How one natural products retailer is reacting to negative supplements press

How one natural products retailer is reacting to negative supplements press

Armed with testing information from suppliers, this store is inviting customer inquiries about supplement quality and safety.

When the New York Times story about the New York attorney general’s report was first released, social media went wild. On every platform I saw friends and colleagues sharing and commenting on the story—mainly with messages of fear over what this meant for the industry, and dismay at the AG’s inappropriate testing methods. It was yet one more sweeping attack on supplements that would likely lump high quality manufacturers in with the “accused” in the eyes of the public. At Cambridge Naturals, we were understandably concerned about what our customers would take away from this news and frustrated at being forced into a defensive corner yet one more time.

Our management team quickly took action, calling and emailing our major suppliers and asking for specifics on their manufacturing and testing methods. We knew much of this information already from our on-site visits and in-depth conversations with suppliers, but it was worth the extra effort to get updated information. Many of them sent us written memos detailing their rigorous practices. We kept these memos and emails on file and waited, with baited breath, to address our customers' concerns head-on.

We waited… and waited. Despite a cold, snowy and miserable February, our sales were booming. Hardly a single customer mentioned the article, and most continued to buy their vitamin D3 and adrenal health formulas with abandon. A woman finally cornered me near our immunity section one day in late February asking: "So, what’s the deal with that article I read about herbal supplements? How do you know if your companies are making quality products?”

I breathed a sigh of relief at finally having the opportunity to tell our side. I walked her through the section, explaining everything I knew about the impeccable sourcing, manufacturing and testing methods of companies like Megafood, Gaia, New Chapter and our private label formulas. I told her that if she wanted further proof, I was happy to share letters from each of those companies explaining more in detail. She dismissively waved her hand in the air and said, “Oh no, I trust you guys at Cambridge Naturals to have the highest standards. I just wanted to be really sure!” and walked away with a bottle of Quick Defense.

There will be no end to the negative articles as the natural products industry continues to grow at such a dramatic pace and penetrate the conventional marketplace, and more and more new consumers are finding supplements in places like Target and Walmart. I can’t speak for the industry, but I can speak as a natural products retailer from a small, independent business with a history of selling these products for 41 years. We will continue to source and sell only the highest quality supplements and products from companies we can trust—those companies that have a history of manufacturing based on efficacy and safety rather than quick profits. And our customers can rely on our research, transparency, due diligence and rigorous standards, as well as our eagerness to converse with them at length about our products – all day, any day.

Will consumer buying habits be influenced by the ongoing herbal supplements investigation?

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