlled from “field to bottle" is challenged. To keep an increased level of trust and to meet the “we know where our ingredients come from" promise, a vertically integrated approach should be maintained. Vertically integrated ingredient companies should partner with manufacturers and brands to create a finished product that is based on commitment to both purity and quality, ensuring the end result consumers are getting is tried and trusted.
Know How the Active Ingredients Work Together as a Formulation
As stated, finished products involve more than a single active ingredient. When this is the case, how can we ensure these active ingredients are working well together? How can we ensure they are not negatively affecting the efficacy of the finished product? The answer is simple and is broadly used in pharmaceutical product development. It is the pre-clinical research that teaches us how effective our new formula is and supports our statement of efficacy, providing the consumer the reasons to trust the work that goes into developing the product. Pre-clinical research is the fundamental stage that brings us closer to being able to offer a complete finished product for the consumer to experience. By using relevant cells-culture (no animal testing) platforms, we can test our formula and learn how each active ingredient is performing once exposed to the other active ingredients. We can also use this stage to test multiple formulas and to search for the most safe and effective one. The effectiveness of a well-formulated product will be demonstrated through the synergy between its active ingredients.
How Do We Know If the New Finished Product Works?
Current industry practice relies on openly available data for the substantiation of claims and promised efficacy. At the end of the day, the consumer can trust a product that is safe, pure and delivers consistent results. How do we know that the data we have on each active ingredient separately speaks also for the combined formula? When we mix active ingredients, we create a new chemical matrix that may certainly behave differently than each ingredient as a standalone.
The way to ensure the claim and promise are being met is a small, well-controlled clinical trial. As dietary supplements and nutrition is mainly offered to the “healthy population" (population that isn’t considered medically ill), these clinical trials are done using groups of healthy volunteers. This part is simplifying the process of obtaining the ethical approvals, and if professionally managed, can all be completed in a few months. Well-controlled clinical trials performed on the same formulation we are planning to commercialise is our way to ensure a safe and effective product and a satisfying consumer experience.
The dietary supplements and nutrition industry is a great one to be in. It portrays a determined passion for people to cultivate wellness. Trust is a main pillar in the future success of the industry, and for this trust to be built and sustained, we need to ensure we know everything possible about the product and the experience the consumer will have once using it. The more we know, the greater the consumer trust will be, creating an environment where the industry can become increasingly successful.
Golan Raz is senior vice president, global health division, Lycored.