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It seems that food safety has barely been out of the news – most recently with reported cases of listeria in the US, and Iceland recalling own label fish products because they contained nut protein. At the same time, retailers are constantly looking to expand their ranges. The market for vitamins and dietary supplements is now expanding, with own label products offered by retailers increasingly competing with national brands. To make the most of this new opportunity, retailers and manufacturers need to make sure the mistakes previously made with food products are not repeated with vitamins and dietary supplements.
The private label opportunity
There is a growing market out there for private label vitamins and dietary supplements, with Persistence Research today predicting that the dietary supplements market will reach US$ 179.8 Billion globally in 2020. Consumers are now looking at all ways to attain to a healthy lifestyle, of which supplements now form a part, and there is an opportunity for retailers with existing private label food ranges to take advantage of this growing market. As with food products, vitamins and dietary supplements are created using specifications on everything from ingredients to the design and labelling of the packaging. Just like food, information needs to be efficiently and transparently shared from the ingredients’ source through to putting the product on the shelf. However, vitamins and dietary supplements have their own restrictions too. These products are subject to their own legislation that is needed to distinguish them from medicinal products like Paracetamol. They must also give a transparent picture of what goes into them to meet growing consumer demands for detailed information. The provenance of ingredients in particular is now very important information for ethically minded consumers, in order to establish whether products are ‘fair trade’ and ‘responsibly sourced’. Such information all now needs to be included on packaging, beyond simply listing out each ingredient.
Know the risks
Inaccurate or misleading specifications can attract criticism just as much as any food product. Holland & Barrett is an innovator in private label vitamins and dietary supplements and today launched Britain’s first « free from » concept store for people who suffer from food intolerance or allergies. However, in January 2013, it was ordered to recall a mixture of black cohosh and agnus castus called Flash Fighters as the product’s name implied it could be used medicinally to treat ‘hot flushes’. Vitamins and dietary supplements are also just as prone to the threat of fraud as food products, since their ingredients also come through a complex supply chain. In the US market, supplements came into the spotlight when some were found to have had key ingredients replaced with ‘filler’ such as powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants. This demonstrated how a problem with a single ingredient at supplier level can affect thousands of products downstream. This is complicated by further factors: some dietary supplements can interact with certain prescription drugs in ways that might cause problems or stop them being effective, so this needs to be clear on the labelling. Furthermore, legislation has not caught up with that of food in terms of standardisation and can vary significantly from country to country; all information displayed on products needs to reflect this for each different region.
A collaborative approach to the development of private label vitamins and dietary supplements can ensure information is clearly communicated through the supply chain. This can help verify ingredients meet legislative requirements, satisfy consumer expectations and understanding the level of risk they are exposed to. This is crucial for retailers if they are to prevent supplements becoming the next crisis in private label and instead use the opportunity to innovate and differentiate from the competition.
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