When I came to NBJ in the summer of 2013, I had hung up my press badge years before.
But I still carried a kind of cynicism that builds up like calluses over the two decades I worked in various newsrooms and I wasn’t ready to surrender those instincts to cover the supplement and natural products industry. I had a dusty bottle of multivitamins at home, but I was not what my colleagues at the NBJ call “a core consumer.”
That was a bit more than two years ago, and I was second-in-command out of two commanders on the editorial decks at the NBJ.
Then in September, I headed to Natural Products Expo East with a new title: Editor-in-chief.
I also have something new at home: a growing collection of supplements. I am taking melatonin at night and, I learned, for more than just sleep (See “Melatonin, it’s not just for bedtime”). I am adding a couple tablespoons of Natural Vitality’s Kids Calm to my teenager’s smoothie in the morning. I’m counting on krill oil to forestall the cognitive decline that teenager is attempting to induce.
That doesn’t mean I have traded my cynicism for a blanket of faith. Like anybody who has worked in or around the industry, I know there are huge questions that players, good and bad, need to face. The traceability has to be more traceable. The science in “science-backed” needs to be robust. I want transparency I can see right through.
But I do think the industry is ready to give me that. I saw that at NBJ Summit when people were asked who was ready for pre-market notification and hands went up around the room (See "Pre-market approval for natural health products in Canada”). I see companies funding research knowing that competitors might swoop in on the claim but investing anyway because the market should be able to trust the ingredient. Brands are upping their games.
I also think consumers are upgrading their expectations even faster.
The industry owes a great deal to the ancient wisdom of herbalists, but, while there is always a place for wisdom, this is the age of science. People want to see not just that your product works but how it works. In this Healthy Solutions issue, we reported on ingredients with great promise, and great science to back up those promises. Last year we called it the “Condition-Specific” issue, but the truth is people want solutions.
Offer them real solutions with real science, and the supplement industry can turn customers into believers. I don’t know that I’m there yet. I still have my press badge somewhere.
But I’m closer.