The handling and manufacturing of dietary supplement products is a problem … and an opportunity


An often underestimated fact about dietary supplements is the importance of proper maintenance and handling at all stages of the supply chain, from ingredient sourcing to manufacturing, storage, to distribution and yes, you guessed it: sales. It is not as critical with some formats and types of products, but with others it is essential if those products have any chance of being effective at retail. Therefore, knowing how a supplement is made and handled could be of serious benefit to the retailer and the consumer.

For example: did you know that the food supplements section of your store is ALIVE?

At least in part, the probiotic aisle contains billions of living microorganisms in each capsule. Jamie Lee Curtis has become the ambassador of probiotics for many of us, but the story is more than that. Although the concept of probiotics is relatively new to many, probiotics have been in our diets for thousands of years and in our bodies since early humans.

Probiotics are different from most other dietary supplements in that they contain living microorganisms. However, whether the ingredients in your supplement are alive or not, the condition in which the product is stored is important. Your store and its shelves are temperature controlled, and in the online world, they are not. More precisely, that of Amazon is not! A natural retailer store shelf is not as likely to receive customer complaints about:

      • The ice packs used in shipping turn into “literal mush” the moment the package arrived in the summer heat, leading the buyer to be cautious:I would not recommend having them shipped, but rather picking them up in store, at least until the coldest months of the year.
      • Vitamins arriving with a “white mold substance on them” and a 2 star review: “I think these vitamins are best bought in stores.
      • A “rancid batch” which the buyer said triggered symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and cloudy urine, followed by “several visits to the doctor, urologist, CT, gastroentonologist and hundreds. dollars in medical bills “. This buyer warns: “Amazon’s quality control with this product is dangerous and can seriously endanger your health. Buyer, beware.

Capsules and gummies are great, or rather unfortunate examples of formats that don’t work well under uncontrolled circumstances. There are also specific product categories subject to thermal degradation, including omega-3s.

Back to probiotics.

The word probiotic is derived from Latin and means “for life” (1). The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics defines “probiotics” as “living microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (2). These microorganisms, made up mainly of bacteria but also yeasts, are naturally present in fermented foods, can be added to other food products, and are available in the form of food supplements.

Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU), which indicate the number of viable cells. Amounts can be written on product labels like, for example, 1 x 109 for 1 billion CFU or 1 x 10ten for 10 billion CFU. Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more.

Many manufacturers list the CFUs in a product in addition to the total weight of microorganisms on the supplement label. Since probiotics must be consumed alive to have health benefits and can die off during their shelf life, users should look for products labeled with the number of CFUs at the end of the shelf life. of the product, not at the time of manufacture. When you see a statement indicating a level of CFU at the time of manufacture, expect what you ingest to be lower than the claim on the label. Be aware that if your label says this: “formulated with 100 billion CFU at time of manufacture, loss may occur over time”. Only live probiotic microorganisms can meet the benefit claims made by the manufacturer. Either way, a bottle of supplements placed in a hot delivery truck, mailbox, porch, etc. will not meet consumer expectations, nor will it leave viable and living microorganisms after such processing and handling. An idea to reinforce with your customers is to reassure that none of your products have ever been deposited in a hot truck or mailbox.

Responsible manufacturers know the stability of their products and provide manufacturing surpluses and test the stability of the manufactured product throughout the shelf life stated on the probiotic package.

There are other distinctions in the manufacture of probiotics, including the requirement to identify genus, species and strain, in addition to the ideal amount of each strain, so it is important for the probiotic manufacturer to know this. he does.

As with omega-3s, stability testing is important to ensure the product meets claims throughout distribution and sale. For probiotics, these tests should be performed under the same temperature conditions as the storage conditions recommended on the label of the finished product and the product and packaging supplied to the consumer should be used to provide equivalence to the experience of the consumer. consumer.

With all of this information, one realizes that manufacturing due diligence is extremely important in recommending or selecting a probiotic. There are resources available like these “5 Questions You Should Ask Your Probiotic Maker” from Health Wright Products (disclosure, I am currently the CEO of Health Wright Products).

In the omega-3 category, the standards body is the World Association for Omega-3 EPA and DHA (GOED). In business since 2002 when he created a monograph and quality control tools for the category, he has become the true global voice for the category, representing brands and ingredients players. The current monograph was updated a few months ago and any decent, compliant manufacturer knows that to ensure these specifications are met, storage and handling is essential. In the particular case of omega-3s, exposure to high temperatures will cause oxidation and the product will not meet the requirements of the GOED standard. An inferior product on the store shelves is not only a bad consumer experience, in this case, it is also a sensory blow.

In addition to certain categories of ingredients, some product formats also do not store well at high temperatures. Gummy capsules and products are vulnerable, with the former simply melting and the latter becoming really sticky. In fact, even with nominally well handled products, you can sometimes see lumps in the bottle.

The natural product retailer has the ability to perform due diligence on behalf of the consumer to ensure that the product purchased has the greatest likelihood of being effective. In fact, it is the responsibility of the retailer and a huge opportunity, in these sensitive categories, to really differentiate themselves. Amazon hasn’t proven its willingness to protect dietary supplements any differently from the way they protect dog shoes or leashes. Amazon customer service reps will allow customers to return the product, but they’re just as likely to get tips like ‘hit it on the counter’ or ‘shake it’ on the Amazon Ask Questions page. .

While this can work from time to time, it goes without saying that a dietary supplement will not work if it is put in the refrigerator and “a few vigorous shakes”. Through increased awareness and transparency, we can improve our product offerings and our confidence.

The references

  1. Ozen M, Dinleyici CE. The history of probiotics: the untold story. Benef Microbes. 2015; 6 (2): 159-65. doi: 10.3920 / BM2014.0103. PMID: 25576593.
  2. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, Gibson GR, Merenstein DJ, Pot B, et al. International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014; 11: 506-14. [PubMed abstract]


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