Perhaps the media does get it wrong. Perhaps the media tells its own story, separate somehow from the “real story” of dietary supplements. Too concerned with clicks and eyeballs, perhaps the media engages in its own “race to the bottom"—a charge often levied against the industry itself. I’m willing to give these arguments the benefit of the doubt, because I am the media. I see the pressures and demands, and I know the clarion call of a good story.
So, let’s start over. I’m the media, and I’m listening. Industry, what’s your story? What is the 'real story' of dietary supplements we seem to perennially miss, get wrong, twist and obfuscate?
Do you know?
I don’t think that you do anymore. Not collectively, not as a group of like-minded business folk. Sorry to say it, but I think I’d know if there was a "real story" floating around that works in this day and age. Which brings this letter to its real point: It’s time for a reset. What we were in spirit and purpose is not what we are in practice. That default position of “us and them” or “good and bad actors” is useful to argue certain points—let’s enforce the laws as written and see what shakes out, for example—but it really screws up the story. Consumers don’t care. Us is them.
Twenty years after a landmark bit of legislation that set this industry on its present growth trajectory and twenty days or so after Dr. Oz paid the piper in Washington DC, here we sit. Verily flummoxed. Sales are strong, but do they feel strong? Or does the foundation upon which they stand feel a little too rickety?
I think everyone in this industry is hungry for that "real story"—me, you, consumers staring at pill bottles on a shelf. We want to remember why these products matter and what they represent—an ancient and still novel approach to medicine and the optimization of our personal health. We want to rise above the noise, but we need somewhere to land up there in that more rarefied air.
There are lots of creative ways to unpack and create anew an honest, transparent narrative around supplementation. We could make a movie around the anniversary of DSHEA. We could raise money, launch a national advertising campaign. We could go all in on personalization and citizen-led research to draw powerful successes out of nutrient-based therapy.
But all of it starts like this. A few folks from inside and outside this clotted debate sit down. They open up their notebooks, open up their minds, and start with a question: In 2014, why should I take dietary supplements?