IdeaXchange
Steve Mister, CRN

E pluribus noctua: Out of many, an OWL

The supplement industry has long been working to speak in a united voice. This project shows that the industry works together more closely than critics may think.

Back in elementary school social studies class, we learned the meaning of e pluribus unum—out of many, one. It’s the motto adopted by the original 13 colonies of the United States after they merged into one country.

Finding common ground among 13 individual, self-governed entities was certainly no easy task, and the founders spent 18 years debating what would eventually become the U.S. Constitution. From the unique ideologies, economies and governments of the colonies emerged a single, unified nation.

Although the challenges of the supplement industry certainly don’t rise to the creation of a new nation, we’ve long been working to come together and speak in a united voice. Various associations and interest groups represent all corners of the supplement industry and, though we may have different mission statements, we share the common goal of assuring consumer safety by way of meaningful, well-enforced regulation and responsible manufacturing practices. That the associations have all added their voice in support of the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s Online Wellness Library (OWL) product registry is a significant step for the supplement industry.

Sometimes, as we know, regulation already in place acts merely as a foundation. To earn trust from regulators and other stakeholders, industry must prove that it is willing to build upon that foundation—to enhance the existing rules and to self-impose itself additional requirements that demonstrate responsibility, accountability and a desire to improve from within.

Over the years, the CRN and other industry groups have all implemented their own self-regulatory initiatives specific to the interests of their members. While these initiatives are, indeed, valuable and should be applauded, we have an important duty to tear down the silos that separate us and come together under the umbrella of an all-encompassing program that will benefit the entire industry, internally and externally.

And it is with great pride that I say that such a program now exists. E pluribus noctua: out of many, an OWL.

The Supplement OWL (Online Wellness Library), the dietary supplement product registry, is the direct result of industry working together on what really matters. Collaborating to create a product registry that will help increase industry transparency and accountability, individual companies and their trade associations created the Supplement OWL to help regulators better understand the size and breadth of the dietary supplement marketplace. A hallmark of industry maturation, the creation of the Supplement OWL speaks to the power of associations and their willingness to leverage their unique resources and varied approaches.

Despite having only just launched this past April, the Supplement OWL is quickly gaining momentum within the industry and among stakeholders. All five of the major industry trade associations have extended public support for the OWL. The Natural Products Association, the United Natural Products Alliance, the American Herbal Products Association and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association have all made public declaration of support and and the registry is making impressive progress in terms of label input from finished product manufacturers representing all corners of the industry. The CRN intends to make participation in the Supplement OWL a mandatory condition of membership and is encouraged by the number of companies (members and nonmembers) who have already begun the process of uploading their product labels. These companies recognize the power the registry will have and are willing to provide their product labels for scrutiny, illustrating confidence that their products are compliant with label regulations and reinforcing our industry’s accountability to consumers.

Out of many, an OWL. Out of many approaches, histories, missions and competitive interests, an OWL. Like those 13 original colonies of the United States, industry came together to create a single, all-inclusive entity that is both gratifying and inspiring to all involved. The Supplement OWL shows that the industry works together more closely than critics may think and that our collective desire to improve ourselves from within transcends the “otherness” that tempts us.

In 1776, when Pierre Eugene du Simitiere suggested the adoption of e pluribus unum as the motto of the United States, I wonder if he considered it would last—just look on any coin in your pocket. I’m not sure e pluribus noctua will be as enduring in our consciousness, but it certainly reminds us what can happen when industry chooses to collaborate and speak with a single voice. Is your company part of this revolution?

To learn more about the Supplement OWL and how to get started participating in the registry, visit www.SupplementOWL.org.

Steve Mister is the president & CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry.

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