Editorial: Supplying The Future.

By Len Monheit

If one examines the supplement/NHP marketplace and looks for evolving paradigms that provide an indication of where the business and its inherent relationships will lie ten years from now, the single issue of quality supply of raw materials emerges as a dominant thread. Stemming from this is a discussion and possible determination of the optimal role (and responsibilities) of the supplier in the years ahead. Some forward thinking ingredient-based organizations have a great handle on what might be expected of them and even now are delivering helpful support and solutions that are beyond customer expectations. And as this type of ingredient company continues its foray into the food and beverage environment, it finds this commitment to providing compliance and formulation expertise eases its entry, enhances its credibility and speeds the product development and introduction cycle.

The saying ‘garbage in, garbage out’ obviously applies to numerous product categories, and many believe that it is only a matter of time before this industry will wake up and realize that companies exercising improper vendor and ingredient qualification practices are literally ‘killing’ our collective future.

But what happens in the meantime?

As I started this column today, my intention was to talk about ingredient development issues and trends, noting that as ingredient quality control comes under closer scrutiny (hopefully with more and more validated methods and signatories to quality control principles and guidelines) there is an opportunity for supply companies to expand both product lines and services offered to marry, mix, blend and pre-formulate combinations of ingredients, control the process for consistency, perform quality control and assurance operations on these combination products based on ingredient markers and perhaps superimpose on these, proprietary specifications as a value-add, and then offer these as a turnkey, condition-oriented input for a finished supplement. The advantage is that the ingredient company presumably knows material behavior best, and with the levels of consolidation we are seeing in the supply environment (the Cognis acquisition of omega-3 company Napro Pharma AS being but the most recent example), perhaps it is only a matter of time before we see really innovative combinations offered by the ingredient companies themselves. (This past week also saw the introduction by Bioriginal of BioFlaxElite with beta glucan, combining flaxseed with oat beta-glucans, an ingredient targeted at cardiovascular health.) Several mixed berry-based ingredients have also already appeared on the market, combining various fruits and touting properties such as ORAC values.

As I have noted in this column on several occasions, supply chain relationships are changing and at a certain point, so will the contribution value to these relationships. What I mean by this is that due to streamlined sourcing and preferred vendor systems, due to expanding quality concerns under new and evolving regulatory environments, and due to consolidation in the supply sector, ingredient companies, in many cases willingly, in others begrudgingly, are taking more responsibility for providing almost turnkey product offerings to allow clients to come to market sooner with cutting edge, highly targeted finished products. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, ingredient companies will be appropriately rewarded for the value they offer, and the sooner this occurs, the sooner industry will have moved closer to resolving its ‘garbage in’ dilemma. In the meantime, companies participating in method development and validation programs (as principals or distributors) should be acknowledged, and all related quality assurance elements (such as absolute control of feedstock and processing), in addition to all practices which ensure ingredient consistency, should be documented and presented. This applies to both single ingredients as well as to combination products, and in the case of combinations, the need is more acute, but so is the opportunity.

If one links expectation, evolution and opportunity, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine the ingredient company of the future being enough integrated so as to offer condition targeted ingredient combinations with sophisticated quality control and assurance, identifying in vitro if not in vivo activity as a proprietary performance specification.

We’re seeing, I believe, the very early stages of this environment. We’re also seeing a split become more obvious within the industry (one I’ll speak more of in upcoming weeks), between those that see this type of future and those that don’t.

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